Gnome Press

Gnome Press was an American small-press publishing company primarily known for publishing many science fiction classics.[1] Gnome was one of the most eminent of the fan publishers of SF, producing 86 titles in its lifespan — many considered classic works of SF and Fantasy today. Gnome was important in the transitional period between Genre SF as a magazine phenomenon and its arrival in mass-market book publishing, but proved too underfunded to make the leap from fan-based publishing to the professional level. The company existed for just over a decade, ultimately failing due to inability to compete with major publishers who also started to publish science fiction. In its heyday, Gnome published many of the major SF authors, and in some cases, as with Robert E. Howard's Conan series (published in six books from 1950 – 1955) and Isaac Asimov's Foundation series (published in three books from 1951 – 1953), was responsible for the manner in which their stories were collected into book form.

Gnome Press
first logo for Gnome Press designed by David A. Kyle
StatusDefunct 1962
Founded1948
FounderMartin Greenberg and David A. Kyle
Country of originUnited States
Headquarters locationNew York City
Publication typesBooks
Fiction genresscience fiction

Foundation

The company was founded in 1948 by Martin Greenberg and David A. Kyle, New York science fiction fans and members of the Hydra Club; Kyle was also a Futurian. Greenberg had previously been a partner of specialty press New Collectors Group — see The Black Wheel. The address was Gnome Press, Inc., 80 E. 11th St. New York 3, N.Y.[2] Kyle contributed less and less to the press as other business interests took up more of his time.

Greenberg should not be confused with later SF anthologist Martin H. Greenberg, nor his company with the imprint Greenberg: Publisher, a separate firm established in 1924 and producing some science fiction between 1950 and 1958. There was no association between the two publishers, despite a common assumption among some fans.[3]

History

Gnome Press concentrated on authors who were at the height of their popularity writing for Astounding Science Fiction, the American leading magazine of the time. Authors published by Gnome included Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, L. Sprague de Camp, Gordon R. Dickson, Robert A. Heinlein, C. L. Moore, Clifford D. Simak, and A. E. Van Vogt.

Gnome's early books were well-printed and featured jacket work by Edd Cartier. Gnome editions featured illustrative material (cover art, illustrations, maps and designs) from science fiction artists such as Ric Binkley, Hannes Bok, Chesley Bonestell, Edd Cartier, Lionel Dillon, Frances E. Dunn, Ed Emshwiller, Frank Kelly Freas, James Gibson, Harry Harrison, Mel Hunter, David Kyle, Stan Mack, Murray Tinkelman, L. Robert Tschirky, Walter I. Van der Poel, Jr., and Wallace Wood.

Gnome Press's first book was The Carnelian Cube by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp, an original novel originally contracted by the New Collectors Group. It was the first to publish Isaac Asimov's I, Robot and Foundation Trilogy, brought Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories back from pulp obscurity, first published Arthur C. Clarke, and introduced science fiction's first themed anthology, Men Against the Stars.[4] The latter was followed by such other theme anthologies as Journey to Infinity, The Robot and the Man, Travellers of Space, All About the Future, and a book of articles about the future as seen from a science fictional point of view, Coming Attractions.

The press also published many of Robert A. Heinlein's classics, and Children of the Atom by Wilmar Shiras. Andre Norton worked as a reader for Gnome Press in the 1950s, and also had two of her novels, Plague Ship and Sargasso of Space, published by the company under the pseudonym "Andrew North".[5]

Controversy surrounds the Gnome Press editions of Robert E. Howard's "Conan" stories. Though it placed the material in print for the first time since its original appearance in Weird Tales, the seven volumes it published also included one not written by Howard (The Return of Conan) and one of non-Conan Howard stories rewritten as Conan by L. Sprague de Camp (Tales of Conan). The works Gnome published in the Conan series are Conan the Conqueror (1950), The Sword of Conan (1952), The Coming of Conan (1953), King Conan (1953), Conan the Barbarian (1954), Tales of Conan (1955), and The Return of Conan (1957).

