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.
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 publisher).
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, National Book Critics Circle Award winners, National Book Award winners. 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 Café 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. 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 operation.