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Profiles in Publishing: Bennett Cerf

Name: Bennett Cerf

Birthdate/Place: May 25, 1898, New York, NY

Publisher Associated With: Random House

Claim to Fame: Cerf began his literary career by being named the vice president of publishing firm Boni & Liveright. He and his business partner, Donald Klopfer, purchased a Boni & Liveright imprint called the Modern Library in 1925. They increased the imprint’s popularity, and then began publishing their own books, selected at ‘random’, in 1927–hence the name, “Random House“. Random House eventually became a parent company of the Modern Library. Cerf and Random House worked with writers like William Faulkner, Eugene O’Neill, Truman Capote, Dr. Seuss, and more. He also published Ayn Rand’s classic novel Atlas Shrugged.

Our Inner Literary Nerd Loves: Cerf won the landmark 1933 court case United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, which allowed James Joyce’s unabridged Ulysses to be published for the first time in the United States. It had previously only been published as excerpts in a literary magazine. This victory is now reflected on as a large stride against government censorship.

Our Inner Movie  Buff Loves: Cerf’s first employer, Boni & Liveright, are famous for producing the 1927 Broadway version of Dracula. The play starred Bela Lugosi as Dracula and Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing; both would reprise their roles in the 1931 Universal Pictures classic Dracula.  

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