About Hippocrene Books


Hippocrene Books: Forty Years of Excellence in Publishing with an International Focus

Over the last forty years, Hippocrene Books has become one of America’s foremost publishers of foreign language reference books and ethnic cookbooks. As a small publishing house in a marketplace dominated by conglomerates, Hippocrene has succeeded by continually reinventing its list while maintaining a strong international and ethnic orientation.

George Blagowidow founded the company in 1970, initially as a distribution firm called Optimum Book Marketing. In the following year the publishing side of the business came into being as Hippocrene Books. The name Hippocrene comes from Greek mythology and refers to the sacred fountain of the Muses that was the source of their inspiration.

Hippocrene’s international focus derives from Mr. Blagowidow’s passion for travel and his personal history. Born in Poland of Russian parents, he survived the Nazi occupation and narrowly escaped from communist Europe in 1945. After attending university in Antwerp, Belgium, he came to New York in 1951, where he earned master’s and doctorate degrees in business from New York University. Before starting his own publishing company, Mr. Blagowidow held executive positions at Doubleday, Macmillan, and Reader’s Digest.

Hippocrene’s first list, in spring 1972, featured European literary classics in translation, including the Polish novel The Doll. In 1973, it began to distribute foreign language dictionaries for the German company Langenscheidt, thereby entering what would prove to be its strongest category.

Currently, Hippocrene publishes in over 112 languages, from Arabic to Zulu. The Hippocrene Beginner’s Language Guides are excellent learning tools for both classroom use and self-study, and include 2 audio CDs to enhance the student’s pronunciation.

 Another growing series is the Dictionary & Phrasebook line, which features essential vocabulary and phrases for travelers in 82 languages including the forthcoming Greek and Bulgarian editions. In 1998 the company launched its newest venture, illustrated dictionaries for children, which are now available in 16 languages.

Hippocrene has boasted a strong Polish-interest publishing program for many years, and published a new translation of Quo Vadis, Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Nobel Prize-winning novel. (A translation by W. S. Kuniczak was also published by Hippocrene in 1997). New editions of many of Sienkiewicz’s other works were produced, including a highly successful translation of his classic Trilogy.

A Polish-interest title was also behind the launching of Hippocrene’s cookbook series: Best of Polish Cooking, by Karen West (1983). It was wildly popular, which led to a revised edition in 1991, and an expanded edition in 2000. Hippocrene then began a rapidly expanding line of ethnic cookbooks featuring cuisines from Europe (Spoonfuls of Germany), Asia (Healthy South Indian Cooking), the Americas (Secrets of Colombian Cooking), as well as cuisines influenced by migration, such as Cuisines of Portuguese Encounters, and Pied Noir Cookbook: French Sephardic Cuisine. Today, Hippocrene Books features 64 cuisines in its cookbook program.

In addition to its conventional history list, the company recently launched a series of Illustrated Histories. Each book features the political and cultural history of a region, accompanied by photographs, illustrations and maps.

Hippocrene Books owes its current success to an integrated publishing program. As the company continues to evolve, it will continue to develop the internationally-oriented content that has defined it from the beginning. For example, there is now a Hippocrene app HippArabic which allows travelers to have all the information in our Arabic Dictionary & Phrasebook on their iPhone or iPod Touch. Look for new language apps in the future!

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