Born 18 October 1854 in New York (Manhattan), New York
Died 19 April 1930 in New York (Manhattan), New York
Buried Woodlawn Cemetery and Conservancy, Bronx, New York
Elected 1 November 1879 at age twenty-five
Archivist’s Note: Brother of Arthur H. Scribner and J. Blair Scribner; father of Charles Scribner
Few histories of American literature lay the stress which is deserved on the personality of our publishers. The European publisher may often have had a hand in discovering and developing unsuspected genius, and the picture of the rival Fleet Street publishers in “Pendennis” is probably caricature. But certainly Dickens and Scott regarded their Chapmans and Ballantynes purely as speculating merchants in the book trade. Very few British publishers are remembered personally nowadays; but our own country’s literary story cannot be separated from the publisher’s individuality. From the days of James T. Fields to those of the Putnams, the Appletons and the Holts, a successful book was often associated as closely with publisher as with author. Charles Scribner was an outstanding figure in that interesting company.
With his authors, Scribner’s relationship was always intimate. Some of the younger writers, of whose success he was convinced in their own days of discouragement, testified personally to the help that the house had given in shaping their career. That was true even in the period described by Edward Bok, who acquired his own experience as stenographer for the Scribners, and who subsequently recalled the perplexity of elderly customers who could not find a responsible partner in the house much more than thirty years of age. The alert glance and quick gesture with which Charles Scribner’s fellow-Centurions became familiar—accompanied, as such mannerism always was, by quiet and deliberate expression of opinion—perhaps gave the picture of his professional career. His judgment was formed rapidly; he did not hesitate to sign the “dollar-a-word contract” for Roosevelt’s “African Game Trails”; but his development of an undertaking, once decided on, was extremely careful. The craft owes much to him as one of the resolute protagonists for quality of form in published books as well as quality of matter; a policy whose pursuance by a few such men has placed America well in the front line of artistic book-making.
Alexander Dana Noyes
1931 Century Association Yearbook