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By Sam Alcorn
LEWISBURG, Pa. – The Bucknell University Press is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the publication of its first book in 1969 with a series of literary projects this year that will include publications highlighting Charles Darwin’s contributions to science and discovery. || Related story: Samuel Johnson Tercentenary celebration
The press, run by an editorial board of 12 members drawn from Bucknell’s faculty, and published by Associated University Presses, an independent consortium, has built an international reputation in several select areas, including Hispanic and Latin American Studies and 18th century literature and culture.
That reputation reflects well upon Bucknell, said Greg Clingham, director of the press since 1996 and a professor of English.
Advocate for University
“The press is an advocate for the University,” he said in his Taylor Hall basement office. “The number of people who make positive remarks about the press is very, very large. A successful, thriving press helps to tell the world about the University’s educational mission and underscores the knowledge and learning at a place like Bucknell.”
Among this year’s intriguing projects is what may turn out to be two titles furthering the intellectual discussion on Charles Darwin, whose classic, The Origin of Species, was published 150 years ago. It also is the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, and Clingham is working toward publishing a co-authored monograph and a collection of essays, for which the press has issued a call for manuscripts through this year to both capitalize on and celebrate the Darwinian interest.
“Darwin’s impact of research and scientific discovery is significant,” said Clingham, who notes with pleasure that both he and Darwin are products of the University of Cambridge in Great Britain. “Darwin’s work continues to resonate today not only for those in biology and bioethics, but also in literature, anthropology, religion, economics and environmental studies.”
Clingham has asked James Pusey, an associate professor of East Asian Studies who authored China and Charles Darwin in 1983 for the Harvard University Press, to edit the volume and both will be in China at a June conference on new directions in the humanities, in part, to drum up potential contributions by Chinese and other international scholars.
A new Bucknell web page is being designed to help to celebrate the press’ 40-year anniversary, which will include the press hosting a series of scholarly talks in the fall. Typical of the quotes being considered for inclusion on the page is one from Adam Potkay, a professor of humanities at the College of William & Mary: “The Bucknell University Press has become one of the premier university presses in America, especially in the fields of 18th and 19th century literary studies.”
One of the few thriving liberal arts university presses in the United States, the press will publish between 35 and 38 titles of peer-reviewed criticism and scholarship this year, bringing to about 1,000 the number of books published by the press since its start.
Making a mark
“It started slowly,” said Clingham, “but soon began to make its mark in a variety of fields, including biology in those early days, as people realized the advantages of publishing with a small liberal arts press.”
In addition to Hispanic and Latin American Studies and 18th-century literature and culture, subjects have also included English and American literature, history, cultural studies, philosophy, art and modern languages.
In a typical year, Clingham said, the press receives about 400 serious book proposals of which it considers 70 to 80 for actual publication. “People continue to send us submissions and proposals in great numbers,” said Clingham. “We are unique in that we are the only press that is flourishing and thriving at a liberal arts institution. Our future continues to look bright.”
While editorial operations are supported and funded by the Office of the Provost, the Associated University Presses, a consortium of university presses based in New Jersey, is responsible for book production and distribution.
Before ceasing publication in 2004, the press for more than a quarter century, published the Bucknell Review, a biannual scholarly journal of letters, arts and sciences. Under the editorship of Clingham, the journal has been replaced by a new series of paperback books, Aperçus: Histories Texts Cultures. Four guest-edited volumes have appeared to date, including Michael Drexler and Ed White’s Beyond Douglass: New Perspectives on Early African American Literature, while three volumes by other Bucknell faculty are forthcoming: Harold Schweizer and Kimberly Meyers’ The Patient, Katherine Faull’s Masculinity, Senses, Spirit, and Alf Siewers’ Imagining Nature: Non-modern and Postmodern Confluences.
In their different ways, books in the new series explores the relations among historiography, culture and textual representation; the idea for the series came out of a Humanities Institute on History and Nation hosted at Bucknell four years ago.
Contemporary Irish writers
Yet another book series, on contemporary Irish writers, edited by John Rickard, professor of English at Bucknell, will see its first book in print in 2009 -- Richard Russell’s Bernard MacLaverty. This series, aimed at general readers and students as well as scholars, will develop and expand an earlier successful series in Irish writers published by the press in the 1970s. Other writers to be discussed in the series will include Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Ciaran Carson and Medbh McGuckian.
Sales figures are not an immediate concern of the press, said Clingham, because of the support of Associated University Presses. Typically, 500 to 800 copies of each title are printed and a few titles are occasionally reprinted. One of its fastest sellers was Winston Churchill’s Imagination by Paul Alkon. That sold within six months of its initial printing in 2006.
Another quick seller was Christa Jungnickel and Russell McCormmach's Cavendish: The Experimental Life, an 800-page scholarly tome on Henry Cavendish, the 18th-century Cambridge chemist. Selling out in one month, the book was selected by Choice as one of the Outstanding Academic Books in 2000. Choice is the official review publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries and American Library Association. Only about 10 percent of the books reviewed are chosen for this honor.
Contact: Division of Communications