SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
OYA RIEGER: Well, it's so nice to see so many faces on this rainy Saturday morning. I'm Oya Rieger. I'm from Cornell University Library and also from the Department of Communication at Cornell. And it's a great pleasure to moderate this morning's session, which will focus on publishing crisis.
How do we define or explain crisis in publishing? As yesterday's discussions pointed out, knowledge creation is a very complex, heterogeneous process. The system is composed of many agents, or nodes. Some of these nodes, agents, are human, like scholars, researchers, librarians, publishers, university administrators, politicians. And some are non-human-- print books, digital books, scholarly editions, copyright laws, tenure procedures. And crisis can be interpreted and addressed differently, depending on the agents and the lens that we use in looking in crisis.
Just a quick glance at literature reveals a great deal of interpretive flexibility in explaining crisis. I'll just give you four simple points of explanations for crisis. Humanities scholars are producing larger amounts of content to a delivery system that has diminishing economic sustainability. Here's one explanation. Crisis is partially due to the dominance of hard science, especially in means of competition for funding. This is a crisis of rationale and inability by humanists to articulate what they do in a way that makes clear its distinctiveness and value to the larger community.
Crises are due to digital transformation and the challenges in tenure and publishing. And I can go on and on. I think I found at least 10 different ways. And I know that our goal today is just to give you different perspectives. So to this morning we are bringing you five perspectives from human agents. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a book or anybody else that is considered a non-agent to be tell us their perspective of crisis. And we are experimenting with the format, and I hope it will work.
We are going to have, first, discussions. We will have two half-an-hour presentations, a break. And then when we come back, we will have back-to-back three 10-minute presentations. And then we will open it for a discussion. And the purpose behind this format is that we want our roundtable discussion to holistically address the dynamics of crisis, with its causes, symptoms, remedies.
So we are hoping that back-to-back presentations will be different perspectives of agents. And at the end, we will have a discussion that can incorporate different perspectives. So we thank you for your patience as you're holding your questions. And please jot them down, your comments and questions. We will take a break for 15 minutes. But because we are starting late, we will take a break, but let's see how the conversation will flow.
Well, it is so fitting to start our discussion this morning with two presentations from our colleagues from the Mellon Foundation. The longstanding commitment of the Foundation in supporting a diverse range of initiatives to strengthen the humanities scholarship is so evident. Here's an example. This is demonstrated by a recent challenge grant to the arts and sciences at Cornell to help endow three new [INAUDIBLE] humanities professorships.
The Foundation also supports development of new forms of scholar communication, modes to advance knowledge, as well as fostering sustainable forms of scholar communication in all stages of life cycle, from innovation in scholar communication modes, all the way to preservation. And an example of this realm of the Foundation's contribution can be demonstrated by funding by initiative at the library. We developed an open source software system to experiment with publishing to be able to manage disseminating intellectual discoveries and writings of our scholars and research, which will be actually mentioned during the second part of our talk. And we are grateful for their support of this forum through the participation of our colleagues.
So we will start with Joseph Meisel from the Andrew Mellon Foundation. And he joined the foundation in 1999 as program officer for higher education in the research universities and humanistic scholarship program. Joe received his PhD in History from Columbia University and held teaching positions at Columbia University and the City University of New York.
He's a specialist in the political culture of modern Britain. His book Public Speech and the Culture of Public Life in the Age of Gladstone was published in 2001. And his works appeared in many journals, including History, Historical Research, and The 20th Century British History. In 2004, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, I would like to turn it over to Joe-- "University Presses Observed." Thank you.
JOSEPH MEISEL: Thank you very much, Oya. I understand that I am to remain as fixed as I can possibly remain in front of the apparatus. So my natural tendency is to pace while I talk, but I'll try and restrain it. So Anne Kenny opened the conference by mentioning the MLA and Ithaca reports and the seeming proliferation in recent years of reports, essays, and conferences, such as this one, on the subject of scholarly publishing suggests that this is a particular period of concern, especially given their frequent invocation, as Oya just mentioned, of the word "crisis," defined variously.
That university presses are the subject of such intense focus and critique owes to the fact that as a class they remain the most prestigious and professionally recognized publishers of scholarship. They are part of the academy not simply publishers for the academy. Compared to the growing slate of specialized commercial academic publishers, which I think is a subject worthy of study in its own right, university presses give greater emphasis to editorial excellence than to the bottom line, though as nonprofits are tax exempt.
But these conditions have had consequences for the press's mission and operational scope as well as their financing. One way to gain greater historical perspective on these matters is to return to a set of older reports on the state of university presses that were produced between 1929 and 1979. Recently, the sociologist Andrew Abbot has drawn on some of these reports, primarily for data with which to demonstrate the long-term stability of scholarly publishing's organization and publishing rates as part of his argument that the problems university presses face are symptoms of a broader crisis, of scholarly decadence brought on by conditions of academic abundance.
Yet taken together, these reports provide a much richer picture of how university presses have almost always grappled with questions of mission, challenging markets, financial limitations, and problematic relations with parent universities. Further they reveal not a bilateral relationship between presses and the academy but a quadrilateral one that also involves the publishing industry generally and also outside funding bodies. I will begin by briefly situating the reports in their historical context. Then I will discuss two of their major themes-- the ways in which university presses defined and refined their mission in response to changing circumstances and the role that various kinds of financial support has played in their ability to carry out that mission.
Many other themes are present, for example, journal publishing, press collaborations, relationships with university libraries, and the introduction of new technologies for the production and dissemination of works. But the interrelated questions of mission and financial support are particularly useful for gaining a richer historical perspective on what university presses do and how they have gone about doing it. At the end I'll reflect on what these studies of university presses from the past suggest for present-day concerns.
