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Saturday, January 23, 2016

How Ayn Rand selected ‘The Fountainhead’ for the title of her book

“First, let me tell you abut the mistitling of The Fountainhead. This is not the original title, and I still do not particularly like it. The original title was ‘Secondhand Lives’. Everyone disliked it, including my agent and all the publishers I heard from. But I wanted that title, because it named a completely new idea featured in the book, i.e., that many people, such as Peter Keating, live by the opinions of others. Then Archie Ogden, my editor at Bobbos-Merrill, said something that changed my mind instantly: “If you use that title, you are featuring Peter Keating.” This horrified me. I had missed that implication entirely.

“So now I had to search for a title that would feature Howard Roark. The title I choose next was ‘The Prime Mover.’ But my publisher objected that most people, seeing the book in a store window, would think it was about movers. He was right, though I would have taken the chance, because I do not care about what superficial people might think. Still, the expression “prime mover” is not well known enough to convey the grandeur it would to someone acquainted with philosophy. Only a dedicated Aristotelian could appreciate it.

“I next choose Mainspring, but discovered it had already been used. So I took a thesaurus and started looking for words. Finally I found “fountainhead.” What I dislike about it is that the metaphor is too poetic for the nature of the book. Mainspring would have been better, because it suggests engineering.” ~ Ayn Rand

(Source: ‘The Art of Nonfiction’ by Ayn Rand; Chapter: ‘Selecting a Title; Page-169)

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