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Hippocrene specializes in books on folklore, ethnic cookbooks (particularly of less-widely-known cuisines), translations of classic literature, and foreign-language reference works. It grew out of Optimum Book Marketing, established in 1970 by Polish immigrant George Blagowidow.
Hippocrene was started by George Blagowidow, who was born in Poland to Russian parents and survived the Nazi occupation to escape communist Europe in 1945. After attending university in Antwerp, Belgium, he came to New York in 1951, where he earned master’s and doctorate degrees in business from New York University. He worked at Doubleday, Macmillan, and Reader's Digest before starting his own publishing company with Hippocrene’s first list in spring 1972, featuring European literary classics in translation, including The Doll by Polish novelist Bolesław Prus.
In 1973 the company began distributing foreign-language dictionaries for a German company and continued to thrive in that niche. As of 2008, Hippocrene has published in over 112 languages, including Polish-interest books such as Quo Vadis by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz.
In 1983, Best of Polish Cooking, by Karen West, was the first cookbook published by the company. Hippocrene has since expanded its line of ethnic cookbooks to include 64 cuisines. The company also publishes histories and illustrated histories. Its illustrated dictionaries for children, started in 1998, are available in 16 languages.
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