In retrospect, the timing of each report was highly significant. The first one, "American Scholarly Publishing," written by the Chicago Press Director Donald Bean for the General Education Board came at the end of the 1920s, which had seen a significant growth in higher education. In the wake of World War I, there was an intensified emphasis on specialized research, accompanied by professional imperatives to disseminate scholarly and scientific work or, in the words of one of Beans informants, "the unreasonable demands made by college and university authorities for men to publish."
Presses were part of the new apparatus of research universities. A small number had been set up in the late 19th century, followed by numerous others in the early decades of the 20th, being created at an average of around one per year. By the 1920s, there was also an embryonic trade association for university presses. So Bean's report, in a sense, is taking stock of a publishing sector that had just come into being.
20 years and another World War later, the next major report funded by the Rockefeller Foundation was Chester Kerr's "Report-- on American University Presses." The study became a major benchmark. And Kerr, who later became Press Director at Yale, periodically provided brief updates in the ensuing decades. World War II, as we all know, had demonstrated to an unprecedented degree the work that scientists and scholars had done was of national importance. And federal investments in higher education became a substantial component of university revenues thereafter.
Enrollment surged under the GI Bill. College and universities expanded and doctorates conferred. And instructional staff both increased to meet these new demands. The publishing industry generally had also transformed after the war. There was a boom in books, especially a growing demand for, and hence profitability of, popular books.
Trade presses, as a result, began to publish less serious nonfiction, especially of the more scholarly kind. University presses, therefore, increasingly were becoming the principal means for dissemination for many fields of knowledge. The next report, the 1959 "Problems of Scholarly Publication in the Humanities and Social Sciences," prepared by the intellectual historian Rush Welter for the ACLS Committee on Scholarly Publication, came on the heels of another watershed in higher education, the launch of Sputnik and the subsequent National Defense Education Act.
Also, this was a time of the first generation of the baby boom was reaching college age, leading to a further growth in enrollments and the need for colleges and universities, especially public ones, to expand further. In this environment, the focus of the report was on whether the results of research were being made available in an effective manner for both the national interest and the professional requirements of academic careers. University presses continued to be established in the 1950s and 1960s, as the growing universities sought to raise their status as research institutions. The system seemed to be able to absorb this.
The general growth in higher education extended to libraries. And by the mid-1960s, it was estimated that 1/4 to 1/2 of university press sales were going to libraries. At the same time trade houses, swept up with expansions, mergers, and ultimately acquisitions by media conglomerates, continued publishing fewer and fewer books of a scholarly character, increasing opportunities for university presses to include such mid-list titles. The 1967 AAUP study To Advance Knowledge-- a Handbook on American University Press Publishing was produced right before things started to fall apart, not least on college campuses. And it reflected the high watermark of higher education's affluence and idealism. It was the peak of the belief in the ability of expert knowledge to bring health, prosperity. freedom, and cultural richness to the world.
The author of that report, Gene Hawes, saw the crisis faced by university presses in this set of circumstances as one of meeting ever increasing demand for the products of university presses with limited financial and personnel resources. Then the polarizing campus conflicts of late 1960s and early 1970s raised many questions on all sides about the nature and the aims of the academy, the structure of its institutions, and its purpose in relation to the wider society. The nation entered the era of stagflation. Federal support for higher education contracted. And college enrollments began to decelerate.
Colleges and universities cut budgets, including their support for presses. And in addition, library expenditures were also cut. Book acquisitions suffering doubling from the rising cost of journals that began during this period. Here it seemed was a genuine crisis, for which in 1975 a national inquiry into scholarly communications was called into being by the NEH with the support of the Mellon and Rockefeller foundations.
The inquiries report issued in 1979 concluded that, yes, there was a crisis. The expansion of university output over the previous decades was probably not sustainable, and journal prices were a problem. Even so, the inquiry concluded that the crisis was not as dramatic as some were claiming.
Taken together, these reports convey two central features of the history of American university presses-- on the one hand, the almost quixotic peculiarity of what they have attempted to do amidst changing and constrained circumstances and on the other, the remarkable record of durability, despite the fact that there was very little, including their establishment, that lay absolutely within their control. To explore these matters in greater depth, I want to turn now to how the reports considered the questions of university presses' mission and their sources of financial support. According to its historian, the University of California Press, founded in 1893, started out dedicated to an ideal of purity, under which publication was limited to scholarly monographs by authors connected with the university. And all commercial practices were shunned.
Yet later, the goal of having a press as distinguished as the rest of the university led to the abandonment of all these original principles. Similarly, other presses' missions evolved over time in response to their internal ambitions or limitations, developments at their universities, economic circumstances, and external forces. From the beginning, editors also persevered in the face of constant criticism from the scholarly community.
Kerr, in his report, made an important distinction between publishing and the mere printing of scholarly works. Publishing involved, as he termed it, "the application of editorial initiative" as well as the promotion of the resulting books. In addition, peer review became a significant part of what defined university press publishing. Then, as now, manuscript review and high editorial investment were costly, laborious, and time-consuming processes but understood to be an absolute requirement for a publication to be deemed scholarly in the fullest sense.
Presses saw their contributions to the academy as sorting out what current scholarship was of enduring worth. Thus, if faculty and PhD research represented the future of scholarship and teaching was the synthesis and elucidation of scholarship that had stood the test of time, the press's function was to identify and disseminate the best scholarship of the present. If, according to the sociologist Walter Powell, university presses can be arrayed along a continuum from the general scholarly publisher to specialized monograph publisher, they could also be arrayed according to the balance between their service to their home campus and their dissemination of scholarship, wholly independent of institutional affiliation.
As these reports reveal, these two axes of mission-- specialized general and local national-- were interconnected. In particular, reports documented how the evolving mission of presses affected who got published. Presses deemphasized publishing works by the faculty of their universities. And an increasing share of authors came from other US institutions, foreign universities, and other organizations.
