About North Atlantic Books
Founded in 1974, North Atlantic Books has been located in Berkeley, California since 1977. Over this period, North Atlantic has become a leading publisher of alternative health, martial arts, and spiritual titles.
Our mission is to affect planetary consciousness, nurture spiritual and ecological disciplines, disseminate ancient wisdom, and put forth ways to transmute cultural dissonance and violence into service. We have given voice to many new modalities of living and thinking about our world since the 1960s–ways to interrogate and rediscover diet, healing, mindfulness, psychotherapy, somatic and martial practice, and creativity. Our specific strengths are martial arts, bodywork, history of medicine, homeopathy, archaeo-astronomy, transdimensional realms, Eastern religion, diet and natural foods, live food, fine literature, and quirky aspects of pop culture. We publish widely and diversely, mixing commitments to our niches with broad-based general trade books. Although not our main rubrics, we publish environmental titles; graphic novels and comics; urban literature and detective novels; cookbooks; art books; sports books; and new perspectives in dance, film, and theater.
In 1964, while attending Amherst and Smith Colleges in Massachusetts, Richard Grossinger (a cultural anthropologist and writer) and Lindy Hough (a poet and writer) founded Io, an alternative college literary magazine, with the help of poets like Robert Kelly, Charles Stein, and Nels Richardson. Over the next decade Io became a counter-cultural journal mixing literature, science, and history, as it came out of Michigan, Maine, and Vermont with issues such as Alchemy, Doctrine of Signatures, Ethnoastronomy, Oecology, Dreams, Earth Geography, and The Olson-Melville Sourcebooks. The forerunner of such magazines as Whole Earth Review, New Age, Gnosis, and The Sun, Io had a seminal role in publishing poets and artists in the Black Mountain and New American Poetry traditions. It also was the first place of publication for novelists Stephen King and Jayne Anne Phillips and launched as well the work of writers as diverse as David Wilk, Rob Brezsny, and Phoebe Gloeckner. From the seed of Io germinated North Atlantic Books. During its brief infancy in Vermont, North Atlantic’s original authors included Bernadette Mayer, Diane di Prima, Gerrit Lansing, Theodore Enslin, Bobby Byrd, Don Byrd, and Edward Sanders.
As an independent publisher, North Atlantic has sought cutting-edge titles that probe the forefront of consciousness and the cultural resonance of new (and often very old) systems. Our first successes were t’ai chi from renowned master Cheng Man-ch’ing, ecological anthropology, and baseball literature. Since then, North Atlantic has explored anomalies such as purportedly artificial Martian landscapes, elements of Amazonian shamanism, the HIV-AIDS connection, vaccinations, microdoses, crop circles, while also publishing political works on the Prison Industrial Complex, Al-Qaeda, Terrorism, Abu Ghraib, and the Geneva Accord for Healing Israel-Palestine. We’ve also published teachings of Islamic Sufism, Jewish mysticism, Buddhism (Chinese, Japanese, Burmese, Tibetan, and Korean), and Vedanta. We address body and mind with a wealth of modalities, from Alexander work and Feldenkrais, to Reiki, Jungian psychology, shamanism, and craniosacral therapy.
As a rule we seek primary sources, founders of systems, and innovators. We favor direct experience, fresh language, and first-hand experience. We try to avoid knock-offs and derivations, books written first as marketing concepts, commodities, or exploitations of fads.
Blue Snake Books was developed out of Frog Books, in 2005 as a martial arts imprint and is presently the largest publisher of internal and historical martial arts books in the world.
EVOLVER EDITIONS was launched in 2011 as a collaboration between North Atlantic Books and Evolver, LLC. EVOLVER EDITIONS presents leading voices of the transformational movement, the new spiritual counterculture that explores humanity’s most visionary potential and the tangible, pragmatic steps we can take to access it.
Society for the Study of Native Arts and Sciences
North Atlantic Books was incorporated in 1980 within the Society for the Study of Native Arts and Sciences, a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization. The Society’s goals are to develop an educational and cross-cultural perspective that links scientific, social, and artistic fields; to nurture a holistic view of arts, sciences, humanities, and healing; and to publish and distribute literature on the relationship of mind, body, and nature.
