World Literature Today was founded as Books Abroad in 1927 by Roy Temple House, a scholar of vision from the University of Oklahoma. He 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, for this has likewise 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.
Now in our 85th year of uninterrupted publication, WLT is the second-oldest such literary periodical in the United States, and we remain devoted to our mission of serving students, scholars, and general readers worldwide. For years, a quotation from Goethe appeared on our masthead: "These journals, as they reach a wider public, will contribute most effectively to the universal world literature for which we are hoping. There can be no question, however, of nations thinking alike. The aim is simply that they shall grow aware of one another, understand one another, and, even where they may not be able to love, may at least tolerate one another." Goethe's words, first published in 1828, remain at the heart of our mission, even—or perhaps especially—in a world that has become increasingly globalized in the 21st century but remains fraught with national, linguistic, and political divisions.