Through the 1960s the growing number of university presses offered more publishing options to scholars. And university presses placed greater emphasis on disinterested judgment and scholarly quality. Presses also began specializing in particular areas so that their lists were increasingly built around scholarly fields rather than authors' institutional affiliations. Where earlier presses had been seen as making universities more attractive to top scholars, by the 1960s the logic was reversed. Now the strength of a university's faculty was important for attracting top authors to its press.
Presses emphasized works by senior scholars, especially those with broad appeal. As publishers, university presses naturally had to consider the markets for their books. With the creation of university microfilms in 1938, university presses shed the last vestiges of responsibility for printing unrevised dissertations, once a requirement for the PhD. While younger scholars were hardly abandoned, the reports show that books based on doctoral dissertation were at a clear disadvantage. They were accepted at lower rates than other manuscripts, and acceptance was more frequently contingent on subsidies.
The mission to communicate university-based research to a wider public took root early, famously articulated by Harvard's Dumas Malone in the late 1930s, who said his aim was to publish scholarship plus. Other terms that occur throughout these studies are "para-scholarly" books and university trade books. By 1949, Kerr found that 1/3 of university press books carried trade discounts.
To help compensate for these trends and serve the scholarly community in the core purposes of the advancement of scholarly fields, the 1959 ACLS report called for the creation of supported monograph series to publish worthy books with low sales potential, including works by younger scholars. In sum, this series of reports charts have the overall mission of university presses as publishers developed rapidly from the early close identification with their institutional parents to a wider definition of academic publishing's role in disseminating university-based scholarship. This was an adaptation to a host of changes in the complex environment in which university presses existed-- the increasing number of scholars with increasing professional needs to publish, the fragmentation of markets that accompanied the increasing specialization of scholarship, the establishment of an external service organization for unrevised dissertations, the growing number and selected emphases of university presses, and the opportunities created by what commercial publishers left behind.
As the mission of university presses evolved in response to these myriad factors, so did their relationship with external sources of financial support, another set of forces largely beyond presses' control but with powerful influence on their behavior. Financial concerns are hardly new to presses or to universities, and there is much that hasn't changed since 1929, when Bean listed the following constraints within which university presses had to operate. The costs of printing scholarly works increased at a faster rate than the average cost of printing generally. The resistance to price increases was greater for scholarly publications than for other kinds. And the market for scholarly materials did not hold the same potential for expansion as the market for ordinary commercial books.
But Bean was careful to put financial issues in perspective. As he wrote, "the cost of publication is a minor factor compared with the cost of the production of research. And the significance prompts publication too vital to scholarship to permit inadequate facilities."
In one way or another, all of the reports on university presses that followed Bean dealt with the tension between the larger importance of publishing scholarly works and the financial obstacles that university presses had to surmount to that end. It was clear from early on that presses did not have access to the resources necessary to fulfill the purposes for which they were originally established. Kerr notes the idea discussed in the late 1930s of setting up "endowed houses," as they were called, though he correctly recognized that such endowments were probably not to be expected. Thus the reports viewed various forms of underwriting as essential for the presses' ability to carry out their special mission.
In addition to revenue from sales, the sources of support for university presses and the books they published have probably changed not too much from those that Bean identified in the 1920s-- regular appropriations from the university, departmental contributions for specific projects, gifts from donors, additional contributions from authors, scholarly societies, foundations, and other agencies. Data collected by Kerr showed that universities direct general support, excluding indirect support for things like space costs or accounting services, averaged 5 and 1/2% of presses' total income. Another 3 and 1/2% of income came from various sources in the form of subsidies for particular titles.
So although subsidies were hardly the largest source of income, they contributed to university presses ability to provide the extra editorial attention and bear the special production costs required by scholarship and the kind of thing that actually defined what university press publishing should be. So with respect to subsidies for general operations of the presses, this was an article of faith among the reports. According to Kerr, "so long as the press maintains its standards, it's going to need financial assistance. And the bulk of that assistance, in my opinion, has to come from the parent institution, directly or indirectly."
Similarly, the 1959 ACLS report made clear that by its very nature, scholarly publication could not realistically be expected to become self-supporting. And even in the affluent 1960s, subsidies were said to be not a question of whether, but of how much. But if the need to subsidize presses was a tenet common to all these reports, they were also careful to argue that presses had a responsibility to conduct their business in terms of both practices and products to a very high level.
According to the 1979 national inquiry report, in principle, the case for subsidizing scholarly communications is undeniable. In practice however, the size of subsidies and the selection of recipients must be decided on a basis that makes sense to donors as well as to scholars and presses. The first requirement is for presses to demonstrate that they are using their resources effectively and imaginatively. This echoed the statement made by Bean 50 years earlier, that university press publishing should be defined in terms of what he called "an efficiency" that could not be measured solely according to commercial criteria.
Subsidies for individual titles we're also an important category. And they were justified with respect to the production costs required by the nature of scholarship or to cover losses where sales were likely to be low. Now, some colleges and universities without presses of their own made publishing funds available to their faculty members.
But this was seen from early on as a piecemeal and ad-hoc way of supporting the enterprise of scholarly publication. Individual authors also provided funds of their own to support publication of their books. Although, by the late 1960s, there was an emerging consensus that authors should not have to bear this burden. The 1959 ACLS report was particularly vigorous in deploring the practice of accepting manuscripts contingent on subsidy.
It recommended the creation of a large general fund, as it said, to support publication of monographs. This idea was not unlike the endowed houses floated in the 1930s, but also there was no mention of where the money was going to come from. As Kerr noted in 1949 however, help from foundations is an answer put forth frequently.
In the early part of the century some foundations had provided support for particular presses. But Kerr was also clear that foundation support should never replace general university support. He wrote, "any foundation should ask two questions before giving added financial support to university press publication; is the parent institution providing its share of such support, and is the press capably and professionally managed? The reports generally saw foundation funding as most appropriate for title subsidies rather than for general press operations.
