- From the Mast-Head
Leviathan has reached another significant milestone in its fifteen-year development. With the publication of this issue, we welcome Johns Hopkins University Press as our publisher. JHUP will produce and circulate hardcopy issues to members, three times a year. Online access to our journal will be made available to individuals and institutions through Project Muse. Our journal's happy landing in the arms of this prestigious academic duo comes, for me, at the end of twenty-five years of service to the Melville Society. At the end of this year, I will be stepping down as editor-in-chief and hope to be of continued service in some consultatory fashion. But before descending from this mast-head perch, let me reflect on where we are and how Leviathan got this far.
As seasoned members of the Melville Society will recall—and as our newer subscribers might like to know—this Journal of Melville Studies grew out of—budded from, you might say—Melville Society Extracts, a scholarly periodical of significant repute published as a quarterly, in newsletter format, for over thirty years, from 1969 to 2005. Past editors Hennig Cohen—whose name adorns our annual prize for first-time publishers on Melville—and Donald Yannella—who died last year (see our recognition of him in Leviathan 14.3)—brought Extracts through two earlier milestones: the regularizing of its periodicity and the converting from a loose-leaf, stapled mailing to a computer-formatted publication. Both editors established high standards for excellence in scholarship and writing, and from its early days onward Extracts was routinely indexed in the profession's most reliable bibliographies, in particular the MLA International.
Still, Melville Society Extracts suffered because its length was not conducive to more fully-developed essays and argumentation; its title was sometimes mistaken for "Abstracts," which projected the notion of its being a "go elsewhere" reference tool, and its newsletter format posed problems for librarians to acquire, bind, and shelve the periodical. In 1990, following directly in Yannella's footsteps, I spent my time as Editor of the Melville Society learning how to edit Extracts. Like Redburn, I was a "boy" on board this craft. Having published Greenwood's Companion to Melville Studies, I had some bona fides in the process of critiquing and copy-editing submissions, but I was a greenhorn in the scheduling of a periodical, the marshaling of readers, the selection of articles, the assigning of book reviews, the laying out of each issue in something [End Page 1] called Adobe PageMaker, the placement of text, photos, and line-drawings, the delivery of camera-ready copy to a printer (on the Hofstra University campus), and the arrangement for each copy to be stuffed in an envelop, labeled, and mailed.
These were the many ropes I found myself in need of learning, and I vividly recall re-doing my first issue of Extracts—Issue No. 80, I believe it was—three times before I felt it was ready for the press. If you think of The Honor and Glory of Editing, you might conceive of yourself skippering a numerous editorial staff: but think again. Better to imagine one man rowing: much exertion facing backward, going forward only through repeated glances over the shoulder in order to correct the course, all on a mission to deliver good writing and good thinking safely into port.
I rather like sharing the pain and indirection of editing, so much so that I early on resolved to ensnare more people into the process. Thus, the first milestone in the long journey to Johns Hopkins University Press was the creation of an Assistant Editor in charge of book reviews, a role first ably performed by Sheila Post-Lauria beginning in 1994, and then in 1996 by Wyn Kelley, a vibrant Melville scholar with great ideas, Job-like patience, and an eagle-eye for typos, who would assume more editorial responsibilities, learn the perilous protocols of PageMaker, and eventually rise to the position of Associate Editor.
Throughout the 1990s, Extracts grew, in part because the Society began to grow and because no other journal was so centrally positioned to provide a forum for...