Urvashi Butalia and The Other Side of Silence

On July 14, feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia sat down for a conversation with the Georgia Straight‘s Charlie Smith as part of the Indian Summer festival. They discussed her influential, award-winning book, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India, as well as her illustrious publishing career. Butalia had co-founded India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, and today heads Zubaan Books, an imprint of Kali.

Introducing her was Rowland Lorimer, director of the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, which was one of the event’s sponsors. Lorimer described how he and Butalia met a couple of decades ago, swapping stories about the publishing industries in Canada and India. Lorimer was fascinated to see the “trajectory of colonialism manifesting itself in two very different countries.” Butalia, he told us, is not only a feminist publisher but also a social historian and a social activist, and for her enormous contributions to the arts and humanities she was presented with the Padma Shree award—the closest Canadian analogue of which, according to Lorimer, is the prestigious Killam Prize.

Charlie Smith then set the stage for their conversation, which centred on the 1947 partition of British India that created the Dominion of Pakistan (later Pakistan and Bangladesh) and what became the Republic of India. Partition was hugely disruptive, displacing over 12 million people along religious lines and killing roughly a million as a result of violence or illness, yet for decades, nobody talked about it, and the stories of ordinary people who had experienced it were never told. The Other Side of Silence, Smith said, “shattered the taboo and started a conversation.”

Butalia’s family was from Lahore, and they were partition refugees. In school she studied only what she called partition’s “grand narrative of politics,” and although people listened to stories about partition within their own families, the discourse found no articulation in the outside world. She admitted to paying those family stories no attention (“I thought they were rubbish”) until two events changed her perspective.

First, in 1984, Indira Gandhi, the Indian prime minister, was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, after which there was a violent backlash against Sikhs. “Delhi was no longer a safe place,” Butalia said. For her it was a major shift from growing up in what she called “a position of middle-class privilege,” to living in fear as a member of a Sikh family, and at that point she felt as though she could begin to understand the turmoil and religious strife that her family and others had experienced during partition.

Second, she was hired on to work on a film about partition and conduct background research by interviewing people who had been through it. “I heard stories in a way I had never heard them before,” she said. They motivated her to look into an unfinished chapter in her own family’s partition story, and she set out to find her mother’s brother, who, along with his mother, had stayed behind in Lahore following partition. For forty years, between 1947 and 1987, nobody in her family had had any contact with him. The trip from Delhi to Lahore was only half an hour by air, said Butalia, but “the distance created by history was so great.”

She managed to track down her uncle, who had converted to Islam “out of convenience, not conviction,” Butalia said. In fact, although he had chosen to stay behind, he identified with his Indian roots and “had a deep notion of the loss of home,” choosing, for example, not to learn Urdu, which became Pakistan’s official language. Her uncle’s decision to stay in Lahore with his mother led to tremendous bitterness among other members of the family: refugees could seek compensation for the property that they lost when they were uprooted, but because Butalia’s uncle remained in Pakistan and kept the family home, the rest of the family wasn’t entitled to any compensation. What Butalia’s mother took the hardest, however, was not knowing when her own mother had died.

As it turned out, Butalia’s grandmother lived for nine years after partition. As Butalia prepared to go see her uncle, her mother said, “Ask him if he buried my mother or cremated her”—a question that surprised Urvashi, because her mother was a strong secular feminist. Later on her mother would join her on a trip to Pakistan and, despite the residual tension and resentment, was extremely pleased to be reunited with her brother after forty years of separation.

As Butalia began interviewing more and more people to discover how they experienced partition, she unearthed horrific tales of mass rape and honour killings. She chided herself for finding these a revelation: “They should not have come as a surprise,” she said, as violence against women has always happened in times of turmoil and disruption. Some women were abducted, raped, and forced to convert, while others committed suicide or were killed by family members to avoid the same fate.

One woman she interviewed was involved with rescuing abducted women and returning them to their “natural” homes, as identified by religion. Often their families didn’t take them back, as they were “polluted,” and there was no place for them. Many women—despite what they had been through—refused to be rescued, instead choosing to remain with their abductors, with whom some of them had had children. The family of Butalia’s interview subject never took her stories seriously; only after The Other Side of Silence came out did they realize the impact of her accomplishments. There is a “strange way in which families wipe out history,” Butalia remarked.

In the course of her research Butalia noted the inadequacy of the word “partition” to describe what people had lived through. It perhaps invokes the idea of a mechanical separation, but unlike the word “holocaust,” for example, it really fails to describe the violation that people experienced.