The worst selling book in Gnome Press history was 1955's new novel Reprieve from Paradise by H. Chandler Elliott.

Many of Gnome's titles were reprinted in England by Boardman Books.

Book club

As Gnome Press started to publish new books, Greenberg and Kyle set up the Fantasy Book Club, a subscription service designed to sell Gnome publications and books from other publishers at a discount. They also produced calendars featuring the black and white fantasy art of Hannes Bok and Edd Cartier. In the waning years of the company (1955 – 1961), Gnome Press bought small quantities of unbound signatures from the defunct specialty publisher Fantasy Press and had them cheaply bound to be sold through its Pick-A-Book operation (a later, revised incarnation of the Fantasy Book Club), an early form of direct-mail sales that formed the basic idea for Doubleday's more successful Science Fiction Book Club. Most of the Gnome Press books were hardcover, but some few titles saw later paperback editions as Greenberg experimented, using his remaining stock of unbound sheets, with several titles bound in inexpensive paper covers as a test to see if such an effort could help to keep the company afloat. But with his Pick-A-Book hardcover titles already going for as little as $1.00 per book, the experiment did not save enough money to be profitable and was dropped (and these few paperbound titles are among the scarcest of Gnome Press collectibles today).

Failure

Gnome Press did not have much capital or access to distribution facilities, and relied on selling its books directly to fans by mail. According to Filmfax, Greenberg couldn't keep top science fiction and fantasy writers, who wanted more money and went over to bigger publishers like Doubleday. The larger publishers had more money, marketing and distribution outlets (the ability to sell wholesale to bookstores). Financial mismanagement also cut into Gnome's ability to retain authors. The company was notorious for not paying its writers royalties due, which is ultimately what led to its failure. Author Isaac Asimov claimed he was never paid for the publication of the Foundation books, and called Greenberg "an outright crook".[6] In his biography, I. Asimov: A Memoir, Asimov provides a short chapter on his own frustrating interactions with Gnome Press, as well as some good detail on its publisher, Martin Greenberg. Asimov and other authors were able eventually to get back the rights to their books so they could go to other, more lucrative deals.

Martin Greenberg continued to cut costs at Gnome Press, through smaller editions, cheaper paper, and various promotions to sell back inventory. He was ultimately forced to close due to financial troubles, and Gnome folded in 1962 due to a long drawn-out lawsuit, leaving Arkham House the only American viable small press in the sCience fiction and fantasy field. When Gnome Press went out of business, it was $100,000 in debt. Had it succeeded as a publisher and kept its stable of authors it would have been a powerhouse in the science fiction genre.

Greenberg died in the fall of 2013, and Kyle in the fall of 2016.

Legacy

Gnome Press publications are collected, and many of the books in well used condition can be inexpensively obtained (as of 2015 Amazon.com was offering several in the $10–$20 range). Other items are expensive. The calendars are particularly scarce. Among the books I, Robot, either in hardcover form or the Armed Forces paperback edition set from its plates, is in particular demand.[7]

Works published

1940s

1950s

1960s

Footnotes

  1. ^ Company description
  2. ^ Gnome Press Newsletter Image Accessed 2011-12-30
  3. ^ see archives on Greenberg: Publisher at the Columbia University Libraries Archival Collections for correspondence between publisher and authors Theodore Sturgeon and A.E. Van Vogt on their novels, as well as a history of the company
  4. ^ Charlie Jane Anders (2014-03-27). "The Failed Publisher That Gave Us I, Robot And Arthur C. Clarke".
  5. ^ A conversation with Andre Norton
  6. ^ Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, Maryland and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. pp. 294–311.
  7. ^ [1]

References

Conan the Barbarian (1955 collection)

Conan the Barbarian is a collection of five fantasy short stories by American writer Robert E. Howard, featuring his sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian, first published in hardcover by Gnome Press in 1955. The stories originally appeared in the 1930s in the fantasy magazine Weird Tales. This collection never saw publication in paperback; instead, its component stories were split up and distributed among other "Conan" collections. A later collection with the same title but different contents was issued in paperback by Del Rey/Ballantine Books in 2011.Chronologically, the five short stories collected as Conan the Barbarian are the second in Gnome's Conan series; the stories collected as The Sword of Conan follow.

