Category: Blog

Astor and Lenox are the names that were given to the two lion statues flanking the entrance to the historic New York Public Library when it opened in 1911. Carved from pink Tennessee marble, the now-famous lion sculptures were created by E.C. Potter. Our logo is an exclusive, original drawing of one of the lions.


Visionary entrepreneur John Jacob Astor and reclusive bibliophile James Lenox both believed that access to books was important. In the mid-1800s, they funded two of the earliest major libraries in America, collections that were eventually combined to form the majestic New York Public Library. So that the pioneering work of these philanthropists would not be forgotten, the literary lions were named after them.

The two lions are now iconic. In my mind, they flank a portal to what was at that time a new ethos in our society. It was a profound step forward in human history to pronounce the right of access to books for everyone, and to create architecture and motifs that reflected a stunning reverence and awe of books and readers. In the United States, there just wasn’t anything like the New York Public Library or what it stood for.

We are pioneering a new model for publishing that we believe will get more great books into the hands of more readers for centuries to come, just as the original Astor and Lenox pioneered a new model for access to books in their time.

We believe that books—like a symphony or ballet—are works of art for the public good and deserve patronage to encourage great work. This model allows us, as editors, to select books based on merit, not on speculation about future sales volume. So the first part of our model is this new yet very old idea of patrons of the arts getting involved with books. We call them “book angels” and our funding model “angel-funded publishing.” We thank John Jacob Astor and James Lenox for being among a distinguished pantheon of the very first book angels in America and inspiring generations of readers by giving them access to the world of ideas.

On a side note, after the Great Depression–when wealthy philanthropists like Astor and Lenox were out of vogue–Mayor Fiorello La Guardia gave the lion statues the nicknames “Patience and Fortitude,” which certainly could be watchwords for our endeavor, too!

[Original logo art commissioned exclusively for Astor & Lenox. Photo credit: Graham Well.]

This picture, of The Giant Underwood Master Typewriter and its enthusiasts, raises the question of how many book angels can dance on the head of a typewriter key. The photo is from the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Photo credit goes to the digital rights collection of our beloved New York Public Library. We use this image to illustrate stakeholders we call “Book Angels,” who fund books they love.

The image of a woman at a more manageably sized typewriter represents another stakeholder group, “The Best Authors,” by looking very serious about her writing. Photo credit goes to Getty Images.

When our book angels back our serious authors it results in “Books That Matter,” represented by an evocative photograph of a boy reading in a doorway. Credit goes to the extraordinary Lithuanian photographer, Balys Buračas (1897 – 1972).

The portrait of Terence Clarke is © Terence Clarke and was taken by Nancy Dionne. The portrait of me is © Ivory Madison. The portrait of Marilyn Yalom is © Marilyn Yalom.

The Astor & Lenox logo is original art commissioned exclusively for Astor & Lenox by our book cover artist Clarissa Yao. If you would like, you can read the whole story behind the lion, the logo, and the name of our publishing house. All are © Astor & Lenox.

And finally, the lovely main image featured on the site, of weathered books on wooden library shelves, is a photograph © Keith Page, all rights reserved. We like to think this library ladder goes all the way up to the stars.

We’re innovating a new mission-driven model for publishing:

1. We pick a book we want to rescue.

Most of our titles will be book rescues. Our editors will identify important, unique works of fiction and nonfiction that matter, yet are out of print and don’t exist in digital format anywhere. Someone has to steward the world of ideas, and these books will be lost to history if we don’t digitize them. We want to rescue them for future generations.

2. A book angels helps us rescue the book by underwriting the costs of publishing.

Our publishing costs are minimal, since we have almost no overhead, so book angels don’t have to be wealthy to help. Plus, many of our titles will only be published in ebook format, making it even more affordable for us to rescue books. We have a rolodex of book angels and we match each angel with a book they love and are proud to support. You can be a patron of the arts in a way that has lasting impact and a wide reach, because ebooks are infinitely scalable.

3. We publish it.

We do all the things every traditional publisher should do and none of the things they shouldn’t. An out-of-print book may need scanning, copyediting the flawed scan, a new layout, new introduction, new book cover art, new metadata, marketing, printing, and distribution, and we do it. The book has been rescued from the dustbin of history–it’s now available forever to everyone.

4. We share our success with stakeholders.

We are happy to pay authors the highest royalties in the industry (really), and to give them more rights and control than any other publisher would. And we’re exploring ways to reach the most readers, like making unbelievably affordable or free ebooks available to your favorite libraries, schools, and independent bookstores.


Our first book is Compelled to Witness: Women’s Memoirs of the French Revolution by Marilyn Yalom. Marilyn is a French scholar and Women’s Studies scholar at Stanford. She did groundbreaking scholarship and feminist analysis on women’s memoirs on both sides of the war, and was decorated by the French government for her work. There will never be another scholar with the same areas of expertise and life experience to create this remarkable and important book, yet it was out of print. It was not available to much of the world and could have been lost forever if it wasn’t digitized.

The project was a perfect fit for the two book angels who got involved, and Astor & Lenox is proud to have published a new edition, an ebook edition, that can illuminate the path of readers and scholars around the world, for centuries to come.

Please contact us if you have an out-of-print title you suggest we rescue, or if you’d like to become a book angel and rescue the world–one book at a time–with us.