"The only trouble with American literature is that so much of it is so hard to find. That is the philosophy underlying one of the boldest and biggest publishing ventures of recent years." Parade
The Library of America was founded in 1979 to undertake a historic endeavor: to help preserve the nation's cultural heritage by publishing America's best and most significant writing in durable and authoritative editions.
The idea for The Library of America was first discussed among scholars and literary critics who were concerned that many works by America's finest writers were either out of print or nearly impossible to find. Without a deliberate publishing effort to preserve American writing, many important works would virtually disappear and be lost to future generations. Deprived of an important part of their cultural inheritance, Americans would lose a collective sense of the country's literary accomplishments. The Pléiade series published in France provided a model, and discussion of a similar American series continued until the late 1970s, when seed money from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation was secured to create The Library of America. The first volumes were published in 1982.
Like the historic preservation movement, which originated in the 1920s with concerns about architectural heritage, The Library of America seeks to restore and pass on to future generations our nation's literary heritage. This entails something never attempted before: not only publishing these volumes but keeping them permanently in print and widely available to readers.
In the years since The Library of America's inception it has come to be recognized by both scholars and the general public as the national edition of our country's literature. The series has won the National Book Critics Circle special award for "distinguished contributions to the enhancement of American literary and critical standards." It has also received the "Ambassador of Honor" title from the English-Speaking Union and the Carey- Thomas Award for Creative Publishing.
View The Library of America at 25, a film by Catherine Tatge and Dominique Lasseur, or listen to five of America's most distinguished writers speaking about a writer published by The Library of America.