When Butalia set out to write her book, she believed that by telling these women’s stories, she could “liberate their voices.” Yet, “it was only when I began talking to women that I discovered how wrong I was,” she said. She encountered a number of women who didn’t want to be identified or who didn’t want their stories told. Some of them had never told their own children about their past. “When you tell other people’s stories, you have to ask yourself: to whom are you responsible? Some abstract notion of history? To the people you interview?”

“As a storyteller you’re in a position of power,” she cautioned, and as much as possible, you should try to show the your interview subject what you will write. Many people will agree to tell their story, but when they see it in print, it has a much different impact. Butalia learned that “breaking a silence doesn’t necessarily lead to the liberation of a voice.”

Charlie Smith invited questions from the audience. One attendee asked whether Butalia looked at the effect of differences in class on the experiences of partition. Butalia replied that she wanted to capture a range of women across class and caste and that these factors were central to her analysis. She noted that the rich largely travelled by air and the poor travelled by foot, and hence the poor were most vulnerable, but abductors often targeted rich women as prizes. Butalia also wanted to document the experiences of minority groups; for instance, in The Other Side of Silence, she introduces a Dalit story in the master narrative of the Hindu and Muslim story.

Another audience member asked about her publishing vision. Butalia started Kali for Women twenty-eight years ago and continues now with Zubaan to publish English books about women in the margins, “constantly balancing politics with survival and sustainability,” she said. She told the audience about the autobiography of Baby Halder, a woman who was forced into marriage at twelve and had her first child at fourteen, followed by two other children in quick succession. At her breaking point, she fled her abusive husband and found work as a domestic. Her employer noticed that she spent considerable time in his library and encouraged her to read, then gave her a pen and notebook to write her own story. Her book, originally published in Hindi, did well, but it found a huge audience when Butalia published it in English. “In the Indian market,” Butalia explained, “English is the language of privilege.” Halder’s success allowed her to bring her children to live with her, yet she remains with her employer out of a sense of gratitude and loyalty. And Butalia pointed out the irony that an impoverished woman could so enrich a book publishing house.

Prompted by another question, Butalia reflected on the story of partition as it is now being told in North America, where there is a renewed interest in the event among the diaspora. People are uncovering family archives, recording oral histories, and putting partition stories up on the Internet, and she finds that as people get older, they are more willing to talk about it. Although in India and Pakistan there is a desire to demystify one another and to hear one another’s stories, there are still barriers to interaction, whereas there are no such barriers in the diaspora, allowing for a freer flow of information and ideas.

When asked whether she felt that there was a sense of urgency to finish the story of partition as people who lived through it are now at the end of their lives, Butalia says that there does seem to be a feeling of urgency but that “the selection of voices cannot even begin to map the history of 1.2 million people. The bulk of that history will be lost.”

***

Urvashi Butalia is an astonishing confluence of passion and principled action, and there is no doubt about the immensity of her contributions to history and culture. She is so brilliantly articulate—her ideas and responses clearly thoughtfully conceived and considered. Her long list of accomplishments makes me feel as though I’ve done nothing with my life (but in an inspiring—rather than guilt-inducing—way). Her fervent concern for the plight (“There is a strong hold of patriarchy in societies around the world. The difference is in the form that violence against women takes.”) and belief in the power (“Women [in India] are the ones putting in the seeds to end poverty, such as schools and sanitation. Economists aren’t taking this movement into account.”) of women makes me wonder if dialing back my cynicism a bit might actually allow me to be more effective. I learned a tremendous amount from her talk, and I feel privileged to have heard her speak.

Book review: Editors, Scholars, and the Social Text

Too often we see book production as a sequence of tasks—writing, editing, design, proofreading—forgetting that behind these tasks are professionals who have to work as a team to make a book happen. Editors, Scholars, and the Social Text (edited by Darcy Cullen, published by University of Toronto Press) urges us to shift our perspective—not only towards the dynamic, social aspects of the production process that are so critical to its functioning but also away from the notion that an editor is “an invisible figure who must leave no trace of his or her presence or as a taint to be expunged.” (p. 4)

Darcy Cullen, an acquisitions editor at UBC Press, has assembled an impressive cast of contributors to this authoritative collection, including Peter L. Shillingsburg, author of From Gutenberg to Google, and Amy Einsohn, author of The Copyeditor’s Handbook. We hear from academic experts as well as editors and designers in a rich mosaic of experiences and complementary viewpoints. In short, this unassuming volume brims with wisdom.

