Carl Marzani (undated)
Carl Marzani (undated)

Some time after his release from prison in 1951, Carl Marzani started new book ventures with Little & Brown’s book editor Angus Cameron. By 1955, these efforts included the book publisher Marzani & Munsell. They went on to ride the wave of the New Left.

Their author list included almost half of the Hollywood Ten: Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman,Ring Lardner, Jr., and Albert Maltz. It also included communist or fellow-traveling writes like Herbert Aptheker, Cedric Belfrage, Howard Fast, Albert E. Kahn, A.J. Muste, Carey McWilliams, Edgar Snow, Joseph R. Starobin, and Anna Louise Strong. In the mix was also Calvin Benham Baldwin (aka Henry A. Wallace campaign manager “Beanie Baldwin”), as well as left-wing union star Harry Bridges. It even included one person whom Whittaker Chambers considered a spy (Ella Winter, wife of Lincoln Steffens) and one member of both the Ware Group and Elizabeth Bentley’s second network, the Perlo Group – Victor Perlo himself.

How far left did Marzani lean?

Try a clue others have not examined: take a look at the colophon for Marzani & Munsell.

Marzani & Munsell imprint (from “Marzani and Munsell Publishers, Inc. letter in the Leo Szilard Papers at the UC San Diego)

Initially, one can make out a figure resembling Prometheus bound to a rock. While his arms struggle, he has cast his eyes downward at an open book on the ground. Binding Prometheus to the rock is a chain… Thus, while recalling the running figure resembling Mercury in Boni & Liveright‘s “Modern Library” imprint, instead here is Prometheus, representing humankind, struggling to free himself by reading, i.e., educating himself.

By now, the unwritten captions starts to materialize. “Workers of the world, unite! You have only your chains to lose!”

What is left to the imagination? Should there be a hammer in the upraised fist, with which this promethean worker is about to break loose of that chain? No, no, the book is the hammer: education is the key.

One Response to Marzani & Munsell: What’s in a Colophon?

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I just found your website. “Witness” was my favorite book when I was in high school, as my parents had a first-edition copy. I read it over and over. In my forties, I am still reading it — both my newer copy and now my mother’s copy which I inherited after her death. I am encouraging my children to read it. We chose homeschooling for our children for this very reason — education is the key, and sadly there just aren’t any schools we can trust anymore. Thank you for this website. I have read the book so much that I feel I know Whittaker, Esther, Ellen and John Chambers…I was in 4-H and my children were until recently…

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