Extrovert Bennett Cerf and quiet Donald Klopfer built Random House into the best of the publishing houses founded during the 1920s. It became a commercially successful firm with a commitment to literature and a list of distinguished authors.
The Modern Library.
In 1925 twenty-seven-year-old Cerf, a Columbia University graduate, had the title of vice president at the publishing house of Boni & Liveright, having acquired that position by lending money to Horace Liveright. Always in need of money, Liveright offered to sell the Modern Library series to Cerf for $215,000. It was a splendid opportunity because the Modern Library, a list of more than one hundred clothbound ninety-five-cent reprints of classics, sold widely with little attention from Liveright. Cerf's family was prosperous, but he could not raise the purchase price alone. He asked his twenty-three-year-old friend Klopfer to put...
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