Conan the Barbarian (2011 collection)

Conan the Barbarian is a collection of six fantasy short stories written by Robert E. Howard featuring his seminal sword and sorcery hero of the same name, first published in paperback by Del Rey/Ballantine Books in July 2011 as a tie-in with the movie of the same title. The stories originally appeared in the 1930s in the fantasy magazine Weird Tales. An earlier collection with the same title but different contents was issued in hardcover by Gnome Press in 1955.Contents:

"The Phoenix on the Sword"

"The People of the Black Circle"

"The Tower of the Elephant"

"Queen of the Black Coast"

"Red Nails"

"Rogues in the House"

Conan the Barbarian (disambiguation)

Conan the Barbarian is a character created by Robert E. Howard.

Conan the Barbarian may also refer to:

Conan the Barbarian fictional universe, see Hyborian Age

Conan the Barbarian (1955 collection), a 1955 collection of stories about the character published by Gnome Press

Conan the Barbarian (comics), 1970s Marvel comic series

Conan the Barbarian (1982 film), a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger

Conan the Barbarian (1982 novel), a novelization of the 1982 film

Conan the Barbarian (2011 film), a film starring Jason Momoa

Conan the Barbarian (2011 novel), a novelization of the 2011 film

Conan the Barbarian (2011 collection), a collection of stories about the character published by Ballantine Books

Conan the Barbarian (2012-2014), an ongoing comics series from Dark Horse Comics by Brian Wood

King Conan

King Conan is a collection of five fantasy short stories by American writer Robert E. Howard featuring his sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian, first published in hardcover by Gnome Press in 1953. The stories originally appeared in the 1930s in the fantasy magazine Weird Tales. The collection never saw publication in paperback; instead, its component stories were split up and distributed among other "Conan" collections.

Chronologically, the five short stories collected as King Conan are the fourth in Gnome's Conan series; the novel Conan the Conqueror follows.

Lost Continents

Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science, and Literature is a study by L. Sprague de Camp. It is considered one of his most popular works. It was written in 1948, and first published serially in the magazine Other Worlds Science Fiction in 1952-1953; portions also appeared as articles in Astounding Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction, Natural History Magazine, and the Toronto Star. It was first published in book form by Gnome Press in 1954; an updated edition was published by Dover Publications in 1970. De Camp revised the work both for its first book publication and for the updated edition.

Red Nails (collection)

Red Nails is a 1977 collection of three fantasy short stories and one essay by American writer Robert E. Howard, featuring his sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. The collection was edited by Karl Edward Wagner. It was first published in hardcover by Berkley/Putnam in 1977, and in paperback by Berkley Books the same year. It was reprinted in hardcover for the Science Fiction Book Club, also in 1977, and combined with the Wagner-edited The Hour of the Dragon and The People of the Black Circle in the book club's omnibus edition The Essential Conan in 1998. The stories originally appeared in the fantasy magazine Weird Tales in the 1930s.

The pieces in Red Nails, in common with those in the other Conan volumes produced by Karl Edward Wagner for Berkley, are based on the originally published form, of the texts in preference to the edited versions appearing in the earlier Gnome Press and Lancer editions of the Conan stories. In contrast to the earlier editions, which included Conan tales by authors other than Howard, Wagner took a purist approach, including only stories by Howard, and only those thought to be in the public domain. His editorial comments dismiss editorial revisions made in the earlier editions.

