William Jovanovich and the American Publishing Industry

The Manuscripts Division is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of the papers of William Jovanovich (1920-2001), American publisher and author, who led Harcourt Brace Jovanovich from 1954 until 1991. Jovanovich’s papers contain nearly two hundred author and publisher files, including an extensive file on the famous aviator and writer Charles A. Lindbergh (1902-74), as well as personal and professional correspondence, writings and lectures, awards, family memorabilia, interviews, press clippings, business files, photographs, and other materials regarding Jovanovich’s professional activities and creative pursuits. The papers are the generous gift of Alexandra O. Fellowes, as executor of the Estate of Martha Jovanovich, widow of William Jovanovich. This important gift complements the Manuscripts Division’s extensive holdings of the archives of major American publishing houses and literary journals, papers of publishers and editors, and archives of literary agencies and writers’ organizations.

Jovanovich was born in a coal-mining camp in Louisville, Colorado, to parents of Montenegrin and Polish origin. He learned English in elementary school, completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado, and studied English and American literature at Harvard University. His graduate studies were interrupted by World War II, when he left school to serve as an officer in the U. S. Navy. After the war, Jovanovich returned briefly to his studies at Columbia University. In need of a job to support his wife and young son, he left school again in 1947 to join Harcourt Brace & Company as a traveling college textbook salesman. He was promoted to head of Harcourt’s school division in 1953 and became president of the company the following year at age 34. In 1970, he became chief executive officer, and the firm was renamed Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Jovanovich was an innovative figure in the publishing industry. He popularized the use of colorful illustrations in textbooks, and he is credited with starting the first imprint (under Kurt and Helen Wolff), now a common feature at many leading publishing houses today. At the same time, he made unconventional business decisions, such as relocating the publisher’s headquarters from Manhattan to Orlando and purchasing Sea World marine parks. Under his direction, Harcourt became one of the largest textbook publishers, while continuing to publish trade books, including works by internationally known authors. Over the course of Jovanovich’s leadership, Harcourt was transformed from a small publishing house into a diversified company with annual sales of over a billion dollars. In the late 1980s, the company took on massive debt in a successful but ultimately damaging effort to thwart a hostile takeover by the British publisher Robert Maxwell. This led to Jovanovich’s resignation as president in 1990.

Authors represented in the collection include Svetlana Alliluyeva (see photo below), Hannah Arendt, Matija Bećković, Sylvia Beach, Arthur C. Clarke, Edward Dahlberg, Milovan Djilas, e. e. cummings, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Hiram Haydn, Helen Hayes, Irving Howe, Jerzy Kosiński, Anita Loos, Marshall McLuhan, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Lewis Mumford, V. S. Pritchett, Erich Maria Remarque, Richard Rovere, Carl Sandburg, William Saroyan, Vasilēs Vasilikos, Andy Warhol, Leonard Woolf, and others. His papers document his lifelong interest in promoting the works of Yugoslav authors.

An extensive series of files on Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh consists largely of editorial drafts, research, and photographs for Lindbergh’s posthumous Autobiography of Values (1978), which Jovanovich edited and published. Materials related to The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh (1970), correspondence with Anne Morrow Lindbergh and other members of the Lindbergh family, and biographical writings by others about Charles Lindbergh are also included. Of note is a group of photographs, correspondence, and research materials, collected by New York Times reporter Alden Whitman. These document Lindbergh’s work with primitive tribes and his conservation efforts in the Philippines in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In addition to publishing the works of others, Jovanovich also wrote and published several books of his own, including the essay collection Now, Barabbas (1964), the novel The World’s Last Night (1990), the memoir The Temper of the West (2003), and several others. He died in San Diego, California, in 2001 at age 81. Researchers interested in learning more about the William Jovanovich Papers should consult the finding aid. For information about using the papers, contact rbsc@princeton.edu. Jovanovich’s author and publisher files are stored onsite, while his own writings and personal papers are offsite. Please consult with the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections about having offsite materials recalled to Firestone Library, a process that normally takes 48–72 hours notice.
William Jovanovich in 1977

Svetlana Alliluyeva.
Svetlana Alliluyeva letters from Princeton, N.J