Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

A Publisher’s Menagerie: Stories behind Publishers’ Animal Logos

This idea sprang from a phone conversation overheard a few months ago in the Market Partners International offices, in which one of the partners was reminiscing with an old friend about publishing animals past and present. Although heavy on whimsy, the stories behind these animals are one of those peeks at “vintage” publishing trivia that most of us, deep down, have difficulty getting enough of.

 

Black Dog & Lenventhal

JP Leventhal told us the story this way: “When I was starting up, I had originally thought of calling the company ‘Black Dog Books.’  Everyone in my family was in publishing or had been.  I was in publishing,  My wife was in publishing.  My two sons were in publishing.  My sisters had been in publishing.  Even my sisters’ ex-husbands had been in publishing.  Only our dog, Tess, was not in publishing, and I therefore thought it fitting to honor her by calling the company ‘Black Dog Books.’ Peter Workman, [our distributor] thought that name was too impersonal and that I should put my name in.  … Our name remained unresolved. Peter and I got together again a few weeks later. On that day it was clear that we should combine Peter’s instinct and mine.  Of course the name should be ‘Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.‘  Eureka!  It worked.  Silly perhaps, but it has withstood the test of time.”

 

Alfred A. Knopf

“The coursing Borzoi has always been our trademark . . . A neighbor next door has a good specimen of Borzoi, and I have checked my details–head, build, etc.–with that dog. From the very beginning we have frequently been asked the meaning of the word “Borzoi” and what it has to do with books. When I started in business the publisher I admired most was London’s William Heinemann, and the sign of a Heinemann book was a windmill… Since a windmill obviously had nothing to do with books, I saw no reason why we could not adopt the Borzoi as our mark.”

Alfred A. Knopf, 1948

 

Candlewick Press

 

In 1992, beloved illustrator Helen Oxenbury created the colophon of a bear holding a candle. It is innocent and wise, childish and benevolent, as well as timeless. Initially seen in full color, the Bear has been developed into a silhouette and appears today on every book for young children from Candlewick Press.

 

 

Duckworth Press

This  small British publisher was  founded by Virginia Woolf‘s half-brother Gerald in 1898. While his famous younger sister’s married last name calls to mind a somewhat more ferocious animal, Gerald himself had the more docile surname of Duckworth.

 

 

 

The stylized figure with the single pipe on the leaping dolphin that represents Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company today was created by Ismar David in 1958. The dolphin, chosen by Aldus Manutius to represent swiftness, has grown increasingly vigorous and playful. We know it today to be a friendly creature of great intelligence, and as such it is an appropriate symbol for many kinds of communication HMH seeks to make accessible to the public.

 

 

 

The Nonesuch Press fell out of independent operation in the mid-1960s, but since their founding in 1922, they have sported my personal favorite publisher’s animal: the hiking bear.

 

 

W. W. Norton

 

Via the very official medium of Twitter, W.W. Norton informed us that the story behind their seagull is “a closely guarded secret.” For whatever reason that may be, we admit to being a little relieved it’s not modeled (at least openly) after Chekhov‘s seagull. We’d hate to see this illustrious publisher end up like that eponymous bird, after all…

 

 

Overlook Press

Overlook Press’ Publisher, Peter Mayer, told us this amazing story: “Many years ago,  a picture story appeared in LIFE about two photographers who went to Africa to try and solve the mystery of where  elephants go to die. In the herd the photographers were following, an old female elephant  started to stumble along on the trail.  On either side of her, the elephants leaned against her and pushed her forward so that she could continue with the herd.  But she just couldn’t, and fell down, still alive.  Then the herd made a circle around her and trumpeted. The photographers were asked why the elephants showed this incredible support and empathy.  And one of the photographers said, ‘I guess elephants just like elephants.’  I turned the page of the magazine and there were six or eight pages of the War in Vietnam–fire, bombs, blood. And I thought, as I saw these pages, ‘But people don’t really like people.’
Years later, when I started the Overlook Press, I thought of this story and decided on an elephant as the logo.  I asked my friend,  Milton Glaser,  (who also designed the iconic ‘I [heart] NY’ logo) to design something, and he came back with an elephant sporting wings, saying to me, ‘Peter, if you can make an elephant fly, you can do anything.’”  That was more than 40 years ago.