Foundation grants were an increasing part of presses' income in the 1940s and 1950s. But a succession of initiatives by major funding bodies, beginning in the mid-1950s, took this to an entirely new level. From 1956 through the mid-1960s, the Ford Foundation awarded a total of around 2.3 million to 35 large university presses. This was explicitly not to relieve the universities of responsibility for supporting their presses, but rather for the production and editorial expenses of books in the humanities and social sciences, including those by younger authors that were especially difficult or costly to publish.
Additionally, other awards were made in this period by Ford to the University of Toronto Press, the Huntington Library Publication Division, and 11 smaller presses. The presses, being by nature accustomed to doing more with less, were able to stretch this foundation support to assist many more books than had been initially planned. The initiative also helped presses wean themselves finally from author-provided subsidies, but also reinforced the shift away from home campus authors. Under the rules of the grant program, presses could use no more than half the grant funds for books by local faculty.
Between 1972 and 1982, the Mellon Foundation awarded more than $5.8 million to two dozen university presses and to the ACLS as a re-granting agent for smaller presses. This was mainly for title subsidies in the humanities, with preference for first or second books. There were some funds as part of this initiative for technological improvements.
But the overall effect of the initiative was to sustain monograph publishing during a period of financial turmoil. Between 1977 and 1996, the NIH awarded $7 million to support publication of scholarly books. Yet, reinforcing the press's preference for broader-ranging works by senior scholars, revised dissertations, and other narrowly conceived monographs, it's brochure stated, are unlikely to prove competitive unless they are of high quality.
These initiatives certainly had an impact and were missed at their end. But it is also true that their effects were mitigated by their structure and timing. They helped sustain a publishing system grappling with relative then real attenuation of university support. But collectively they did not do much to strengthen or transform the university press sector for the long term.
Now let me try and make some concluding remarks. The reports published over the half century between 1929 and 1979 show university presses to be a species of publisher that was as limited as it was distinguished by its particular environmental niche. Overall the reports suggest that the members of this species did their work well and, in relation to the vast scale of US higher education and the publishing industry, performed a valuable service out of proportion to their collective size.
Yet the same specialized functions that university presses evolved in response to shifting large-scale forces over which they had little to no control-- trends in scholarship, government policy, higher education, publishing, and technology-- also generally gave them little room to maneuver within their environment. With respect to the position of scholarly publishing today, it may be observed that notwithstanding the continuities Andrew Abbott has emphasized in his paper, the role university presses play in academic life has been a work in progress, continually shaped by competing imperatives and sometimes contradictory forces. Established for a special purpose, but not like the proposed endowed houses, supported to the extent that would allow them to disseminate only the most meritorious research, university presses have had to operate in an opportunistic mode, albeit highly constrained in the range of opportunities they could pursue.
Conceived of as an essential part of the academic system, the presses' struggle within that system has been virtually continual. Like their more recent successors, many of the reports from 1929 from 1979 addressed themselves in various ways to perceptions of crises, even if they generally tend to conclude that the underlying strengths and genuine opportunities outweigh the current challenges. That the 1960s appear as a golden age for scholarly publishing, as they were for faculty hiring and salaries, is because in a seeming exception to the general rule, the forces that most affected the presses peculiar constitution operated favorably rather than otherwise.
That unusual set of circumstances is therefore misunderstood as a paradise lost. Except for that comparatively brief period in which lavish support for higher education generally floated all boats, university presses have had to pretty nearly always sail close to the wind. The typically foreshortened perspectives on the crisis in scholarly publishing, like the critiques of university press business models as structurally flawed, obscure the fact that collectively presses have been remarkably resilient, preserving their narrowly defined functions that justify their existence, yet successfully adapting to changing conditions over time.
Similarly, the idea that in recent years presses have descended to base commercialization requires some historical re-framing. Presses have embraced publications that are not strictly scholarly as part of their mission from early days, not simply on financial calculation, as critics may allege, but on the entirely legitimate view that there is a value in communicating ideas bred in the university to a non-specialist audience. The reports also document how as the academy expanded, the connections of scholars and institutions depresses and vice versa became ever more attenuated.
The creation of new presses occurred in an increasingly national rather than campus-based publication system. Abbott views such distancing as a sign of robust growth. But it has also come at a cost. The first American university presses were created with the idea that they were a necessary part of the apparatus of the new research university. Today they seem to be viewed as fitting awkwardly within the university structure.
Why should this be so? Universities now include a wide array of activities and units, with distinctive missions that correspond, in fact, to various aspects of what presses do. There are heavily subsidized museums and performing arts centers. There are incubator laboratories, technology startups, and the associated patent and licensing offices. There are the income-producing, if sometimes expensive, efforts to communicate the work of the university more broadly through lifelong learning and public outreach programs. And there are good neighbor projects that benefit the university's surrounding communities and regions.
One could also note in this connection the massive investments once made by universities in the failed effort to create new revenue streams from the internet content that they would produce. This suggests that both presses and their parent universities stand to benefit from a greater recognition of their mutual ties and obligations, while sharing a mixed and broad view of what constitutes their contributions to academic work and cultural life. This is not to say that presses need to return to being service outlets for their home universities. This model didn't survive very long in a much more limited academy, and it would certainly not be viable in today's academic ecology.
But it stands to reason that closer partnership offers more opportunities for both parties than keeping each other at arm's length. Universities and funding bodies ought to think responsibly about the presses' pivotal role in sorting out the current value of scholarship in the humanities and interpretive social sciences and their out-sized role in the academic careers and reputations in those fields. Emphasizing short-term bottom line measures of performance in relation to scholarly matters is not consistent with the mission of universities.
Presses must remain able to disseminate scholarship in the formats that the fields in which they are active recognize and require. There is a particular role for universities, funding bodies, professional societies, and other related organizations to assist academic fields in which the publications necessary to advance scholarship are the most expensive or the least marketable. Accordingly, whether or not the idea of a particular crisis unique to this period is tenable, and it does not seem to be, the interests of the research university community and the external sponsors of scholarship are best served when the work presses must do to survive does not migrate too far beyond the needs of the academy.
