Editors, Scholars, and the Social Text (review)
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Reviewed by
Darcy Cullen, editor. Editors, Scholars, and the Social Text Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012. Pp. xviii, 281. Cloth: ISBN 978-1-4426-4104-4, US$65.00. Paper: ISBN 978-1-4426-1039-2, US$27.95.

The supreme virtue of this book is its emphasis on the value of editing and page design. It explains how these processes are done, under what pressures, and with what purposes in mind. The book explains book publishing tasks that are deliberately unobtrusive or covert: Editing does not want to be obvious, (27-8) and book design is 'the invisible art' (174). I admire the book's intent and effort. I readily forgive its stiff and sticky spots, overlook its gaps and hyperboles, and don't much mind its statements of the obvious: 'the world of academic publishing is changing dramatically' (184); 'the future of book publishing is in great flux' (200). Despite such faults, the book has immediate uses.

This is a book for persons newly hired in scholarly publishing and for persons enrolled in publishing courses for whom actual practice 'is absent and must be introduced' (8).

The majority of the eleven contributors clarify the tasks and collaborations that go into making books, especially scholarly books; they are straightforward, thorough, and up to date. The rest have other things to say about scholarly approaches to texts, printed or otherwise.

Contributors come from different professions and different stages in their careers, all with years of experience, and from a largely Canadian perspective. Camilla Blakely quotes at length Peter Milroy, recently retired director of the University of British Columbia Press. Four chapters come from the University of British Columbia, where the volume editor works. [End Page 102] There is next to no data, nor call for any. Figures, charts, and illustrations are usually well chosen. Rosemary Shipton excels in adding the thoughts of other professionals sought beyond the Web or library.

The book opens with a foreword by Helen Tartar, who has done as much as anyone else to make publication of translations a noble calling.1 She calls this 'the best book on publishing' she has come across (ix), a careful compliment. She writes about scholarly publishing, 'People may think you're crazy, but you spend all your life making it so that other people will have written a book' (xiii).

Tartar's foreword is followed by Cullen's introduction, which diligently commends her contributors and summarizes their chapters. The book gets underway with chapter 2, Peter L. Shillingsburg's brief essay on types and goals of scholarly editing. Chapter after chapter cite and praise Shillingsburg often enough to make this book his unofficial Festschrift.

Two very good chapters on copy-editing follow: Rosemary Shipton's 'The Mysterious Relationship: Authors and Their Editors' and Amy Einsohn's 'Juggling Expectations: The Copyeditor's Roles and Responsibilities.' These are my favourite chapters. Both editors write well, both have dry wit, both know that their work is keenly important for a self-respecting publisher, and both have learned to live with the inevitable trials of seeing their work ignored and depreciated. Authors in the bud should read these chapters attentively.

Camilla Blakeley's chapter on editing illustrated scholarly books shifts attention to the look and heft of printed books. In 'Let's Ask the Designers!' book designers Rich Hendel and Sigrid Albert write what one could fairly claim to be distinct chapters, yet, for reasons that escape me, the book organizes them as two parts of chapter 8.2 Hendel satisfies the main purpose of the book, explaining the work of a book designer. Albert forecasts that in the near future the restrictions imposed by digital delivery will foreclose a range of design options.

The 'social text' of the book's title might embrace anything printed or pixilated, but try as I might, I could not make some chapters fit. In a demonstration of intertexuality, Peter Mahon's 'From Book to Text' wades into the 'constant confrontation with citation' of Finnegans Wake while drawing from his own two books on Joyce (115-45). I enjoyed John K. Young's essay on iconic pages in Robert Antoni's fictions (202...