Ballantine Books

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Ballantine Books
Ballantine Books
Parent company Random House, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann
Founded 1952; 70 years ago (1952)
Founder Ian Ballantine and Betty Ballantine
Country of origin United States
Headquarters location New York, New York
Official website

Ballantine Books is a major book publisher located in the United States, founded in 1952 by Ian Ballantine with his wife, Betty Ballantine. It was acquired by Random House in 1973, which in turn was acquired by Bertelsmann in 1998 and remains part of that company today. Ballantine's logo is a pair of mirrored letter Bs back to back.[1] The firm's early editors were Stanley Kauffman and Bernard Shir-Cliff.[2]

Following Fawcett Publications' controversial 1950 introduction of Gold Medal paperback originals rather than reprints, Lion Books, Avon and Ace also decided to publish originals. In 1952, Ian Ballantine announced that he would "offer trade publishers a plan for simultaneous publishing of original titles in two editions, a hardcover 'regular' edition for bookstore sale, and a paper-cover, 'newsstand' size, low-priced edition for mass market sale."[3]

When the first Ballantine Book, Cameron Hawley's Executive Suite was published in 1952, the publishing industry saw that the simultaneous hardcover and paperback editions were obvious successes.[3] Houghton Mifflin published the $3.00 hardcover at the same time Ballantine distributed its 35¢ paperback. By February 1953, Ballantine had sold 375,000 copies and was preparing to print 100,000 more. Houghton Mifflin sold 22,000 hardback copies in its first printing. Ballantine's sales soon totaled 470,000 copies. Instead of hurting hardback sales as some predicted, the paperback edition instead gave the book more publicity. After the film rights were sold to MGM, Robert Wise directed the 1954 film, nominated for four Academy Awards.

On the heels of that kind of sales and publicity, other Ballantine titles were seen in spinner racks across the country. Executive Suite was followed by Hal Ellson's The Golden Spike (#2), Stanley Baron's All My Enemies (#3), Luke Short's Saddle by Starlight (#4, also with Houghton Mifflin), Ruth Park's The Witch's Thorn (#5, also with Houghton Mifflin), Emile Danoen's Tides of Tide (#6), Frank Bonham's Blood on the Land (#7), Al Capp's The World of Li'l Abner (#8, with Farrar, Straus & Young) and LaSelle Gilman's The Red Gate (#9). Non-fiction was introduced with John Bartlow Martin's criminal case history, Why Did They Kill? (#14).

Science fiction and fantasy

During the early 1950s, Ballantine attracted attention as one of the leading publishers of paperback science fiction and fantasy, beginning with The Space Merchants (#21). The Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth novel had first appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction under the title Gravy Planet. Kauffman scored when he acquired and edited Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (originally in Galaxy as a shorter version, "The Firemen").[2]

Ballantine's science fiction line also included the unusual Star Science Fiction Stories. With cover paintings by Richard Powers, this innovative anthology series offered new fiction rather than reprints. Edited by Frederik Pohl, it attracted readers by successfully combining the formats of both magazines and paperbacks. The series pioneered the original anthology format later used by Orbit, New Dimensions and Universe, among others.

In the early 1960s, the company engaged in a well-known rivalry with Ace Books for the rights to reprint the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Edgar Rice Burroughs in paperback form. Ballantine prevailed in the struggle for the Tolkien work, with their editions of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings including a message on the back cover from Tolkien himself urging consumers to buy Ballantine's version and boycott "unauthorized editions" (i.e. the version from Ace Books). A separate Canadian edition of the books was published with different front cover art work. Tolkien asked for (and received) permission to add the back cover message. Betty Ballantine recalled: "And we did put a little statement on the back covers saying that Ace was not paying royalties to Professor Tolkien, and everybody who admired Lord of the Rings should only buy our paperback edition. Well, everybody got behind us. There was literally no publication that did not carry some kind of outraged article. And of course, the whole science fiction fraternity got behind the book; this was their meat and drink."[2]

In 1969, Lin Carter edited the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, which brought a number of rare titles back into print, as well as launching Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series. During the mid-1970s, Ballantine published the Star Trek Logs, a ten-volume series of Alan Dean Foster adaptations of the animated Star Trek. In 1968, Ballantine published the first non-fiction book related to Star Trek, The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry.