Most importantly this includes sustaining the ability of presses to create distinguished lists in important scholarly subjects for which sales revenues are likely to be small, with proper attention to the work of younger scholars. Further, for university presses to remain a distinctive category of publisher, they must also be able to maintain and deepen the costly and labor-intensive attention to editorial and production quality that real scholarly publication demands and that has historically distinguished university press books. These are only some of the reflections made possible by examining historical reports on university presses. As Donald Bean wrote in 1929, "the publishing needs of modern scholarship will not be solved unless scholars inform themselves of the economics underlying scholarly publication, the publishing facilities which in the long run will most adequately serve the needs of institutions and scholars, and the factors in the choice of publishers which will most adequately represent the individual scholar's interests and his contribution towards such cooperation." That effort is ongoing.
OYA RIEGER: Thank you, Joe. Now I would like to introduce Don Waters from the Andrew Mellon foundation. Don is the Program Officer for Scholar Communications. Before joining the Foundation in 1999, he served as the first director of the Digital Library Federation, as well as holding a variety of positions at Yale University, including associate university librarian position.
Don received his PhD in Anthropology from Yale University. He has edited a collection of African-American folklore from Hampton Institute in a volume entitled Strange Ways and Sweet Dreams. He also authored numerous articles and presentations on libraries, digital libraries, digital preservation, and scholarly communication.
He's a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science. And my librarian side would like to note that Don has been instrumental in ushering a stage of experimentation in libraries with digital technologies for dissemination, especially broadening access to knowledge. And not only that, he was a pioneer in these early initiatives with digitisation. But he also helped us to remember that after we digitize, we need to preserve them for future generations.
DONALD WATERS: Thanks very much. Good morning. In the movie Shakespeare in Love, there's a rousing scene in which rehearsals are just beginning for the play that Will is struggling to draft. The working title was Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter. Eventually the romance between Will and Viola de Lesseps catches fire and inspires Will to finish to play under the new and much improved title of Romeo and Juliet.
However, in this particular scene, the theater owner, Philip Henslowe, is worried about the thinness of the script. And the financier, Hugh Fennyman, to whom Henslowe is massively indebted, is pressing hard to see a product. Will tries to mask the panic induced by his writer's block, and complains that there are not enough actors to perform the play he wants to write.
In bursts Ned Alleyn with his troupe of actors, The Admiral's Men. Alleyn makes a long speech trumpeting his performance credentials, during which Fennyman interrupts, "one moment, sir." Alleyn shouts him down, "who are you?" Fennyman responds, "I'm, uh-- I'm the money." Unimpressed and confident that the theater is primarily for actors and the audience not for the money man and the administrators, Alleyn retorts, "then you may remain, so long as you remain silent."
As a representative of the Mellon Foundation, the money, or at least some of it in our collective business, I'm acutely aware of our primary obligation to stay silent and listen carefully to you and other members of the higher education community that we serve. And I note in passing that one of the minor storylines in Shakespeare in Love is how Fennyman, the money man, learns this lesson. In the opening scene in the movie, Fennyman is putting Henslowe's feet to the fire, literally, torturing him by holding his feet over burning coals to pay off his debts. By the end, Fennyman is an engaged partner, supporting the theater and defending artistic integrity. And the scene I have quoted is a turning point in his learning. So in the spirit of engaged partnership, I welcome the opportunity to be here today.
In 1983, with the publication of A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism, Jerry McGann, then at Caltech, dropped a bomb on the world of textual criticism and scholarly editing. By asking tough, hard questions about the social, institutional, and collaborative factors in the creative process, the critique unseated the prevailing structure of attention that documentary editors of literary works gave to the author and the author's intentions. In the aftermath of his critique, a variety of paths opened. Scholars began vigorously exploring new ways of conceptualizing scholarly editions in general. And this activity, in turn, helped stimulate new ways of conceptualizing archives and special collections of primary sources and how that could be incorporated in research, teaching, and particularly in the edition-making process.
Many of our current interests and concerns in the humanities and higher education, our fascination with the glamor of digitizing, our fear in the age of Amazon and Google, that special collections may be the most, if not the only distinctive quality of research libraries, our desire to expose hidden collections, our wrestling match over whether libraries are becoming publishers and publishers are becoming libraries, all of these issues can be better illuminated and understood when seen in the light of the revolution that McGann helped articulate and stimulate 25 years ago. Why? The answer is that so much of what currently qualifies as digital humanities, or digital scholarship, is really digital edition-making.
In this forum on publishing in the humanities, we have been asked to consider another major concern; what new modes are there for scholars in the humanities to disseminate their work, as opportunities for monographic publication with university presses seems to contract? In his paper, Joe has put this so-called crisis of the monograph in historical perspective. In my remarks, I want to focus your attention on the scholarly continuum between archives and special collections and scholarly editions.
Based on the experience that my colleagues and I have gained at the Foundation in our program of scholarly communications, I would suggest that it is in this continuum that we can most productively look for new kinds of publishing opportunities. And I want to preface my suggestions by revisiting the McGann bombshell. In 1983, under prevailing Anglo-American theory of textual criticism, a scholarly editor was supposed to use manuscripts and published witnesses of a work to produce a critical edition that reflected the author's original intentions.
Editors could alter a copy text in an edition if a case could be made that the modification was consistent with the intentions of the author. With similar justification, they could also merge text from different sources to produce a so-called clear copy edition for pedagogical purposes. These practices, and the theory underlying them, arose in part in opposition to what was thought to be the undue constraints of German-Dutch theory, which held that a scholarly editor was simply supposed to document a text and its variations, not correct them.
