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Bennett CerfBennett Cerf
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Interview #5
Interviewee: Bennett Cerf
Interviewer: Mary Hawkins
New York City
October 19, 1967


I wonder, Mr. Cerf, if you would like to go into how Random House began to grow. In other words, I believe you began to get unsolicited manuscripts after you had begun to publish the first few titles.


No, at first we were just doing these press books. And after we had done Candide and it had become such a huge success, and after we had had such success with the Nonesuch agency, which required no skill since the books sold themselves (the skill was in cutting the orders down), every private press in England and America came to us to be their distributor. But, as I told you, this whole market collapsed when the Wall Street crash came in 1929. But as the Depression hit, we had the Modern Library, and that was almost depression-proof. In fact, when people didn't have the money anymore to go carousing around in speakeasies and theaters and cruises, they stayed home and read. The Modern Library was inexpensive. In those days there were no paperback books, so the Modern Library were the cheapest series of good reprints that there was.

Well, then was when trouble hit Mr. Liveright. It had been mounting. I told you he was very improvident. He had no business sense at all, and he was getting deeper and deeper

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