The Blood-Stained God

The Blood-Stained God is a 1955 fantasy novella by American writer Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp, featuring Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was revised by de Camp from Howard's original story, an unpublished non-fantasy oriental tale that featured Kirby O'Donnell titled "The Curse of the Crimson God" (vt "Trail of the Blood-Stained God"). De Camp changed the names of the characters, added the sorcery elements, and recast the setting into Howard's Hyborian Age. The story was first published in the hardbound collection Tales of Conan (Gnome Press, 1955), and subsequently appeared in the paperback collection Conan of Cimmeria (Lancer Books, 1969), as part of which it has been translated into German, Japanese, Spanish, Dutch, and Italian.

The Coming of Conan

The Coming of Conan is a collection of eight fantasy short stories by American writer Robert E. Howard, featuring his sword and sorcery heroes Kull and Conan the Barbarian, together with the first part of his pseudo-history of the "Hyborian Age" in which the Conan tales were set. It was first published in hardcover in the United States by Gnome Press in 1953 and by Boardman Books in the United Kingdom in 1954. The stories originally appeared in the 1930s in the fantasy magazine Weird Tales. The collection never saw publication in paperback; instead, its component stories were split up and distributed among other "Kull" and "Conan" collections.

The Flame Knife

The Flame Knife is a 1955 fantasy novella by American writers Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp, featuring Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was revised by de Camp from Howard's original story, a then-unpublished oriental tale featuring Francis X. Gordon titled "Three-Bladed Doom". De Camp changed the names of the characters, added the fantastic element, and recast the setting into Howard's Hyborian Age. The story was first published in the hardbound collection Tales of Conan (Gnome Press, 1955), and subsequently appeared in the paperback collection Conan the Wanderer (Lancer Books, 1968), as part of which it has been translated into German, Japanese, Spanish, Dutch and Italian. It was published by itself in paperback book form by Ace Books in 1981, in an edition profusely illustrated by Esteban Maroto.

The Hour of the Dragon

The Hour of the Dragon, also known as Conan the Conqueror, is a fantasy novel by American writer Robert E. Howard featuring his sword and sorcery hero Conan the Cimmerian. It was one of the last Conan stories published before Howard's suicide, although not the last to be written. The novel was first published in serial form in the December, 1935 through April, 1936 issues of the pulp magazine Weird Tales. The first book edition was published by Gnome Press in hardcover in 1950. The Gnome Press edition retitled the story Conan the Conqueror, a title retained by all subsequent editions until 1977, when the original title was restored in an edition issued published by Berkley/Putnam in 1977. The Berkley edition also reverted the text to that of its original Weird Tales publication, discarding later edits. Later editions have generally followed Berkley and published under the original title. The 1997 film Kull the Conqueror is loosely based on The Hour of the Dragon, replacing Conan with Kull but otherwise keeping the same basic plot.

The People of the Black Circle (collection)

The People of the Black Circle is a 1977 collection of four fantasy short stories by American writer Robert E. Howard, featuring his sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. The collection was edited by Karl Edward Wagner. It was first published in hardcover by Berkley/Putnam in 1977, and in paperback by Berkley Books the same year. It was reprinted in hardcover for the Science Fiction Book Club, also in 1977, and combined with the Wagner-edited The Hour of the Dragon and Red Nails in the book club's omnibus edition The Essential Conan in 1998. The stories originally appeared in the fantasy magazine Weird Tales in the 1930s.

The pieces in The People of the Black Circle, in common with those in the other Conan volumes produced by Karl Edward Wagner for Berkley, are virtual reproductions (other than typo correction) of the originally published form of the texts as they appeared in Weird Tales, in contrast to the edited versions appearing in the earlier Gnome Press and Lancer editions of the Conan stories. In contrast to the earlier editions, which included Conan tales by authors other than Howard, Wagner took a purist approach, including only stories by Howard, and only those thought to be in the public domain. His prefaces and afterwords dismiss editorial revisions made in the earlier editions.

