To honor Barney Rosset, who died February 21st, I thought I’d post a photo of one shelf from my library filled with his hardcover titles from the late 1960s.
His obituary in the New York Times did him well, except for the details about his erotica titles, namely: “After discovering a trove of suppressed 19th-century erotic books, including ‘My Secret Life,; he started Blue Moon Books, which published those as well as newer titles.”
Rosset not acquire those titles to start Blue Moon Books; he had acquired a stash of erotica in the late 1960s from an antiquarian bookseller leaving the business. These he republished through Grove Press under the imprints the Library of Victorian Erotica (hardcover) and Black Cat Books (paperback). He added contemporary works to the line as well, an approach he resumed when he did start Blue Moon Books.
Here’s a snippet about the matter, culled from my copy of Obscene, a documentary about his publishing life:
In 1992, Rosset spoke with NPR’s Fresh Air about Blue Moon Books and discussed a flap in which the American Family Association pressured Kmart, then owner of Waldens Books, to abandon selling Blue Moon titles.
His fight for free speech never truly ended. Nor was his ideal freedom ever fully realized.