At that time, its primary goals were to encourage and disseminate non-Western and new-paradigm arts and sciences. It also provided an organizational framework for two publishing enterprises: Io, an interdisciplinary journal founded in 1964 by Richard Grossinger and Lindy Hough (while college students), and North Atlantic Books, a literary publishing company derived from Io in 1974.
In their early stages, Io and North Atlantic Books were grant-based, with most of the funding coming from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Now, a more mature SSNAAS is pursuing outside funding anew to match its own revenues and to enable it to expand its services and contribution to local and global communities.
The publishing program of the Society had its roots in the history and lineage of Io/North Atlantic Books. Io was initially inspired by the cosmological and mythopoetic writings of Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Edward Dorn, Robert Kelly, and their Beat and Black Mountain colleagues. In 1963 the poet Charles Stein, a contemporary of Grossinger and Hough, had briefly published his own journal, Aion, on topics of so-called “traditionary thought”; Aion was Io’s model, and Stein directed many of its early authors to Io after he abandoned his publication. These original sources led Io into the domains of Sufism, Jungian psychology, alchemy, ethnobotany, ethnozoology, ethnoastronomy, American Indian philosophy, Western hermeticism, phenomenology of landscape, ecology, dream science, and science fiction. Source material from all of these areas, mixed with mostly avant-garde literary work, characterized the various Io issues between 1964 and 1980.
North Atlantic Books was named partly for the North Atlantic region (Io having originated in Massachusetts and being published subsequently from Maine and Vermont). Another source of motivation was Alan Van Newkirk’s Geographic Foundation of the North Atlantic, an early (1970) ecological center founded in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, by urban radicals from Detroit that published broadsides and pamphlets under the name of root, branch, and mammal. A final inspiration was Edward Dorn’s 1960s millennial poem, “North Atlantic Turbine: A Theory of Truth,” which very early described the dangers of global commoditization by the Western World.
Through the 1980s, the publishing program under the Society expanded from primarily literary works to psychospiritual, medicinal, martial, and ecological literature. During those years North Atlantic Books became a significant publishing force, trail blazing in some areas (internal martial arts, sports literature, and homeopathy) and filling holes left by mainstream commercial publishing in other areas (anthropology, occult novels, regional history, and outsider science). In the process, the publishing program developed significant book lines in alternative medicine, ecology, spirituality, and other related areas and a diverse and appreciative audience of readers.
Over two decades, North Atlantic Books continues to fulfill many of the Society’s educational goals purely through its published library, and at the same time generates revenues to be used for books of literary and social merit, and for philanthropy. Portions of the Society’s profits are donated to worthwhile projects and organizations.
Frog Books was founded in 1993 as a sister company but now functions as an imprint of North Atlantic under the name Frog Books. Named for the bellweather species reflecting the destruction of the environment, Frog reminds us of the fragility of our world. Frogs are amphibian, atavistic, ancient, and fragilely beautiful. They are sources of medicines and shamanic drugs. Among Native American peoples, sacred societies and sodalities, especially of women, are named for frogs. Frogs are also considered the “canaries in the coal mine” for an ecologically threatened planet. Their vulnerability makes them susceptible sooner than other species to changes in the environment and atmosphere. Reminding us of the sacred, atavistic, and colorful, Frog shares North Atlantic’s publishing and educational goals.
In 2007 Frog was donated by its shareholders to North Atlantic Books and is now part of the Society for the Study of Native Arts and Sciences.
The North Atlantic Turbine
The naming of our publishing company was inspired by this evocative poem by Ed Dorn. In 2002. we published the poet’s much anticipated biography, written by Tom Clark.
The North Atlantic Turbine, 1967
I am the creature
from the north atlantic. I will speak
now of the circulation of my discontent
and of that dull unhappiness which,
on the occasions of their excitement,
all creatures describe. Total war
has been uninstructive,
a Krupp will arise from the classic flame, civil
war tears the heart and trade flourishes
The turbine moves clockwise
on the northern surface. As long as its base
stays – solutions outside that bind
can come from Plato and Walter Brennan
to no effect.