The Phoenix on the Sword

"The Phoenix on the Sword" is one of the original short stories about Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard, and first published in Weird Tales magazine, in December, 1932. The tale, in which Howard created the character of Conan, was a rewrite of the unpublished Kull story, "By This Axe I Rule!", with long passages being identical. The Conan version of the story was republished in the collections King Conan (Gnome Press, 1953) and Conan the Usurper (Lancer Books, 1967). It has most recently been republished in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (Gollancz, 2001) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003). It is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and details Conan foiling a nefarious plot to unseat him as king of Aquilonia.

It is noteworthy that the very first Conan story depicts him as a king - which means that when writing later stories placed earlier in Conan's life, as a thief, pirate, mercenary etc., Howard (and his readers) already knew that the character was ultimately destined to become a king.

The Pool of the Black One

"The Pool of the Black One" is one of the original short stories starring the sword and sorcery hero Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard. It's set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age, and concerns Conan becoming the captain of a pirate vessel while encountering a remote island with a mysterious pool which has the power of transmutation.

First published in Weird Tales in October 1933, the story was republished in the collections The Sword of Conan (Gnome Press, 1952) and Conan the Adventurer (Lancer Books, 1966). It has more recently been published in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (2000) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003).

The Return of Conan

The Return of Conan is a 1957 fantasy novel written by Björn Nyberg and L. Sprague de Camp, featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was first published in hardcover by Gnome Press and in paperback by Lancer Books as part of the collection Conan the Avenger in 1968; in this form it has been reprinted a number of times since by various publishers. It has also been translated into Japanese, German and Spanish.

The Scarlet Citadel

"The Scarlet Citadel" is one of the original short stories starring the fictional sword and sorcery hero Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard and first published in the January, 1933 issue of Weird Tales magazine. It is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and concerns a middle-aged Conan battling rival kingdoms, being captured through treachery and escaping from an eldritch dungeon via unexpected aid. The story includes Tsotha-lanti who is an evil wizard whose sorcerous arts help ensnare King Conan.

The story was republished in the collections King Conan (Gnome Press, 1953) and Conan the Usurper (Lancer Books, 1967). It has more recently been published in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (Gollancz, 2001) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003).

The Slithering Shadow

"The Slithering Shadow" is one of the original short stories starring the fictional sword and sorcery hero Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard and first published in the September 1933 issue of Weird Tales magazine. "The Slithering Shadow" is the original title, but the story is also known as "Xuthal of the Dusk" in further publications. It's set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age, and concerns Conan discovering a lost city in a remote desert while encountering a Lovecraftian demon known as Thog.

The story was republished in the collections The Sword of Conan (Gnome Press, 1952) and Conan the Adventurer (Lancer Books, 1966). It has more recently been published in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (Gollancz, 2000) as "The Slithering Shadow" and in Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Wandering Star, 2002) and The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Del Rey, 2003) as "Xuthal of the Dusk."

The Sword of Conan

The Sword of Conan is a collection of four fantasy short stories by Ametican writer Robert E. Howard featuring his sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian, first published in hardcover by Gnome Press in 1952. The stories originally appeared in the 1930s in the fantasy magazine Weird Tales. The collection never saw publication in paperback; instead, its component stories were split up and distributed among other "Conan" collections.

Chronologically, the four short stories collected as The Sword of Conan are the third in Gnome's Conan series; the stories collected as King Conan follow.

The Treasure of Tranicos (collection)

The Treasure of Tranicos is a 1980 collection of a fantasy short story and essays by American writers Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp featuring Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian; the essays by de Camp are on the title story and on Howard. The book is illustrated by Esteban Maroto.

The title story was revised by de Camp from the original version by Howard and was first published as "The Black Stranger" in Fantasy Magazine for February, 1953. It subsequently appeared in the collections King Conan (Gnome Press, 1953) and Conan the Usurper (Lancer Books, 1967).

Undersea Trilogy

The Undersea Trilogy is a series of three science fiction novels by American writers Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson. The novels were first published by Gnome Press beginning in 1954. The novels were collected in a single omnibus volume published by Baen Books in 1992. The story takes place in and around the underwater dome city called Marinia. The hero of the stories is cadet Jim Eden of the Sub-Sea Academy.

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