World Literature Today was founded as Books Abroad in 1927 by Roy Temple House (1878–1963), a scholar of vision from the University of Oklahoma. In a letter to OU president William Bennett Bizzell, Dr. House explained his founding vision for Books Abroad and requested a startup budget of $150 for the first two issues. With characteristic modesty, he wrote: “. . . I know our little magazine will be useful in various quarters. A good many of us, I think, are coming to feel strongly that the University of Oklahoma must begin fostering contributions to the scholarly and cultural activities of the nation” (October 21, 1926). For the next 22 years, Professor House nurtured the fledgling journal, and in 1948 he was endorsed by his colleagues for the Nobel Peace Prize for his service as an “ambassador of international cooperation and goodwill.”
Dr. House devised as the journal’s logo a full-rigged ship with the motto Lux a Peregre—“Light from Abroad” or (as we choose to interpret it) “The Light of Discovery.” While the journal has always served as a harbor for ships—foreign books—from abroad, it also functions as a lighthouse that reflects back the light it receives, which has also been an essential part of our mission. From a modest seedling of 32 pages in January 1927, Books Abroad grew to 256 pages by the end of its fiftieth year (Autumn 1976), and that year's cover design reflected the completion of a significant circle. In January 1977 the journal became known as World Literature Today, reflecting the truly international range that its coverage and reputation had acquired.
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