part-time musings

Tag: publishing

The History of Oxford University Press…

The History of Oxford University Press...

Five years since I started working on the History of Oxford University Press project, and here it is (well, volume three of the four). And it’s a handsome thing if I may say so myself – beautifully illustrated and (ahem) so well written.


Science journal authors: nationalities and numbers

I recently came across some stats on the nationalities of the authors submitting articles to the science journal Nature in 1962 and out of curiosity popped them onto a bar graph to look at some comparisons. I removed the UK and the USA  from this graph because they dominated the numbers of article submissions, obscuring the detail of the other countries.  Some things are fairly predicable, such as the high number of submissions from anglophone countries (Nature is published in English). But it’s interesting how some non-anglophone countries such as Japan, the Netherlands and Sweden punched above their linguistic weight in terms of scientific articles.


It’s pretty widely recognised that there’s a strong correlation between scientific publishing (including patent registration) and economic development: the largest and most diversified economies producing the greatest number of publications and patents; and the countries which produce high numbers of publications and patents being characterised by economic growth, development, and diversification.  So here’s another look at the article submission statistics; this time the number of articles submitted has been divided by the GDP per capita in 1962 (or 1965 where figures for 1962 were not available).  I’ve put the UK and the USA back in as their distorting impact is less significant in this graph. This throws up some interesting results. Most notable is the high number of submissions (80) from India, a country which in the mid-1960s only had a GDP per capita of $122. Also noticeable is how well, relative to their GDPs per capita, anglophone African countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and even Nyasaland do. It also makes the submission figures of some of the high performing European countries in the previous graph look suddenly less impressive.  (Sweden’s 57 papers to South Africa’s 38 arguably looks less remarkable when you consider that Sweden’s GDP/capita was $2993, over six times that of South Africa’s ($457)).  Unfortunately I couldn’t find GDP/capita figures for the Soviet bloc countries for the mid-1960s so they don’t appear in this graph.

What’s also noticeable about these figures in comparison with the current state of academic publishing, is the complete absence of submissions from China, Korea, and Thailand; countries which anyone involved in academic publishing today will be able to tell you are currently engaged in fervent efforts to increase their publishing in English.

Shhhh …


I love the talk by Susan Cain on the strengths of introverts and solitary working. On the publishing industry scale of extrovert–introvert, fast-talking, Blackberrys-for-brains sales reps being extrovert, and lexicographers being … well lexicographers, editors are regarded as only slightly less solitary than … well, lexicographers. Wisely we’re generally left alone to our epic battles between meaning and obfuscation, only occasionally forced out into the dazzling light of the coffee bar or *gulp* an authors’ conference. Pity then the poor editors who work for some publishers in open-plan offices. I do genuinely feel for them as I tiptoe past their slightly passive-aggressive ‘Quiet Please. This is an Editorial Office’ signs. Susan Cain is right, the world has gone crazy over group working—it’s everywhere: in our schools, in our offices, in our libraries even. I’m not saying it’s bad or anything, I’m just saying I need to go to my office and think about it for a while.

The mouse’s tail

This morning I was at Oxford University Press for some meetings and got chatting with the archivist who showed me some of the things they were getting ready for an exhibition on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) had originally asked OUP to handle the book and OUP printed 2000 copies of the book in 1865.  But the illustrator, John Tenniel complained about the quality of the printing and these copies were held back –  becoming ‘the suppressed edition’ – and Macmillan eventually published the book.  OUP still has some of the original plates, including the plate for the famous ‘mouse tail’ text. I got to see the mouse tail plate today.  I’m kicking myself now, but I felt it would a geeky step too far to take a photo under the watchful stare of the archivist.  So here’s the next best thing – a picture of the ‘mouse tail’.  Mad skillz by the compositors. Try doing THIS on a kindle.