J. B. Lippincott

Born in 1813 in New Jersey, Joshua Ballinger Lippincott became a bookseller shortly after he moved to Philadelphia at age 14. By 1850, he had amassed such a fortune that he was able to purchase Grigg, Elliott & Co., “the largest book jobbing house in the country,” which was founded in 1792. J. B. Lippincott & Co. continued to grow throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and was known for having a comprehensive backlist in a variety of genres, including religion, medicine, poetry, and Americana.

In 1899, Lippincott suffered a devastating fire in its headquarters that caused $3 million in damage. Business thrived again, however, and by the 1940s the firm estimated it had sold 20 million books—not including millions of textbooks. In 1960, it published Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize–winning bestseller, To Kill a Mockingbird, which would go on to sell more than 40 million copies.

Harper & Row acquired Lippincott in 1978, keen to add Lippincott’s substantial medical and nursing backlist to its own expanding operation. Harper & Row’s annual sales of $93 million coupled with Lippincott’s $48 million made the newly merged publishing house one of the leading English-language publishers in the world.