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A Skeptic Among ScholarsAugust Frugé On University Publishing
By August Fruge
University of California PressCopyright © 1993 August Fruge
All right reserved.
Fin de Siècle
End and Beginning
About one hundred years ago, when the old century was running to a close, as ours is now, when Sam Clemens was about to lose his shirt in a publishing venture and Sam Farquhar was three years old—both are part of what follows—the young and small University of California put up the sum of $1,000 to start a publishing program. A third Sam of this story, the diarist Samuel Pepys, had been in his grave for 190 years.
In 1868, shortly after the Civil War, or War Between the States, the new University had opened its doors to students. The first elected president, who declined to serve, was George B. McClellan, the Union general; the first faculty member hired was John LeConte, once an officer in the Confederate Army. In 1873 the University moved from Oakland to the open hillsides of Berkeley. Before the seventies were out there was a printing plant and, beginning in 1885, an editorial committee to oversee catalogues and announcements. The first scholarly publications were issued in 1893, a few months after the initial appropriation was made. Editing and production, it seems, were done more quickly then than they are now.
The first two scholarly authors were Andrew C. Lawson, a young professor of geology, and Milicent W. Shinn, a graduate student who wrote on child development. They turned out monographs, not books, although Shinn's work could have made a book had anyone been book-minded at the time. The Press of those days—meaning a faculty committee chaired by the University president—was firmly monograph-
minded and so remained for more than a generation. The complete catalogue of the first fifty years of Press publications contained 13 pages listing books and 120 pages of serial monographs, 25 or 30 to a page. Such was President Wheeler's press, modified only a little since his time, when I came upon it at the end of that first half-century, in 1944. I exaggerate only a little and in the direction of truth.
If Lawson was a kind of father to the Press and Shinn a kind of mother—although there is no record of their even speaking to each other—then the godfather, in the Sicilian sense, was President Benjamin Ide Wheeler, who reigned over the University from 1899 to 1919, a despot, benevolent of course. He controlled the Press as he controlled everything else. It was he who obtained the second publishing grant, and from then on he created the Press in—if not in his own image then in the German image that he knew from his student days in Leipzig, Jena, Berlin, and Heidelberg.
I have not always known this. Although, as a publisher, I grew up with the University Series, lived with them for thirty-some years, and although I knew of the great Wheeler, it never occurred to me in all those years that it was he who invented the Press, determined its character. Reading in Albert Muto's book1 that more than twenty new subject series were established in Wheeler's time, I got down the old fiftieth-anniversary Catalogue and checked the dates of first publication. There I found with growing wonder that all but a few of the great series, the prolific ones, those that made the reputation of the early Press, were begun under Wheeler. These included Alfred Kroeber's noted American Archaeology and Ethnology, which eventually ran to several hundred papers in more than fifty volumes. And there was the most numerous group of all, the several series in the life sciences: Botany, Entomology, Zoology. Although monograph series were less useful in the humanities, the Wheeler regime established Philosophy, Modern Philology (meaning modern European literatures), Classical Philology, and others.
The University of California Press: The Early Years, 1893–1953 (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1993). Many of these early facts are taken from Muto's book.
Wheeler permitted no publications but monographs in series, all written by Berkeley professors and graduate students. No books, no royalties, no advertising except bare lists, virtually no sales, no practices remotely commercial in nature. Distribution was primarily by exchange with other libraries. And this ancien régime survived the monarch. After 1919 there was no revolution and not much evolution. In spite of several early attempts at change, it was only much later, in its second half-century, that the University of California Press became a book-publishing house of the Oxbridge kind.
An early move for change came from Albert Allen, who in 1905 was made manager of the Press, meaning copyeditor, printing arranger, stock clerk, jack of all duties. He had ideas about what ought to be done and in 1914 took a leave of absence without pay—Wheeler would not let him go with pay—to visit the presses at Chicago, Harvard, and Yale. On his return, wishing to report his findings, he sought an audience with the president. This he never got. Three years later, about to join the wartime army, he turned in a written report, criticizing the Press as narrow and provincial.
To me it is not at all surprising that Allen never got his hearing, for I had some acquaintance with a later president whose style was not so different from Wheeler's. There was, I remember, an occasion in the 1950s when the Editorial Committee, composed of senior faculty members, requested an appointment with President Robert Gordon Sproul to discuss the future of the Press. They got the appointment—one year later. Sproul was also renowned in those days for refusing to take telephone calls. Since he would accept long-distance calls, I sometimes traveled to our Los Angeles office and called from there.
After Allen there was a succession of faculty managers or assistant managers of the Press, most of them scholars of Greek and Latin. The most notable of these, and also the last, was George Miller Calhoun, who was assisted and spelled by Ivan Linforth. It was the two of them, as recounted later in this volume, who transformed the Sather Professorship of Classical Literature into a lecture series with book publication. This was in 1920, one year after Wheeler. If the president
had served—but that is not the mot juste —if he had continued in power for another few years, the finest classical lecture series anywhere might never have been born.
Calhoun, like Allen, had an interest in publishing as such. In 1930 he recommended to the new president, Sproul, that the Press be reorganized along broader lines. Now one could never be sure that Sproul read the memos that came to him, but perhaps he did read this one because a few years later he brought in the first outside professional manager, Samuel T. Farquhar, who was my predecessor and mentor. Farquhar's own recommendations, similar to those of Calhoun, were accepted, and a new era was at hand. Or so it seemed.
But the old system was essential to the research programs of a number of powerful academic departments; it continued to dominate. And Farquhar, although an educated man, was most interested in books as physical objects; he was more printer than publisher, having as background the fine printing movement in San Francisco. He came to Berkeley in 1932 as University printer, succeeding Joseph W. Flinn, who had been in charge of the plant for forty-five years. The following year Sproul gave Farquhar a second appointment as manager of the Press, approving his proposal that the two organizations be combined and be called the University of California Press. Out of that union (I say with hindsight) came more trouble and dissension than anyone cares to remember—anyone who took part.