Against both of these prevailing theories, McGann's critique held that texts are neither sacrosanct in and of themselves, nor are they fully controlled by the author and therefore able reliably to reflect authorial intention. Instead texts are socially constructed. They are produced under the influence of a multiplicity of factors in the author's environment, including the interaction with editors, copy editors, printers, publishers, and especially in the case of multiply published versions, the audience.
As a result, McGann argued, critical edition need not and cannot adhere simply and slavishly to a single prevailing theory. Critical editors must respect the documentary evidence of the text and account for the author's intentions, but they must also be able to appeal to a broad theoretical apparatus in order to deal pragmatically with specific problems they have identified with particular readings, given the inherent complexities of the text and their structure and the history of the text, its readership, and its interpretation. Like any other scholarly product, critical editions are works of informed judgment and argument. And even as editors work out and resolve particular problems, the new editions they create are themselves contingent works that become part of the intellectual and textual history.
By recognizing and articulating this social construction theory of the critical edition and convincingly arguing against practices that were constraining intellectually, began to open new issues for study and experimentation and thereby breathe new life into edition-making and the field of literary studies. McGann himself began to organize and undertake some of these new experiments. And much of his subsequent published scholarship could be said to represent a series of reports from the field of his successes and failures.
The power of his critique also extended across the range of disciplines. And the influence of his ideas can be seen in other forms of textual editing, such as historical documentary editions, and with the audio visual turn in scholarship, increasingly in the scholarly treatments of audio, visual, and multimedia evidence as well. In what follows, I use scholarly editions and edition-making to refer broadly to all of these activities.
It is not entirely coincidental for the success of McGann's argument that rapid developments in computer technology offered new ways of representing textual, audio, and visual evidence, all in relation to each other in a single digital medium. With the emergence of Hypertext Markup Languages and HyperCard in the late 1980s, came examples of new kinds of digital publication on CD-ROM. Led by the brilliant innovator and information designer Bob Stein, his collaborators produced new, highly popular editions of Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony," Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," Shakespeare's "Macbeth," and an interactive social history called Who Built America?
At the University of Virginia in 1992, McGann joined Ed Ayers, a rising young historian, to create the founding projects at IATH, the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. McGann developed an online edition of the art and writing of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. While Ayres mounted an online multimedia archive of data sets, newspaper articles, correspondence, and other evidence from the so-called Valley of the Shadows.
When the Hypertext Markup Language, HTML, and the web emerged on the internet, McGann and Ayers moved their projects quickly to the new medium. And there followed elsewhere numerous sophisticated experiments in online edition-making in a variety of fields, including the Beowulf and Boethius Projects, editions of Chaucer, Piers Plowman, and Shakespeare, the Women Writers Project, the Dolley Madison and Walt Whitman editions, to mentioned just a few. As these and other experiments proliferated, grander ideas emerged for new forms of scholarly publication that combined editions of primary source evidence with other types of scholarly products.
Bob Darnton famously articulated his pyramid theory of the electronic book, in which the base of the book would consist of an edition of primary sources. In the middle there would be bibliographic and historiographic essays covering the relevant primary and secondary sources. Culminating the work and represented at the peak would be scholarly narratives of a monographic form on particular topics.
Ed Ayers and Will Thomas attempted to implement the Darnton model in a well-known experimental article linked to the Valley of the Shadows database published in the American Historical Review and entitled, "The Differences Slavery Made-- a Close Analysis of Two American Communities." The Gutenburg-e and History E-book projects were two Mellon-funded attempts to experiment further with Darnton's ideas.
However, all these high-profile and ambitious projects were difficult and costly to accomplish. And although the published evidence bases supported the argument of the linked monograph work and could be pedagogically useful, they tended to be highly selective, tailored to the particular scholarly argument, and not particularly useful to researchers working on related but different topics. Pushing limits with mixed success, these projects overshadowed the steady progress being made elsewhere in using digital technologies to develop McGann's ideas and produce new and useful types of scholarly editions.
Of course, there have been other even more extreme notions arising from the application of technology to humanistic research. Among my favorites is the big "just" statement-- let's "just" digitize everything. Another is the related assumption that full text indexing and search of what exists digitally can supplant much scholarly analysis and judgement.
These two notions combined in a particularly disturbing way earlier this year when Congress subjected scholarly edition-making to public scrutiny and asked why, given the current capacity to digitize and index, the founding fathers' papers were taking so long to complete, and why the volumes that have been completed have not been made freely accessible on the web to the public? Rather than a nuanced and positive reply, the formal responses by editors and publishers were highly defensive. And in some ways, the responses were even more disturbing.
We have learned so much in the last 25 years about edition-decision making in the digital environment and how to organize and divide the labor that we should have been able to satisfy public demand for access to these historic papers by offering free access to facsimiles of the original documents and out-of-copyright transcriptions where they exist, without appropriating rights to the annotation and other parts of the critical apparatus that represent painstaking scholarly work. So where, in fact, do we stand today, 25 years after McGann's critique? Where should we look for opportunities for new kinds of publishing outlets?
I have five suggestions. They are all based on my experience in the scholarly communications program at the Foundation. And I draw from the portfolio of Mellon-funded projects for illustration. Many of you will surely recognize that this is a somewhat limited perspective, and I welcome your help in expanding the perspective later during the roundtable.
My first suggestion-- let's resist the temptation to frame solutions in terms of digital scholarship or digital humanities. It is sometimes useful to raise these flags in order to signal one's allegiance to a particular cause. But in general, these concepts are too vague and operate in common discourse at such a high level of generality that they tend to obscure rather than illuminate specific breakthroughs and opportunities.
Digital technology is an important factor in identifying new publishing opportunities. But the leading questions are not primarily technical in nature. Instead they're rather more conventional and mundane. What are the most significant and demanding research questions that need to be addressed? What are the relevant bodies of evidence, and how do they need to be arranged and qualified to address these questions? Will arranging the evidence in digital form generate answers and approaches that are not possible in any other way? Do these digital approaches lend themselves to peer review and other formal means of recognizing quality and allocating credit to high-quality work?
