… Cuba para principiantes (1960) and Marx para principiantes (1972) by the Mexican political cartoonist and writer Rius, [are] pocket books which put their content over in a humorous comic strip way but with a serious underlying purpose. An English-language version of the first book was published in 1970 by Leviathan Press of San Francisco and Pathfinder Press of New York, to no particularly great impact. However, when Richard Appignanesi edited the first English edition of Marx for Beginners (1976) for the London-based Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative, of which he was a co-founding member of with Glenn Thompson and others, it was soon clear that the collective had a hit on their hands. With a successful format identified, further "... for Beginners" titles soon began to appear.
A schism developed at the start of the 1990s, when the Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative which had been publishing the titles broke up. Appignanesi, who had been the first editor in London for the series and had also written several of the titles, joined the new publisher Icon Books as a co-founder, under whose imprint he re-published several of the titles and continued to publish and expand a British version of the series. Meanwhile, Glenn Thompson, now in America, also formed a new company, Writers and Readers' Inc., which also continued the ... For Beginners series, in several cases commissioning new authors to create replacement books for those being published in Britain. This led to a number of examples where the two ranges were publishing two different books on the same subject, each with exactly the same title.
The situation was eventually resolved in 1999 by the British range being rebranded as the Introducing... series, with titles starting with that word instead of ending "for beginners". In the latest reissues of these titles (from 2008) the "Introducing" is played down to the level of a series name, and the titles are instead prominently subtitled "A Graphic Guide".
As the Writers and Readers and the Beginners series became more and more successful, however, it became much more difficult to maintain the co-op mentality. Questions of control arose. Some took it upon themselves to sell the titles to larger, corporate publishing houses. Thompson felt that he needed more control over the Writers and Readers. Compromising the cooperation values of Writers and Readers in order to preserve some of his more important ideals of reform and activism, Thompson took control as sole publisher. He went to New York and began a second branch called Writers and Readers Publishing, Inc.
Several years after the passing of Glenn Thompson, a few investors got together to discuss the cultural value and importance of his Beginners series and decided to buy the rights to the titles. For Beginners, LLC was born. Inspired by his innovative and radical concepts on the power and influence of independent publishing, we adopted Glenn Thompson’s ideals and intentions, re-releasing 20 of his Beginners titles and authorized one new title, Dada and Surrealism For Beginners, in the summer of 2007.
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