A World of Letters: Yale University Press, 1908-2008 by Nicholas A. Basbanes

By Nicholas A. Basbanes

For Yale college Press, which celebrates its hundredth birthday in 2008, the century has been an eventful one, punctuated with out few surprises. the click has released greater than 8,000 volumes over the years, rankings of bestsellers and award-winners between them, and those books have come to fruition throughout the efforts of a bunch of colourful authors, editors, administrators, board contributors, and others of highbrow and literary renown.

With an ear regularly cocked for an attractive story, certainly one of today’s top storytellers provides an anecdote-rich chronicle of the Press’s first a hundred years. Nicholas Basbanes, whom David McCullough has referred to as “the major authority of books approximately books,” quick convinces us that the Press’s background, whereas bookish, can also be energetic and engaging. Basbanes explores the saga at the back of the purchase of Eugene O’Neill’s blockbuster play, the all time Yale bestseller Long Day’s trip into Night; the debate sparked in 1965 by means of book of The Vinland Map; the origins of the groundbreaking Annals of Communism sequence, initiated within the wake of the Soviet Union’s dying; and lots of extra highlights from Press annals. Basbanes appears on the purposes at the back of the publisher’s outstanding monetary good fortune, and he completes A global of Letters with a glimpse on the new projects that may propel the click right into a moment interesting century.

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The stunning variety of important titles they ushered through the Press during their watch, and the high literary standards they took care to maintain, speak eloquently enough for themselves, t h e f or m at i v e dec ade s 47 especially during a period when faculty representation on the Publications Committee was minimal. Indeed, on a few occasions books were published for reasons having more to do with the personal and political views of the men who guided the Press—which until 1961 remained an independently owned entity operated apart from Yale—and less to do with scholarship, a situation that led to growing oversight from the administration and ultimately to a revamped Publications Committee that would have a significant say in how the Press goes about its business.

Judges t h e f or m at i v e dec ade s 29 over the years have included William Alexander Percy, Stephen Vincent Benét, Archibald MacLeish, W. H. Auden, Stanley Kunitz, James Merrill, James Dickey, and Louise Glück. As many as eight hundred entries are submitted for consideration in a typical year, with the winning submission being assured of publication by the Press. How many copies may or may not be sold is irrelevant; the books are published, new voices are introduced, and many others are encouraged and given hope.

The first rendering into English was done in 1959 by Ralph Manheim, the second, in 2000, by Gregory Fried and Richard Polt. ’ ” As a rule, scholarly publishing and best sellers are not concepts that one might normally discuss in the same conversation, but every university press has examples of books that were published for reasons having little to do with enormous revenue potential yet which sold exceedingly well anyway, to the chagrin of marketing directors on the trade side of publishing. “Scholarly books are supposed to serve knowledge, not the marketplace,” was one grousing complaint heard in 1978 by the publishing columnist for the New York Times Herbert Mitgang, to which Jack Putnam, then executive director of the Association of American University Presses, blithely replied, “University presses are allowed to accumulate profits,” especially if their goal is to underwrite the publication of other titles not likely to do well at the cash register.

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