The answers to these questions tend to be found not in the abstract, but on the ground in specific fields of study and in academic institutions where the allocation of credit issue emerges as perhaps the most important issue, especially at the departmental level, where scholars live and breathe and draw their salary. Moreover, the readiness of fields to tackle these tough on-the-ground questions is highly uneven. And in our experience at Mellon, the leading fields in the humanities are a subset of the total that includes art and architectural history, classics, archeology, medieval studies, and some sub-fields of literary studies in history.
But once compelling research priorities are clarified and set, the next essential step is to arrange the evidence so it can be usefully exploited in pursuit of answers. The interaction among librarians and archivists, scholars and publishers is crucial in this step and typically results in edition-making of various kinds. And so my second suggestion is to pay special attention to the new forms of the scholarly edition that the digital environment makes possible.
There are several types of scholarly editions for which the digital environment offers particularly rich opportunities-- the variorum edition, the multimedia edition, the edition as archive, and the edition of editions. Allow me to define and illustrate each of these types in turn. Arranging various texts of a work in a printed variorum has been accomplished to useful effects in some cases. But it's generally difficult and awkward, particularly compared to the facility with which the task can be accomplished online.
Examples of Mellon-supported online variorum editions include the Roman de La Rose Project at Johns Hopkins. This famous medieval work is represented in hundreds of different variants. And the project is creating an online edition of over 100 witnesses of the text. Another example is the Chopin Project at the Royal Holloway in London, which is arranging online variant scores of Frederic Chopin, who famously and deliberately registered slightly different versions of his works, each as first editions in Britain, France, and Germany, to preserve his copyrights in those countries.
In the end the category of multimedia editions, the Ethnomusicological Video for Instruction and Analysis Digital Archive, or EVIADA, at Indiana University is creating a cluster of editions of video field recordings. Ethnomusicologists submit proposals to participate in a summer workshop in which they would digitize, edit, and critically annotate their recordings. So that scholars receive proper credit for this work, proposals are selected in a peer review process. And the final edition that each scholar produces is also peer reviewed for quality and potential scholarly impact.
Also, the Society of Architectural Historians is in collaboration with Art Store setting up an Architectural Visual Resource Network, through which scholars can make peer-reviewed submissions of images of key architectural monuments to create collectively a comprehensive database of monuments. The database is expected to give scholars an opportunity to create, and for SAH to publish, various editions of special kinds of architectural forms. For example, rather than treat Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater House as unique and exceptional, a scholar would be able to draw on evidence elsewhere in the database to place Fallingwater in a larger economic, political, legal, and cultural context as a type of country retreat home built during the Great Depression.
There are many examples in the category of edition as archive. Again, in the field of medieval studies, Professor James Ginther, at St. Louis University, is building on the major effort at Corpus Christi College and Cambridge University to digitize all of the distinguished Parker Library of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. One of the texts, "The Norman Anonymous Manuscript," has been previously produced in two scholarly editions, both of which are regarded in the field as severely flawed. Professor Ginther is now preparing a new edition that will link to the new online facsimile of the original text and include both previous editions so that readers can trace the history of the text and compare editorial approaches against the original.
The Stalin Archive, prepared by the Yale University Press, is another notable example of the edition as archive. The press is working with Russian archivists to digitize Stalin's papers. It plans to distribute the papers in an online database and then to commission several scholarly editions, as well as monographic studies that document and explore particular themes, all of which would be available together in a cross-searchable online database.
In the category of edition of editions, the best example is the Electronic Enlightenment Project. Organized by the Voltaire Foundation at Oxford University, now based at the Bodleian Library and distributed by the Oxford University Press, the Electronic Enlightenment Project has developed a fully searchable online scholarly database of the correspondence among 18th century writers, such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Descartes, and Adam Smith. The database now includes 53,000 letters, 6,000 correspondence, 230,000 scholarly annotations, and 80,000 records of early documents sources.
Most of this material has been drawn from previously published print document sources. But the database makes it possible to review all correspondence on particular topics on a particular day or in other arrangements that would be extremely difficult with access only to the editions in print. Future plans for the project include accepting peer-reviewed contributions of new editions of letters, which would be available only online.
At the University of Virginia Press, the Rotunda Imprint, which specializes in the publication of online documentary editions, it is also building an online edition of editions of the founding fathers' papers. My third suggestion is to explain further the rich continuum between the raw materials, as they exist in libraries, archives, and other collecting organizations, and the various types of scholarly editions, all of which arrange these materials for scholarly use. Earlier I mentioned the potential utility of separating the online distribution of facsimiles of original documents from the distribution of the scholarly apparatus resulting from the edition-making process.
The online environment is especially well adapted to supporting divided and distributed processes, and much more attention needs to be given to particular publishing opportunities that arise in the process of edition-making. Several specific examples come to mind. Several of the projects I've described are structured in ways that lend themselves to small, discrete contributions.
In the Architectural Visual Resource Network of the Society of Architectural Historians, individual scholars are encouraged to contribute images which are reviewed and credited. And as the database expands, they will also be encouraged to edit meaningful clusters of these images. Similarly, the EVIADA project encourages submissions of video editions. And the Electronic Enlightenment Project is planning to encourage scholars to contribute individually edited letters. And both the Roman de la Rose and the Parker projects are expecting scholars or teams of scholars and graduate students to contribute individual editions of the works in their databases, justice Professor Ginther is doing for Parker's Norman Anonymous.
All of these kinds of contributions represent many publications that distribute scholarly labor in the interest of a larger objective, while expanding the publishing opportunities for individual scholars. However, it's important to note that they build on a new division of labor in the edition-making process that separates the building of a database, of facsimiles, from the process of transcription, translation, and annotation. And this division is very different from the highly centralized edition-making processes to which we have been long accustomed and which Congress properly criticized.
