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Open Court Publishing Company | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Name: Open Court Publishing Company

Historical Note:

Open Court Publishing Company was founded in 1887 in LaSalle, Illinois by Edward Hegeler who hired Dr. Paul Carus as editor-in-chief.  Open Court was one of the first academic presses in the United States. The goals of Open Court were to provide a forum for the discussion of philosophy, science, and religion, and to make philosophical classics widely available by making them affordable.  It also published the quarterly journals Open Court and The Monist, which is still being published today.  Hegeler and Carus were truly interested in the honest exchange of ideas whether or not they personally agreed with the contributing authors.

During the late 1880s until the 1920s, the Open Court Publishing Company produced a copious number of publications. Their catalog included a huge variety of subjects even though, Paul Carus, the editor of Open Court, dedicated his philosophical approach to Monism. Incorporating ideals of science and religion, Carus sought the opinions, ideas, thoughts, and philosophy of some of the world's greatest thinkers, scientists, and theologians. Carus published and corresponded with anthropologists, mathematicians, geologists, geographers, philosophers, biologists, zoologists, psychologists, and academics of all kinds, including many who were known throughout the world.

During this time, Open Court Publishing Company had a unique place in the publishing business.  The company was private, family owned, and did not publish dime store novels, but serious mainstream, progressive, scientific, academic, and religious writings. Other presses would print such materials; however, most of the presses were University presses. Princeton printed the Princeton Theological Review, Harvard printed the Harvard Theological Review, and some organizations printed quarterly journals such The Biblical Review Quarterly. The Open Court Publishing Company stood somewhere in the middle ground, printing academic writings, as well as books, articles, and journals for the general reading public. Diversity of subject and readership are what made Open Court Publishing Company unique in the publishing industry.  In addition, Paul Carus and Open Court Publishing Company were instrumental in printing and spreading Eastern thought in the West, bringing these ideas to the pages of all types of academic journals of the day, from Harvard and Princeton’s presses, to the journal of the Maha Bohdi Society.

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