The Editor’s Place

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Angus Phillips Oxford

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As we consume more content in digital form, publishers have worked ever harder to ensure that book design creates objects that are readable, collectable and suitable as gifts. The cover of the book has to do a selling job whilst reflecting the contents. The page design needs to work with the text, images and the needs of the reader. In Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto, Craig Mod writes that books ‘need rigor. They need to be books where the object is embraced as a canvas by designer, publisher, and writer.’ (edited by McGuire and O’Leary, 2012)

The article by Kirsty Hartsiotis charts the influence of Emery Walker (1851–1933), the éminence grise of the Private Press Movement. It looks at his friendship and collaboration with William Morris and examines Morris’s Kelmscott Press and other private presses in which Walker was personally involved. The study takes in his wider contribution to early 20th-century fine printing, and how his influence spread through these presses into mainstream printing, and considers his influence on the teaching of printing through the 20th century. Book production in the early 20th century embraced Walker’s ideas about readability at the same time as there was a general democratization of access to well-designed books, meaning that, as demand for reading matter grew, it was delivered in a form that was easily legible and enhanced the reading experience.

Bookshops come and go, but some very few stand for bookselling itself. Scribner’s Bookstore, 597 Fifth Avenue, was such a place for David Emblidge. Stepping into the store, book lovers entered a luminous grand space (many commented that it seemed ‘flooded with daylight’) under large, arching plaster vaults and stunning light fixtures. Scribner’s understood bookselling to be a profession of individualized service. Roger Burlingame, one of the great Scribner’s editors and publishers, is said to have passed on a story about a customer saying, ‘I want a book for a man, thirty-four or thirty-five …’ If this shopper’s request stands at one end of a spectrum of needs, thousands of other Scribner’s regulars used the bookshop as their first choice for specifically targeted new or rare books.

What can publishing culture and digital culture tell us about each other, and what can anthropology tell us about each of them, asks Hal Robinson? Publishing involves reading and learning and sharing knowledge of all aspects of our world. It is a ‘culture’ in the sense anthropologists use the word, with its own patterns and identities. In comparing different cultures, anthropology studies what happens as they change. This has increasing relevance to what is happening in publishing today as the impact of digitization grows. Three developments are especially significant. The first concerns relationships with readers or consumers and how the value of individual interactions changes dynamically within a community. The second is how communities work together collaboratively in commercial contexts. And the third is how the combination of individual and community relationships can produce sustainable change in human, creative, and commercial ecosystems.

The creation of the Collins Crime Club in 1930 during the Golden Age of detective fiction is a prime example of how print culture was becoming more commercial. Sophie Bolton sets out to explore this dynamic, taking into consideration the commentary of literary critics and looking at the central role of middle-class readers in facilitating the commercialization of literature in 1930s Britain. Popular authors in the Crime Club were Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Freeman Wills Croft. The advertising and marketing methods of the Crime Club are analysed to demonstrate the imprint’s commercial focus and to illustrate how its marketing was tailored towards the middle classes.

Angus Phillips


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