A Publisher by Any Other Name

Atticus Finch, the legendary Harper Lee character, certainly helped inspire the name of Atticus Books, but the D.C. metro-based publishing house also owes a debt of gratitude in name and fellowship to a much older and perhaps even wiser Atticus.

This “other Atticus,” known for his elegant taste, fine judgment and financial acumen, lived more than 2,000 years ago and breathed outside the pages of a book and the high-resolution plasma of the silver screen.

Titus Pomponius Atticus (109-32 BC) was a Roman writer, publisher and bookseller. When the Roman emperors decided to become book burners in the name of censorship, Atticus stepped in and preserved many of the Greek and Roman documents that we treasure to this date.

Atticus acquired much of his wealth through inheritance as well as his skillful dealings in real estate – this helped support his love of letters. He managed a staff of slaves trained as copyists and book binders, and published, among other tomes, the works of his close and now famous friend, Cicero. He also published their vast and intimate correspondence.

As for Atticus’ own literary works, he is said to have written a single book (in Greek) under the counsel of Cicero, and a small amount of poetry, none of which has survived.

So let us not forget Titus Pomponius Atticus.

Though he’s not nearly as well known in modern times as our beloved attorney from Macon, Ga., Atticus Finch, his contribution to literature is quite likely of far greater value.

Hard to fathom perhaps, but without the noble Titus Pomponius Atticus, today’s reader would never have been given the chance to shake his head in wide wonder at Homer’s epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. And for that, many a high school student, I’m sure, would mourn – and just as many, I’m afraid, would celebrate.

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