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Friend of Flatland: Hayward Cirker

Hayward Circker

Hayward Cirker, founder and president of Dover Publications, died at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, New York, on Wednesday, March 8. Mr. Cirker was 82 and lived in Hewlett Bay Park on Long Island and in New York City.

Mr. Cirker's career in publishing spanned sixty years, from his start as a salesman for Crown Publishers before World War II when he was introduced to the business of bookselling by Crown's legendary president, the late Nat Wartels. Before serving in the Navy during the war, Mr. Cirker founded Dover Publications, named for the Forest Hills apartment building in which he and his wife Blanche were then living, as a small mail-order remainder firm. Within a few years, the company had published the first book of its own, a reprint of a classic German mathematical work, "Tables of Functions" by Eugene Jahnke and Fritz Emde.

Beginning in the 1950s, Dover was a major contributor to the burgeoning paperback revolution in American publishing, introducing and popularizing the idea of publishing important books in paperback editions that were famous for their "no-frills" but durable construction, outstanding editorial quality and remarkably low prices. The hundreds of thousands of titles commonly available in quality paperback editions today owe their origin to dynamic changes in publishing introduced in great part by Hayward Cirker.

As a reflection of Mr. Cirker's own wide-ranging interests and intellectual curiosity, Dover's publishing program grew in diversity and strength, eventually taking in almost every area of knowledge. In addition to reprints of important books in all branches of science, Dover reprinted classics of art, architecture, photography, crafts, children's literature and books in many other fields. Dover was the first publisher to build an extensive list of reprints of classical music scores, and in recent years spearheaded a new kind of paperback revolution with the "Thrift Edition" series, reprinting over 250 unabridged classics of world literature in handsome paperbacks priced as low as $1.00. Dover's complete catalogue today lists over 7,000 works in all fields, many of which have remained in print for decades. The extensive collection of paperbacks is complemented by a few prestigious and monumental clothbound editions of such masterpieces as the complete Journal of Henry David Thoreau, the complete Animal Locomotion of Eadweard Muybridge, Gerard's Herbal and the Dictionary of American Portraits which he and his wife edited.

In a publishing world increasingly dominated by huge conglomerates with highly specialized and intricate departmental organizations, Dover remained a privately-held company that prided itself on its old-fashioned artisanal approach. Every facet of the process by which a book is created and sold was equally fascinating to Mr. Cirker, and he was always actively involved in every part of the operation from editorial selection to production decisions, to sales, marketing, and distribution. Known for going his own way, Mr. Cirker was famous in the industry for policies he initiated which were unique to Dover. For many years, Dover's editorial offices were located on Varick Street in lower Manhattan. Once when someone complained that he didn't always do things in the manner standard in the industry, Mr. Cirker, replied "I'm not in the industry, I'm below Fourteenth Street." In recent years the offices were moved to Mineola on Long Island where Dover's warehouse and shipping operations had long been located.

Mr. Cirker grew up in New York City and was a graduate of City College. In his years in publishing, Mr. Cirker and Dover won numerous awards including the Carey-Thomas Award for Creative Publishing, the Benjamin Gomez Award from the Book Publishers Division of the Anti-Defamation League, and citations from the American Institute of Architects, the Municipal Art Society, the Art Reference Library Association and the Maryland Institute. In 1998, he received an honorary degree from The State University of New York at Stony Brook. A lifelong New Yorker, Mr. Cirker's interest in the history of the city and its environs was reflected in his publishing a series of books on New York's history and architecture, and in publishing a number of works on Long Island history as well.

Mr. Cirker is survived by his wife Blanche, who worked as a partner with him at Dover almost since the inception of the firm, a son, Steven Cirker of Delray Beach, Florida, a daughter, Victoria Fremont of Brookline, Massachusetts, a brother Stanley, a sister Beulah, and two grandsons.

For any questions concerning the above text, please contact Clarence Strowbridge at 516-294-7000.

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