I would also note in passing that structured in this decentralized way, these contributory processes of preparing primary source evidence for scholarly use closely resembled the structures that have emerged in the sciences for managing genomic and astronomical data and which have contributed greatly to the growth and popular appeal of these fields. As they are working on the Parker manuscripts, project staff have observed another kind of opportunity for publishing in the humanities. Often these staff make small but critically important discoveries when they're handling manuscripts page by page in the digitisation lab.
Pages may have been mis-collated in a previous binding and this mistake gone unnoticed. Glosses in a common hand may also be observed that connects two manuscripts that are previously been thought to be unrelated. Similar discoveries are being made in other projects. And it's important to communicate them in a timely way to the wider scholarly community, especially if they affect online usage.
The discoveries cannot wait for the staff member or a colleague to write a monograph or for the appearance of the final edition in which the discovery might be noted. Indeed, given the division of labor, the staff member who makes the discovery may not even be involved in the processes that eventually result in these kinds of publication. So instead, a notes-and-queries form of publication is increasingly needed in the humanities, similar to the research report sections of science and nature so that it is possible to record and quickly disseminate small discoveries as they occur.
Yet another opportunity for scholarly publication in the edition-making arena is for products that complement and enhance the editions. For example, a large task in editions of historical documents is the identification of personal names, disambiguating people with similar names and connecting formal and informal names to the people to whom they refer. For editions that cover the same or overlapping periods, a common database of names, or a prosopography, would be immensely useful and a time saver for the editors. With Melon funding, Rotunda is now developing a prototype for such a prosopography covering the Founding Era. Similar work would be useful for the Enlightenment, Anglo-Saxon England, the Civil Rights Era in the US, and other periods where substantial edition-making is underway or planned.
My fourth suggestion is that it's a myth that there's no innovation in scholarly publication, particularly by university presses and scholarly societies. I do not mean to suggest that all presses and societies are innovative. But the examples I've already provided clearly illustrate some intense entrepreneurial activity by some society publishers and university presses that have big stakes in what has become digitally intensive fields. And they are making substantial investments in the creation of various types of digitally intensive scholarly editions.
Rotunda is specializing in documentary editions. Oxford University Press is distributing the Electronic Enlightenment. The Yale Press is managing the Stalin Archives. The Society of Architectural Historians is supporting the Architectural Visual Resource Network. In other developments, University of North Carolina Press is developing editions and related materials on the Civil Rights Era at UNC, where there's a large archive of documentary materials related to the South. And the Johns Hopkins Press is working with the Roman de La Rose Project.
More certainly needs to be done. Especially urgent is the development of a standardized online infrastructure of tools and other support for the edition-making process itself. And Yale and Rotunda are collaborating on elements of that infrastructure. In any case, the involvement of society publishers and university presses is critical. Libraries are critical too. More on that in a moment. But it's the presses and society publishers that have the skill and apparatus for creating markets for scholarly publication and for organizing peer review processes. They also possess many of the business skills that are necessary for generating income from a broad audience to create and sustain ongoing publications.
Finally, I would suggest that the expansion of evidence-based teaching and research accelerated in part by McGann's critique has led to a profound rethinking of special collections in libraries, archives, and other primary source collections. The key element in this rethinking for purposes of scholarly edition-making has been in concerted efforts to expose hidden or largely unprocessed and uncatalogued special collections and archives. Libraries and archives have adopted a variety of steps to streamline processing tests, largely taking the advice of Greenman and Meisner, who recognize the social nature of uses of these collections and urge that high-level guides be produced to help scholars understand the contents of the collections and that detailed cataloging follow only upon use and demonstrated interest.
In addition, many libraries and archives have begun to accept contributed cataloging from graduate students and others. The Chicago, Columbia, UCLA, Johns Hopkins, and Huntington libraries, among others, now have formal programs to train graduate student researchers in the cataloging process and to incorporate their academic knowledge of relevant fields in the cataloging itself. But another form of contribution is perhaps even more notable in the context of this discussion of edition-making and publishing opportunities.
Two years ago, Mellon began funding a collaboration among libraries that hold the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King and the editorial project based at Stanford, which is responsible for producing the documentary edition of the King papers. The basis of the collaboration is that the editor needs the major holding libraries to fully catalog their holdings so that the edition can properly reference the originals for readers who may want to consult those originals for further study. On the other side, because the Papers Project has made copies of and catalogued documents from so many different sources, the libraries could benefit from access to information about provenance and authorship that the editors have produced in preparing the edition.
The exchange of information is now underway. And one of many lessons learned from the interaction is worth recording. Libraries, of course, are noted for their collections, the bringing together of related materials from a variety of sources. But editorial projects, like the King papers project, are even more concentrated in their collecting activities because they must reach across even libraries to extract unique documents by or about a particular person or subject. And this experience runs against the grain of the current thinking in libraries about their special collections. From the perspective of the documentary editor, what is relevant is not how special collections make libraries distinctive, but how libraries need to make these collections connect more effectively to one another than they do now.
In these remarks I have highlighted it highlighted one area of scholarly activity and the publishing activities and possibilities that are developing in that area. At its most general level, the scholarly activity is really field-building, the definition of imaginative, compelling research that engages a community of scholars in an extended program of knowledge building and dissemination. Imaginative, engaging research, however, requires an imaginative, engaging conception of the evidence needed to conduct the research and a process of arranging that evidence so it can be usefully exploited. The arranging process includes scholarly edition-making.
25 years ago, Jerry McGann helped reinvigorate edition-making as a vibrant, engaging scholarly activity. If my thesis here is even close to accurate, the vigorous growth and the possibilities for continued growth of edition-making activities are just part of a larger story about the possibilities of field building in the humanities. Thank you very much.
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What are the future prospects of scholarly publishing in the humanities?