 

Penguin Group

 

“Penguin’s founder, Allen Lane, wanted a “dignified but flippant” name for his new series, suggesting an animal or a bird.  His secretary, Joan Coles, came up with the idea of a PenguinEdward Young of the Production Department went off to the London Zoo to sketch the new symbol.”  (from Fifty Penguin Years, © Penguin Books, 1985)

 

Pocket Books

 

“The original Gertrude designer was Frank J. Lieberman, an artist who had been commissioned to create covers for some of the first ten Pocket Books. When it was noted that the company had no identifying symbol, Lieberman sketched a bespectacled kangaroo, with her nose in a book and another paperback stashed away in her pouch. The designer… received all of $25 for the marsupial colophon. He also gave the creature its name. Why Gertrude? ‘For some unknown reason, I named it after my mother-in-law,’ Lieberman recalled.’”

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

  1. [...] story behind the animals of publishing logos, including the bear of Candlewick [...]

  2. [...] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s colophon appears to be a musician riding a flying dolphin? Well, now you can find out. Also, a while back, HTMLGIANT‘s Jimmy Chen ranked some colophons by their ability to fly. [...]

  3. [...] Presumably, Jack Donaghy was unavailable. [...]

  4. [...] learned about pearl clutching; the misuse of literally; and the stories behind publishers’ animal logos. We found out why words with multiple meanings make language more efficient, and that African [...]

  5. mike says:

    Although not logos per se, the publisher O’Reilly uses animals on the covers of its books for programmers. One of the points of discussion in a book’s design phase is always “What animal will be on the cover of MY book?”

    You can see some examples on their website: http://shop.oreilly.com/.

    • You know, Mike, someone pointed this out to me shortly after we published and, come to think of it, I don’t know if I can think of any publishing enterprise where animals-as-icons are as central as they are to O’Reilly–and they’re not even the logos! That’s some pretty excellent branding, if you ask me.

  6. [...] case you missed it: “A Publisher’s Menagerie: Stories behind Publishers’ Animal Logos” by Elisabeth [...]

  7. [...] Publisher’s Menagerie: Stories behind Publishers’ Animal Logos – Elisabeth Watson, Publishing Trendsetter -26.804257 153.124487 Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was [...]

  8. Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, used to use a dachshund in its logo. Tom’s theory was if Random House can have the Borzoi dog, he could use his dog too, “Sparky.”

    • Thomas Dunn DachshundThanks so much for this, Carin! And indeed–if every Borzoi can have his day, why not every Dachshund? (It’s especially great finding out the animals names, so that tidbit is especially appreciated.

  9. [...] decisions to choose animals as their logos. The information is from a blog comment, “A Publisher’s Menagerie: Stories Behind Publishers’ Animal Logos” – from [...]

7 Trackbacks

  1. By Links Galore « Annie Cardi on February 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    [...] story behind the animals of publishing logos, including the bear of Candlewick [...]

  2. By The Millions : The Why and How of Colophons on February 9, 2012 at 4:40 am

    [...] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s colophon appears to be a musician riding a flying dolphin? Well, now you can find out. Also, a while back, HTMLGIANT‘s Jimmy Chen ranked some colophons by their ability to fly. [...]

  3. By CRITICAL LINKING: February 10, 2012 | BOOK RIOT on February 9, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    [...] Presumably, Jack Donaghy was unavailable. [...]

  4. [...] learned about pearl clutching; the misuse of literally; and the stories behind publishers’ animal logos. We found out why words with multiple meanings make language more efficient, and that African [...]

  5. By Round-Up | Indiana Review on February 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    [...] case you missed it: “A Publisher’s Menagerie: Stories behind Publishers’ Animal Logos” by Elisabeth [...]

  6. By Week in Review: 12th February | Barefoot Basics on February 11, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    [...] Publisher’s Menagerie: Stories behind Publishers’ Animal Logos – Elisabeth Watson, Publishing Trendsetter -26.804257 153.124487 Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was [...]

  7. [...] decisions to choose animals as their logos. The information is from a blog comment, “A Publisher’s Menagerie: Stories Behind Publishers’ Animal Logos” – from [...]

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