Ace Books is the oldest active specialty publisher of science fiction and fantasy books. The American company was founded in New York City in 1952 by Aaron A. Wyn and began as a genre publisher of mysteries and westerns. It soon branched out into other genres, publishing its first science fiction title in 1953. This was a successful innovation, and science fiction titles outnumbered both mysteries and westerns within a few years. Other genres also made an appearance, including nonfiction, gothic novels, media tie-in novelizations, and romances.
Ace became known for the tÃªte-bÃªche binding format used for many of its early books, although it did not originate the format. Most of the early titles were published in this "Ace Double" format, and Ace continued to issue books in varied genres, bound tÃªte-bÃªche, until 1973. These have proved attractive to book collectors, and some rare titles in mint condition command prices up to $1,000.
Ace, along with Ballantine Books, was one of the leading science fiction publishers for its first ten years of operation. With the death of owner A. A. Wyn in 1967, however, the company's fortunes began to decline. Two prominent editors, Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr, left in 1971, and in 1972 Ace was sold to Grosset & Dunlap. Despite financial troubles, there were further successes, particularly with the third Ace Science Fiction Specials series, for which Carr was the editor. Further mergers and acquisitions resulted in the company becoming a part of Berkley Books. Ace then became an imprint of Penguin Group; its editorial team is also responsible for the Roc Books imprint, although the two imprints maintain a separate identity.