Textual Editions [*][Record]

  • James Powell

…more information

  • James Powell
    Pickering & Chatto, London

Pickering & Chatto is a London based academic publisher. The company has been responsible for a number of new textual editions for the library market in the last 15 years. I hope that many readers will be familiar with some of our editions. In our Pickering Masters series we have published among others The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, The Novels and Memoirs of William Godwin, The Political and Philosophical Writings of William Godwin and The Novels and Selected Works of Mary Shelley. We are seven volumes into the twenty-one volume Works of Thomas De Quincey, the first comprehensive annotated edition which is poised to eclipse the 110 year old Masson Collected Writings. We also publish titles on Victorian literature, eighteenth-century studies and women's writing. Other subject areas include British history, history of economic thought and history of science. It is worth underlining what goes into one of our Pickering Master editions. They commonly include a general introduction, a chronology, introductory notes or headnotes, footnotes or endnotes, textual corrections from previous editions, textual variants, a bibliography and consolidated index. In general the editorial content is much higher than most of the paperback classic editions. For example the Selected Writings of William Hazlitt has, on average, fifty pages of endnotes per volume. Our editions can be seen to stimulate the need for single volume student editions. Prior to the publication of The Novels and Selected Works of Mary Shelley, Frankenstein was the only novel of Shelley's to be kept regularly in print. Now most of her novels have paperback editions and more than one in some cases. We have also recently licensed the paperback rights to Broadview Press on a number of our titles, which they will publish in a tailored form. We have an ongoing commitment to new critical textual editions. We have recently announced the Selected Writings of Leigh Hunt, The Works of Daniel Defoe, and further writings by Mary Shelley. We also have a number of proposals under review as possible additions to the Pickering Master series. It is becoming harder to sell critical editions. This is obvious from the number of publishing houses that still attempt thorough editions. We have been subject to the same shrinking library budgets that have affected the monograph. Our print runs are reducing and the commissioning process is becoming more cautious. Inevitably, we have to base our publishing decisions on good financial sense. The biggest problem we face is cashflow. An eight volume reset edition can cost an enormous amount to produce and market. Most of these bills are payable prior to or within a couple of months of publication. We receive no money prior to publication. We are committed to selling a high quality product; therefore our options on cost-cutting are limited. The key issue is can we sell enough? Roughly speaking we need to commission titles that have a likely lifetime sale of over 300 sets. This may sound like a small amount but it is a tough task when it is likely that there are fewer than twenty UK libraries that regularly purchase our editions. There are a large number of factors that need to be looked at before a new Pickering Master edition is commissioned. We need to know what has been done before and if a critical edition exists. If one does exist we need to know how many libraries hold it and in what regard the academic community hold it in now. We have to ask whether a library will be prepared to purchase the new edition to sit alongside the old edition. We need ...