3.457 editorial involvement in typesetting (60)

Tue, 12 Sep 89 18:38:12 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 457. Tuesday, 12 Sep 1989.

Date: 12 September 1989
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: the lure of desktop publishing

In the latest TLS, a Canadian colleague, Mel Wiebe (Queen's), writes
about his experiences with editorial involvement in typesetting: "It has
been our experience [in The Disraeli Project] that the apparent savings
of this approach, which at first glance seem enormous, are in fact
largely ephemeral, as they are achieved at the expense of the editors,
whose time is diverted from the scholarly work they should be doing.
Although this procedure enables the editors to maintain closer control
over their materials, and thus presumably promote higher standards of
quality, we look forward to a time when the benefits of
editor-controlled typesetting can be combined with those that derive
from having it done by appropriate professionals" (TLS, Sept. 1-7 1989,
p. 945).

Personally I sympathize with the frustration expressed in this letter,
having myself had to do things I would not have been asked to do
formerly -- because my editor knew that I had produced the article
electronically and therefore could *easily* make the 1,583 changes
required by his arbitrary bibliographical format. Being also an editor,
however, I find myself having to control my indignation, because I also
say the same thing, more or less. I must because I cannot afford to
employ someone to do this work for me. The ambiguity gets even more
interesting for someone who (like myself) has a little knowledge of
graphic design, lettering, and book production and so can take pleasure
in the act of laying something out and pushing the pieces around until
they sing sweetly. The craftsman gets great pleasure out of having the
tools in his hands, and allowing the inner idea to be seen.

I got to thinking about these things when I had to write an introduction
to the Tools for Humanists volume (produced on the occasion of the
Dynamic Text Conference) and found myself describing the strong
traditional elements that computing brings out in humanists. One of
these is surely craftsmanship, and for that I am very glad. William
Morris would hardly recognize the context, but like him I look forward
to the day when (to paraphrase Moses) all of God's children are
craftsmen, academics included. Can you imagine the effect a
craftsman-like attitude would have on the production of scholarship?
Perhaps, my beloved calligraphy teacher would have said, some elementary
training in the arts of the book would do us book-makers a world of
good. Perhaps if we weren't in such an insane hurry to produce mountains
of immature work, we'd have the time to love more while making less.

Some thoughts are tigers.

Willard McCarty