HISTORY

Who are we? Atlas Press began publishing in 1983, somewhat by accident. The two original editors, Alastair Brotchie in the UK and Malcolm Green, who has lived in Germany since 1980, were sharing literary texts by authors they found interesting and which seemed somewhat ignored in English. At this time all the important works of early Surrealism remained untranslated, for example, as did most of the written works of a number of avant-gardes who were known principally for their visual output. Among these neglected authors was Harry Mathews, all of whose novels were then out of print, and when we contacted him and asked if we might use works in a publication we were planning, his generous response, and the offer of an article on the Oulipo (the first to appear in English we believe), meant that we had to do what we had only vaguely envisaged. We took copies to the much-missed Compendium bookshop in Camden, North London, who managed to sell them in a couple of weeks. Payment was offered in money, books or hashish, or a combination thereof. This first anthology led to two more, each one larger than its predecessor, and when David Gascoyne asked if we might be interested in his translation of The Magnetic Fields by André Breton and Philippe Soupault, we published our first typeset book. Neither of us had the slightest experience in publishing so it took some while for our books to become a little more professionally produced and edited, and we were aided in this by two further partners, Antony Melville, a multi-lingual “real” publisher, and Chris Allen who sorted out our previously inept copy-editing and proofing. Some decades later, Atlas Press remains a very small operation with only these four being involved in its administration. Obviously we owe a huge debt to our numerous translators, and also to a number of funding bodies who have helped us over the years, especially The Elephant Trust, the Institut français, The Centre nationale de livre, and Robert and Olivia Temple. The absence from this list of an “official” UK funding body is symptomatic. Our choice of which books to publish is not much influenced by commercial considerations, except that we use our income to continue publishing. Atlas is more or less non-profit-making, although this is not so much a conscious decision as a consequence of the activities of a certain online bookselling megacorp(se).