Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The Learned Press

I spent the last two days amidst fellow-contributors to The History of Oxford University Press at Keble College, Oxford. This event was described most determinedly by general editor Simon Eliot as 'not a conference', although the intention - and effect - was that we should confer with each other in formal and informal ways. As a relatively recent recruit, compared to most, I lacked the benefits of long-term exposure to the various channels of communication the project has set up, but left able to put more faces to names and with more of the pathways within and between volumes explored. Multi-authored scholarly work in the humanities faces the challenge of overcoming the often necessary solitude of research and composition, but this meeting reminded us that bridges had been put in place which we contributors could cross. The attendees who thronged Keble's JCR and Pusey Room came from overlapping theatres of academic expertise and varieties of personal and professional histories with OUP. There is still some distance to travel before the four volumes are available on shelves (we had the opportunity to consider what the books might actually look like) but (to extend yet another metaphor) maps have been compared and features common to adjoining territories of printing, bookselling, publishing and educational history surveyed, and (to cross further into contrivance) we know better the contents of each other's backpacks.

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