Rajpal & Sons was established in 1912 at Lahore (now in Pakistan). To begin with it published books on spirituality, social and political issues, in Hindi, Urdu, English and Punjabi. In 1947 it moved to Delhi where it soon came to be recognized as India's leading Hindi literary publisher, with several renowned Hindi authors on its list. It pioneered low-priced quality paperbacks, as well as direct selling through mail order, both of which concepts have made books accessible to millions of readers across the length and breadth of India.
Our touchstone for publishing a book is that it should stand the test of time and continue to live beyond its author. We derive great satisfaction from the fact that as many as twenty of our titles, some of which were published five to six decades ago, are still in print. Some of these titles are recognized today as great classics of Hindi literature.
The word 'publish' comes from the Latin 'publicis' which means 'to make public'. One of our endeavours has been to bring to the public stories that need to be told, and to bring to the forefront voices outside the mainstream. These are sometimes at variance with more popular and accepted views, and it is with immense pride that we uphold our right to freedom as delineated in India's Constitution. Our founder, the late Shri Rajpal lived and died upholding this right and in recognition was posthumously bestowed the first Freedom to Publish award in 1997 by the Federation of Indian Publishers.
On November 26, 2010, the International Publishers' Association bestowed on him the special Dare to Publish award and paid "tribute to the timeless exemplary integrity, humanity, compassion, determination, and courage that he so marvellously embodied. We thus honour one of the very first martyrs to the Freedom to Publish cause."
Today freedom of expression in many creative fields is under grave threat by forces that are ever ready to suppress and silence what does not adhere to the 'acceptable'. As we complete one hundred years of publishing and begin our journey into another century, we dedicate ourselves once again to the cause our founder held dear, that of the freedom to publish, along with our commitment to bring joy and enlightenment to readers across the world.
Generations of Publishers
Rajpal & Sons was founded in 1912 in Lahore by Rajpal, a journalist-turned publisher. At that time most books were published in Urdu as it was the official language. A man with a progressive outlook, Rajpal chose to also publish in Hindi, English and Punjabi. Starting with religious books he added on books on contemporary social issues written by well-known authors such as Bhai Parmanand, Santram and Kaviraj Jaigopal. His publication, Wisdom of the Vedas was recommended by the University of Oxford in its course on Indian philosophy.
An ardent champion of the freedom of expression, Rajpal won a bitterly fought case in the Punjab High Court in defence of an author's right to express his opinion. The case polarized public opinion and some disgruntled elements unhappy with the Court verdict made several attempts on his life. The third attempt on April 6, 1929 proved fatal when Rajpal was stabbed to death while working in his office-cum-shop in Lahore.
In the short span of seventeen years that Rajpal was a publisher, he established new benchmarks in Indian publishing and laid the foundations of a wholesome and vibrant publishing tradition.
Vishwanath took over the challenge of running the publishing house after his father's demise and in 1947 shifted base to Delhi. He brought into the fold of Rajpal & Sons literary giants such as Dinkar, Agyeya, Bachchan, Mahadevi Verma, Amritlal Nagar, Acharya Chatursen , Vishnu Prabhakar, Mohan Rakesh, Kamleshwar and several others. He launched Hindi translations of world literary classics and award winning books from Indian regional languages. By the 60s Rajpal & Sons was being hailed as the vanguard of Hindi publishing in the country. He valued his authors and built personal relationships with them. He says, "As a publisher my greatest joy has been that I have been the first reader of the books I have published and I have enjoyed lifelong friendship with all my authors."
He ushered in the paperback revolution in the country with the launch of low-priced quality paperbacks. To reach the vast multitudes of readers spread across the length and breadth of the country he introduced the concept of mail-order business where the reader could receive the books of his choice at his doorstep. Vishwanath came to be recognized as the face of Indian publishing and was invited to USA, China, erstwhile USSR and France as their state guest. He was the President of Federation of Indian Publishers and led several official delegations to other countries.
An avid reader, Vishwanath is fluent in Hindi, English, Urdu, Sanskrit and Punjabi. A connoisseur of music and a poet, his collection of poems, Antra has received rave reviews. He is Vice-President of the DAV which runs more than 700 educational institutions across the country. A true karmayogi he keeps active with his reading, writing and furthering the cause of education.
Meera Johri, granddaughter of Rajpal, is now heading Rajpal & Sons. She is actively widening the focus of publishing by adding on books in English and a range of dictionaries and is publishing authors like APJ Abdul Kalam, J. Krishnamurti, Jaswant Singh and Dalai Lama.