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Dan Brown

Dan Brown

Posted March 3, 2009 | 08:42 PM (EST)

Richard Seaver, a Titan of Publishing, Has Passed Away


Our world has lost a literary titan; fearless publisher, editor, translator, and writer Richard Seaver passed away earlier this year. Mr. Seaver, who, with his wife Jeannette, ran Arcade Publishing for the past twenty years, was 82.

Richard Seaver was an adventurer. He earned a Fulbright scholarship, studied at the Sorbonne, taught high school, joined the U.S. Navy, translated more than fifty books from French to English, became editor in chief at Grove Press, published barrier-breaking books for over four decades, had grandchildren, reached his 55th wedding anniversary...

In Mr. Seaver's obituary in the New York Times, Bruce Weber wrote of independent Arcade Publishing and Seaver's mission to discover "far-flung and underexposed authors from around the world... new voices that seemingly flout the wisdom of the marketplace." This is a rare and bold imperative that Mr. Seaver has made good on, as Arcade's catalogue includes authors from over 30 countries.

I met Mr. Seaver only a handful of times--most consisting of little more than a handshake and a greeting-- but he changed my life. In the summer of 2006, I was an anonymous New York City schoolteacher who had written a memoir on my rookie year in a tough Bronx school. The manuscript was rejected by over fifty publishers before it crossed Mr. Seaver's desk. He invited me to Arcade Publishing's office and asked me why I believed my book could make a difference. He listened with patience as I fumbled through an unpolished burst of nerve-addled explanation, and then, despite recognizing the limited commercial prospects of the project, he offered to publish my book.

Our society will continue to benefit profoundly from Richard Seaver's independent spirit--this is, after all, the man who published Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer -- and tremendous body of work. A great man of letters has left us.

Arcade Publishing's website contains the following message to well-wishers:

Richard Seaver, founder and president of Arcade Publishing, passed away unexpectedly on January 5, 2009. In lieu of flowers, we would be enormously grateful if you would consider making a contribution to:

PEN American Center
588 Broadway, Suite 303
New York, New York 10012