15 February 1969 New York Times
Charles Boni, Publisher, Dies; Leader in Literary Movement
Founded Famous Book Shop With Brother-Also Partner of Liveright in the 20's
Charles Boni, who helped found the Modern Library and the noted publishing house of Boni & Liveright, died of cancer yesterday at New York Hospital. He was 74 years old and lived at 2 Washington Square Village. He had a summer home at Menemsha on Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
Mr. Boni, a short, wiry man with dark hair and eyes, and his brother, Albert, were major figures in the literary and artistic movement in New York, beginning with their founding, in 1913, of the Washington Square Book Shop.
As much a social center as a commercial enterprise, the store was next door to a Macdougal Street brownstone that housed the Liberal Club, an organization of earnest thinkers and tireless talkers.
The bookshop, which consisted of two large rooms, was the setting for the founding of the Washington Square Players, the Theater Guild and the Provincetown Players-with productions that gave impetus to a little theater movement that spread across the country.
When the Provincetown Players came from Massachusetts to New York, their first bill introduced to the city the work of Eugene O'Neill, whose "Bound East for Cardiff" was part of the opening program, on Nov. 3, 1916.
The Boni brothers had moved on from the bookshop by 1915, leaving it to Frank Shay, who had played a role in the O'Neill production.
Charles Boni joined with Harry Scherman to form the Little Leather Library, and was co-editor of the first 30 titles which included "The 50 Best American Poems" and "The 50 Best English Poems."
The little books, less than three inches by four inches and bound in lambskin, sold for 19 cents and were an immediate success. More than 900,000 copies were sold in the first year, and the project later grew into the Book-of-the-Month Club.
In 1917, Mr. Boni, his brother and Horace Liveright joined forces to start the Modern Library and the publishing concern of Boni & Liveright.
During the nineteen-twenties the company published such writers as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, T. S. Eliot and Robinson Jeffers. At one time it had five Nobel Prize winners on its list.
After constant quarrels over Mr. Liveright's management, the Boni brother tossed a coin to decide who would buy out whom, Mr. Liveright won.
Had Leading Authors
Albert and Charles Boni then formed a concern that bore their names, and from 1923 to 1928 participated in publishing the works of Will Rogers, Jim Tully, Thornton Wilder, Romain Rolland, Upton Sinclair, Mark Van Doren, Marcel Proust, Ford Maddox Ford and the first popular paperback series, which died in the stock market crash of 1929.
Charles Boni started a paperback book club in 1928, and a year later the first dollar book club, now operated by the Doubleday publishing concern.
In 1935, Charles Boni started a new company, Living American Art, which distributed exhibitions of fine reproductions of the work of living American painters to colleges. The venture was discontinued when World War II began in Europe, since the reproductions were made in Vienna.
During the war, Mr. Boni served in the United States Office of War Information in England. On his return, he started the book publishing concern of Boni & Gaer. He retired in 1955, but in retirement organized the Center for Bio-Mathematical Research, to bring together large medical centers in this area in the use of computers for making certain medical information available speedily.
Mr. Boni, who was born in Newark on Sept. 14, 1894, was the son of Charles Boni and the former Bessie Seltzer. He was graduated from Harvard College in1915.
He is survived by his widow, the former Margaret Bradford, whom he married on Aug. 1, 1931, and by his brother. There will be no funeral service.