||Donald Herdeck was born In Chicago in 1924 and grew up in Elmhurst, Illinois, where
an award-winning journalism student in high school. He went on to study for the next
years, first at Drake University, and then as a drafted military cadet at Texas A&M,
before serving in the U.S. Army Infantry at various fronts in Europe during the Second
War. After the war ended, he worked for a year on a Strategic Bombing Survey for the
Air Force in London and the U.S. until he returned to undergraduate studies in English,
initially at the University of Washington in Seattle while waiting for admission to
University of Chicago, where he earned a B.A. in 1947 and an M.A. in 1948. At that
decided he wanted further experience and education in Europe, so under the G.I. Bill
enrolled in classes in literature and art at universities in Paris, Grenoble, and
for the next three years, picking up a fluency in French and Italian along the way.
||When he came back to America, he taught English and French for a year at Girard College,
prep school in Philadelphia, before entering a Ph.D. program in the English Department
the University of Pennsylvania, where he concentrated in British and American literatures.
However, after completing all requirements except the dissertation, he chose to join
U.S. Foreign Service, taking consular appointments at UNESCO as well as in Italy and
for the next ten years. When his health broke down in Guinea, he left the diplomatic
and found a teaching job at Georgetown University in 1965 while simultaneously working
his long delayed doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania on the poetry
||His first teaching assignments were staple courses in American literature and English
composition for foreign students, but in addition he soon added courses on African
literature as well as interdisciplinary courses on literature and the arts based on
had learned in Europe. His African courses were cross-listed in Georgetown's School
Foreign Service, where they were attended by students aiming for a career in diplomacy
as he himself had had. At the same time, he moonlighted by teaching African literature
courses at Howard University. He managed to complete his dissertation in 1968, at
point he qualified for a tenure track position as an Assistant Professor of English
Georgetown. He earned tenure there in 1972.
||The following year Herdeck edited and published as his own first book a revised edition
Introduction to the Arts, a textbook originally issued by
the University of Chicago Press while he was a student there. He needed such a text
students in his interdisciplinary course on the arts, so he secured permission to
out as a publication of the School of Foreign Service and sell it to his classes.
his first venture into book publishing, and it appears to have been part of what inspired
him to start his own publishing company.
||As early as 1970 he had contemplated compiling a bio-bibliographical survey of black
writers in Africa, America, and the Caribbean as well as editing an anthology of African
writing. At the end of 1971 he proposed such projects and others to Hill and Wang,
them that he was considering starting a company to be called New-World Press. He elaborated
on this plan a year later, saying his press would "obtain American rights to works
in manuscript (new works) or in foreign languages, then to prepare a good typescript
ms and/or translation, and then to offer the work to established publisher." He brought
intention to fruition in 1973 by launching his own firm, which he decided to call
Continents Press. Within a year and with an investment of only $450, he was able to
out his press's first book, a small 83-page paperback entitled Beside
the Fire: Two Modern Tales from Nigeria by Obioma Eligwe, who had recently
completed a doctorate in African Studies at Howard University.
||The following year he published three more books, all of which dealt with Africa.
later he ventured to publish ten more books, five of which dealt with literature or
in South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, and Africa more generally, as well as two literary
works by writers from Guyana and Jamaica, and two collections of poetry and fiction
writers and scholars from Iran. So, in that single year he justified his claim to
publisher of books from three continents. He and his wife were able to sustain this
activity by financing it with their own salaries as well as with investments from
of enthusiastic shareholders. Herdeck also prescribed many of these books in the courses
taught, selling them to his students.
||In later years the wide international range of the press eventually extended even
By 1993 he was publishing works by writers living and writing in five continents.
time, he had 254 titles in print with 33% coming from Africa, 30% from the Middle
East, 15% from Asia/Pacific, 12.7% from the Caribbean/Latin America, and 9% from the
||A good number of these titles were volumes of verse, often published in bilingual
Translations were some of his most significant contributions to world literature.
made a special effort to publish books by and about women. As with the books by men,
female writers came from many different parts of the world, contributing their insights
the rich cultures they depicted.
||Very few of the books Three Continents Press published were best sellers, though a
of them were reprinted several times. Those most frequently reissued were works by
Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz, who won the Nobel Prize in 1988. Before the Swedish
Academy selected him, Herdeck had been the first American publisher to bring out four
narratives in English translation. After the prize was announced, orders came flooding
||Herdeck frequently made co-publishing arrangements with Heinemann Educational Books
later with a portion of Longman's Drumbeat Series. He also secured agreements with
foreign companies, not always to co-publish, but rather to distribute their books
exchange for selected Three Continents Press titles that could be marketed abroad
||By 1993 Three Continents Press was receiving 500-600 unsolicited manuscripts each
Herdeck retired from teaching at Georgetown in 1987 to cope with the increasing workload,
but as time wore on, he began to experience serious health problems, including a heart
attack in 1988, a few months before Mahfouz won the prize. He moved his company from
Washington, D. C. to Colorado Springs in the middle of 1993, but suffered a stroke
February 1995. That may have been what prompted him to sell 167 of his titles to Lynne
Rienner, another Colorado publisher, in August 1996. He still retained the rights
to 60 of
the books he had published so he decided to set up a new company, called Passeggiata
to market them, as well as to finish work on several contracts he had made, especially
authors he had published with success earlier. He also wanted to see into print new
that came his way and excited him.
||By 1999 Herdeck was considering liquidating his new press, but he hung on for another
in order to bring out three more books by his former authors. He died in 2005, and
book bearing the Passeggiata Press imprint was published by his widow Margaret two
||Donald Herdeck was an energetic and intelligent entrepreneur who took great satisfaction
and genuine pleasure in the pioneering work he did as a publisher of unusual books.
alert to the many difficulties he faced as a small press, but he surged on boldly,
of the value of bringing samples of non-Western literature to the attention of the