Due to renewed interest in World War II, Ballantine's; in conjunction with the British publishing house Purnell's, started publishing the Illustrated History of World War II paperbacks in 1968. The series was divided into Weapons (43 books), Battles (31 books), Campaigns (29 books), and War Leaders (31 books) sub-series, and was an immediate success with an initial cost per book of only one dollar. The books were well written by a who's who of Military Historians of the late 60's and early 70's. Some titles had several printings (Patton had six), while others were limited to one, and experienced poor sales. Starting in 1973, the series was retitled to The Illustrated History of the Violent Century, and added books on World War I, the war in Southeast Asia, and the Middle East conflict, though strangely no books on the Korean War were offered. Two additional sub-series were added (Human Conflict and Politics In Action) to address points of history that occurred outside of the wars. By the summer of 1975 interest in the series fell off with only a few further titles published for a total of 156 books. By 1976 all were out of print, but were being snatched up by collectors. Some titles (the best selling 20 or so books of the series) were re-printed in a silver cover and released in late 1977. In the fall of 1978 another group of 12 were re-printed with the covers very similar to the original printings except all had a black spine. The success of the series added significant funds to the corporate balance sheet, and lead to further books on history being published.

Cartoons, comics and humor books

Grab Your Socks!

After publishing The World of Li'l Abner, Ballantine introduced Shel Silverstein in 1956 with his Grab Your Socks! collection of cartoons from Pacific Stars and Stripes. Ballantine also published several collections of Jim Davis' comic strip Garfield.

As an editor at Ballantine during the 1950s and 1960s, Bernard Shir-Cliff handled the Zacherley anthologies, the paperback of Hunter Thompson's Hell's Angels, Harvey Kurtzman's The Mad Reader and other early Mad paperbacks. He made four contributions to Mad and other magazines edited by Kurtzman. In 1956, Shir-Cliff edited a humor anthology, The Wild Reader, for Ballantine, including essays, poems and satirical pieces by Robert Benchley, Art Buchwald, Tom Lehrer, John Lardner, Shepherd Mead, Ogden Nash, S. J. Perelman, Frank Sullivan, James Thurber and others. The 154-page paperback was illustrated with cartoons by Kelly Freas who also did the front cover.

Another contributor to both Ballantine and the Kurtzman magazines was the cartoonist-author Roger Price. He did two humor books for Ballantine. I'm for Me First (1954) details Herman Clabbercutt's plan to launch a revolutionary political party known as the "I'm for Me First" Party. In One Head and Out the Other (1954) popularized the catchphrase "I had one grunch, but the eggplant over there." The nonsense non sequitur was immediately adopted by science fiction fandom, appearing occasionally in fanzines, as noted in Fancyclopedia II (1959).[4]


Ballantine's 3000-title backlist includes titles from several imprints. Fawcett, now home to Ballantine's mysteries, was acquired in 1982. In 1987, Ivy Books was launched and now features Ballantine's romance novels. One World was founded in 1991 as a publisher of multicultural books, and Wellspring has published spiritual guidance and inspiration since 1999. Ian and Betty Ballantine also founded Rufus Publications.

Further reading

Ballantine authors


  1. "Random House: Ballantine Books". Retrieved 2013-02-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Silverman, Al. ''The Time of Their Lives: The Golden Age of Great American Book Publishers, Their Editors and Authors''. Truman Talley, 2008. Retrieved 2013-02-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Crider, Bill. "Paperback Originals," ''Paperback Forum'' #1". Retrieved 2013-02-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Eney, Dick. Fancyclopedia II. Bladensburg, Maryland: Operation Crifanac, 1959.

External links