Farquhar's printing exploits are worth some attention and will get that in a later chapter. In his clear mind he knew that his success had been gained in printing and book design, and by the middle 1940s he had observed other university presses, with their more lively publishing programs; he could see that the postwar years would require something comparable in Berkeley. So he made a number of new appointments, and it happened that I was one of these; a few years later he put me in charge of the publishing side of the Press. But the problems were great, the old way was resistant, and we were amateurs. Not very much had been accomplished when Farquhar died suddenly in 1949. He did not live to see the transformation of the Press as publisher.
Soon after I came, he took me to a university press meeting in wintry Chicago and introduced me to the presses of the east and midwest. Looking around to see what I could learn, I saw that a few presses—at private universities and at two state universities—were doing a professional job of book publishing, and I sat around tables in bars listening and asking questions. In those first days I remember especially the practical wisdom that dropped from the lips of Datus Smith of Princeton, Norman Donaldson of Yale, and Savoie Lottinville of Oklahoma. There were others, of course, not all of them directors. Among famous directors of the time was Bill Couch, first of North Carolina and then of Chicago, who was later to be fired for publishing a book when his university told him not to; although there was a California connection, we had nothing to do with either decision.2 Two great directors I did not meet until later. Joe Brandt had moved on from Oklahoma and Princeton to commercial publishing; he will come into the California story in the 1950s. Tom Wilson of North Carolina and Harvard was just coming out of the navy.
From this handful of presses, competently run in the manner of a good trade publishing house, I formed the idea of what California ought to be, of what it might become. Although two of them—Princeton and Oklahoma—operated printing shops that were approximately as capable as ours, their directors and their other people talked like publishers rather than printers. What they and others said was enormously exciting to me. I went home with a head full of ideas.
Here I take up the California story as the second half-century of the Press begins, in 1944, describing first the old Press as I knew it, and then attempting a personal story of its transformation, including the many changes that have led up to the Press of today. As a partici-
In California Dorothy S. Thomas, head of a research project entitled Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement, hired a number of people, including Morton Grodzins, to collect material for use in her books, The Spoilage (1946) and The Salvage (1952), both of which we published. She thought the material belonged to her, but Grodzins carried his off and wrote his own book. She (not the Press) complained to the Chicago administration, which told Couch not to publish the book. He, invoking freedom of speech, did so anyway. In an amusing twist, Grodzins later became director of the Chicago press for a short time.
pant, I offer not history but a memoir, an informal account of what happened. The great character change took place within my time. I coincided with it, paralleled it, survived it, arriving when the old style was still dominant and leaving after it had given way to the new.
The story as I remember it cannot be strung on a single chronological thread; topics will override chronology; and much will not be clear without glances before and after. For those before I depend on the research done by Albert Muto as set forth in his book, and especially on his examination of the papers of the University presidents, where he turned up many matters new to me, including some from my own time. I have also leaned on—have sometimes cannibalized—my earlier writings, some published and some not, especially on the booklet entitled The Metamorphoses of the University of California Press (Berkeley, 1986). For the years and events after the Press was made separate and allowed to seek a publishing future—for the greater part of this account—I must depend on a partial collection of my old papers and, for better or worse, on memory.
The memory has its own will. We cannot control what it brings to light and what it buries, although we can sometimes tease it—if not with madeleines dipped in tea then more prosaically with old letters. We can also do our best not to falsify, not to exaggerate beyond reason or in the wrong direction, especially in dealing with other participants. Most of those I deal with are no longer living. De Mortuis . . ., it is said, but the dead deserve honest treatment. My small portraits, wherever possible, are double-sided, shown recto and verso, in the book terms used as subtitle to one chapter.
My portraits of the old Berkeley and the old Press will show clearly enough that I regret the passing of the one, which I observed, and have mixed feelings about changes to the other, changes that were in part my doing. We shall not see either again.
Excerpted from A Skeptic Among Scholars by August Fruge Copyright © 1993 by August Fruge. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
ContentsList of Illustrations, xi,
1 Fin de Siecle End and Beginning, 1,
2 Berkeley in the 19405 The Place and How I Came to Be There, 7,
3 The University Press in the 19405 Recto and Verso, 21,
4 An Unavoidable Conflict, 37,
5 How We Joined the Editorial Committee, 47,
6 A Kind of Metamorphosis, 66,
7 Where to Look for Books Athens in Berkeley, 87,
8 Looking to the South Many Americas, 104,
9 Looking West to the East Pel and the Asian Books, 126,
10 Ishi, Don Juan, and the Anthropologists A Tale of Two Best-Sellers, 137,
11 Hollywood and Berkeley Getting into the Film Business, 157,
12 London, 1660 and 1960 The Coded Words of Sam Pepys, 167,
13 Nevada in the 186os Sam Clemens, 185,
14 In Any Language but English Poetry at the Press, 202,
15 The Poetry-Hating Director, 216,
16 A Few Pounds of Lit Grit, 221,
17 Mega Biblion Exposing the Press to An History, 229,
18 The Book as Artifact Design and Printing, 245,
19 Anybody Can Write a Book, but ..., 274,
20 The Bird That Was Overdue for Evolution And Other Tales of the Financial Wars, 289,
21 Waiting for the God from the Machine, 314,
22 Earthquakes and Endings, 331,
ADDENDA: ALTERNATIVE VIEWS,
I God, Swahili, Bandicoots, and Euphoria BY HUGH KENNER, 333,
II Publishing The Plan of St. Gall BY JAMES H. CLARK, 339,