Alfred A. Knopf Jr. Dies at 90

As the only child of publishing mavens Alfred A. and Blanche Wolf Knopf, Alfred A. Knopf Jr. was born with a silver book in his hands, The New York Times reports. The road wasn't always easy: Devastated by a rejection from Princeton, he ran away from home; police found him in Salt Lake City, barefoot, broke, and hungry. After a stint at Union College and the Air Force, Knopf joined his father's publishing company on the marketing and sales side, only to leave it in 1959 to start Atheneum Press with Hiram Haydn and Simon Michael Bessie. The young company did well, publishing three No. 1 best sellers off its first three lists. Atheneum also published Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), which sold more than 70,000 copies, as well as Mario Puzo's second novel, although it turned down The Godfather because Haydn thought it "junk." In 1978 Atheneum merged with Charles Scribner's Sons to form Scribner Book Companies, with Charles Scribner Jr. as chairman and Knopf as vice chairmen, although both houses operated independently. Six years later, Macmillan ate Scribner Book Companies, and Knopf continued as a senior vice president until his retirement in 1988.