Grove Press Records
Grove Press began as a small independent publisher in New York City's Greenwich Village in 1949. Within three decades, it grew into a multimillion-dollar publishing company recognized as one of the twentieth century's great avant-garde publishing houses.
When Barney Rosset purchased Grove Press in 1951 after its establishment by John Balcomb and Robert Phelps, it had published only a handful of books. Ten years into Rosset's tenure as publisher, Grove's catalog included over five hundred titles, and the publishing house continued its expansion. Looking beyond books, Grove operated a film distribution business, a book club, a theater, the Evergreen Review magazine, and eventually became a publicly traded company. For a time, Grove even experimented with publishing children's books.
One of Grove's most well-known accomplishments was in introducing American audiences to European avant-garde theater. From Alfred Jarry's late nineteenth-century experimental works The Ubu Plays to the absurdist plays of Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Jean Genet, and Tom Stoppard, as well as the epic theater of Bertolt Brecht, Grove frequently sought to disseminate new drama in affordable paperback editions.
Rosset's interest in another artistic genre, film, led Grove Press to enter the film distribution business in 1966 when it purchased Cinema 16, the New York City film society founded by Amos and Marcia Vogel in 1947. The acquisition gave Grove access to many experimental films such as those by Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage. By the early 1970s, the Grove Press Film Division catalog included over four hundred domestic and international short and feature films, documentaries, experimental films, animations, and classic Charlie Chaplin and Georges Méliès films.
Rejecting mainstream notions of obscenity, morality, and decency, Grove also gained a reputation as a controversial publisher committed to fighting censorship as it published some of the most well-known banned books. Grove's success in publishing D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover (1959) despite attempts to censor the work by the Post Office paved the way for Rosset to publish another contested work that was ultimately cleared by the courts, Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer (1961) and defend theEvergreen Review. After winning several battles over the printed page, Grove built on these victories and successfully defended the screening of Vilgot Sjöman's Swedish film I Am Curious (Yellow).
Censorship was not the only social convention Grove had a role in shifting. The defining movements of the 1960s -- the antiwar, civil rights, black power, counterculture, and student movements in the United States, along with revolutions around the globe -- were debated, exposed, and discussed in Grove's publications as was the sexual revolution. Grove's books challenged prevailing attitudes about sex through dozens of erotic books, many by "anonymous" authors; introduced the layperson to new directions in psychology through Eric Berne's Games People Play; and gave voice to revolutionaries around the world, including Che Guevara and Malcolm X.
While Grove was successful in fighting censorship and obscenity laws and introducing groundbreaking works to American readers, internal conflicts and challenges such as efforts to unionize the staff and feminist criticisms confronted Grove in the 1970s, as well as the departures of long-time editors Dick Seaver and Fred Jordan. After many celebrated achievements and a peak in staff numbers and office size, Grove reorganized and downsized its operations. Ann Getty and British publisher George Weidenfeld purchased Grove Press in 1985 for a reported two million dollars. Rosset left in 1986 and continued to pursue publishing and an Internet-only version of Evergreen Review until his death in 2012. Grove continues to exist today as part of publisher Grove Atlantic.
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