Norton History | W. W. Norton & Company
W. W. Norton & Company, the oldest and largest publishing house
owned wholly by its employees, strives to carry out the imperative
of its founder to "publish books not for a single season, but for
the years" in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, college textbooks,
cookbooks, art books and professional books.
Mr. and Mrs. Norton
The roots of the company date back to 1923, when William Warder
Norton and his wife, Mary D. Herter Norton, began publishing
lectures delivered at the People's Institute, the adult education
division of New York City's Cooper Union. The Nortons soon expanded
their program beyond the Institute, acquiring manuscripts by
celebrated academics from America and abroad.
For years, Norton has been known for its distinguished publishing
programs in both the trade and the college textbook areas. Early in
its history Norton entered the fields of philosophy, music, and
psychology, publishing acclaimed works by Bertrand Russell, Paul
Henry Lang, and Sigmund Freud (as his principal American
In the 1940s, Norton expanded its history textbook publishing with
Edward McNall Burns's Western Civilizations, now in its sixteenth
edition, while the 1950s brought the addition of international
figures such as the renowned authority on human development, Erik
Erikson. Norton also developed a series that would change the
teaching of literature: the Norton Anthologies. Collectively, these
anthologies have sold over 20 million copies.
In the 1960s, the company initiated a poetry program that now
includes Pulitzer Prize winners Rita Dove, Stephen Dunn, and Maxine
Kumin; National Book Critics Circle Award winner B. F. Fairchild;
National Book Award winners Adrienne Rich, A. R. Ammons, Gerald
Stern, Stanley Kunitz, and Ai. In 2001, Norton brought the epic
poem Beowulf back to public attention with Seamus Heaney s
best-selling, Whitbread Award-winning translation.
In the past few decades, the firm has published best-selling books
by such authors as economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz,
paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, physicist Richard Feynman, and
historians Peter Gay, Jonathan Spence, Christopher Lasch, and
George F. Kennan. Norton has also developed a more eclectic list,
with prominent titles including Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
and Curt Gentry; Jared Diamond s Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller
Guns, Germs, and Steel; Judy Rogers s The Zuni Caf Cookbook;
Patrick O'Brian s critically acclaimed naval adventures; the works
of National Book Award-winning fiction author Andrea Barrett;
Liar's Poker and Moneyball by Michael Lewis; Fareed Zakaria s The
Future of Freedom; and Sebastian Junger s The Perfect Storm.
At the same time, the college department has strengthened its
offerings with leading titles in economics, psychology, political
science, and sociology. Books such as American Government by
Theodore J. Lowi and Benjamin Ginsberg, Hal R. Varian s
Intermediate Microeconomics, Introduction to Sociology by Anthony
Giddens, Mitchell Duneier, and Richard P. Applebaum, and The Norton
Shakespeare edited by Stephen Greenblatt et al., have joined the
Norton Anthologies and Norton Critical Editions, Joseph Machlis and
Christine Forney s The Enjoyment of Music, Donald J. Grout and
Claude Palisca s A History of Western Music, and other perennial
best-sellers as leaders in their fields. Meanwhile, newer titles
such as Inventing America by Pauline Maier et al., Michael S.
Gazzaniga and Todd F. Heatherton s Psychological Science, and
Stephen Marshak s Earth: Portrait of a Planet are garnering
widespread praise and national attention on their way to becoming
In 1985, Norton expanded its publishing program with Norton
Professional Books, specializing in books on psychotherapy and,
more recently, neuroscience. The Professional Books program has
also moved into the fields of architecture and design.
In another expansion, in 1996, Norton acquired the distinguished
Vermont firm The Countryman Press and added well-respected nature,
history, and outdoor recreation titles to the Norton list. In 2003,
Berkshire House Press joined Norton, becoming part of the Vermont
In addition, the company has emerged as a prominent international
player with the creation of W. W. Norton & Company Ltd. in
London in 1984 and with agencies in Canada, Australia, New Zealand,
Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Latin America.
W. W. Norton & Company now publishes about 400 books annually
in hardcover and paperback.