Editors, Scholars, and the Social Text focuses naturally on academic publishing, but much of the insight and information it offers would also be useful to trade publishers. It divides its attention between scholarly editors (scholars who develop, curate, and compile) and academic editors (in-house or freelance professionals who acquire manuscripts, copy edit, and project manage), and although I found many of the former pieces interesting, I gravitated towards essays about the latter, which were both a mirror of my own experiences and a window into a parallel universe. Editors (and publishers) may operate according to the same set of best practices, but they all have different approaches, and it’s these details that intrigue me most.

To give a sweeping review of such a heterogeneous collection would be an unfair oversimplification, so my goal here is to hit what I considered the highlights, from my perspective as an editor, rather than attempt to be comprehensive.

Cullen’s motivation for bringing together these essays carries a subtle but definite tone of activism. Of the legions of books devoted to publishing, most are focused on helping authors get their manuscripts published or marketed, yet, writes Cullen, “the ‘middle’ part of the publishing process, sandwiched between acquisitions and sales, is often closed from view, or viewed as closed off, even though it is here that the manuscript’s metamorphosis into book occurs.” (p. 3) The shrinking-violet stereotype of editors must be abandoned because it perpetuates a certain self-marginalization that denies the important social contribution of an editor to the publishing process. Cullen hopes that “these chapters engaging the question of minority cultures and ethnicity in the spheres of scholarly and academic editing and scholarly publishing should serve as an impetus to editors who still invisibilize themselves, so that they acknowledge their place and position of influence as it extends beyond the chain of production.” (p. 12)

That thread is carried through Rosemary Shipton’s brilliant chapter, “The Mysterious Relationship: Authors and Their Editors,” in which she gives readers a most cogent description of the editorial process, comparing trade and academic publishing. “So long as the editors’ contribution to publications in all genres… is not given the recognition it deserves,” writes Shipton, “editors will remain vulnerable to low salaries and, in times of economic downturn, early layoff.”

The relationship an editor fosters with an author is key to a book’s realization—and it may play a role in a publisher’s ability to retain an author: “When the collaboration works well,” Shipton writes, “inevitably authors bond with their editors—they request them for book after book.” But “if the collaboration between author and editor does not work well, the author very quickly feels threatened and loses confidence in the editor.” (p. 51) As one of the founders of the publishing program at Ryerson, her advocacy for the editing profession is grounded in her belief in high standards and a solid foundation of editorial principles, as she warns, “The most common disputes arise when copyeditors lack training and experience.” (p. 45)

Shipton explains that whereas “most trade publishers know that, to make their books excellent and interesting, to attract good reviews and other media attention, to win book awards, and to get that word-of-mouth buzz that entices readers to buy, they really should edit at both the macro and the micro level,” (p. 50) meaning that manuscripts at trade houses go through structural, stylistic, and copy editing, “scholarly publishers do not usually do intensive substantive editing—and for many good reasons. Their mandate is to publish books that make an original contribution to knowledge; most of their authors are professors or researchers; the majority of their readers are academics and students; and the number of copies they print of most titles is small.” (p. 52) Because they write for an academic audience, says Shipton, scholars “know that these readers will understand the specialized jargon and the guarded, often obtuse long sentences in which they make their arguments.” (p. 52) (I haven’t worked much with textual scholars, but based on my experiences with scientific scholars, I couldn’t help wondering if scholars’ resistance to being stylistically edited or have at least some clear communication principles applied to their writing is a symptom of an academic culture that routinely conflates abstruseness with erudition.)

Shipton also touches on issues specific to legal editing and educational publishing, adeptly showing not only the peculiarities of each genre but also aspects of our work that unite us all as editors; as far as I’m concerned, her chapter should be required reading in all introductory editing courses. Veteran editors—trade or academic, freelance or in house—would also benefit from her wisdom.

Amy Einsohn’s piece, “Juggling Expectations: The Copyeditor’s Roles and Responsibilities” provides equally valuable information for both novice and seasoned copy editors, encouraging them to pull back and look at their own vulnerabilities so that they can become more effective in their work. “Conflicting opinions about what constitutes good or acceptable expository writing can be particularly difficult to negotiate. Because any sentence can be rewritten (and arguably “improved” thereby), copyeditors must learn to resist the impulse to tinker,” (p. 79) she writes, cautioning that copyeditors “labour in the presence of benevolent or fearsome ghosts: a high school English teacher, a freshman composition instructor, one or more publishing mentors, and the authors of favourite usage books.” (p. 69)

Copy editing is an exercise in juggling quality, collegiality, cost, and control, Einsohn says. And true to the book’s overarching message, she emphasizes the importance of the relationships built—largely through clear, respectful communication—between copy editor and author and between copy editor and press. Most importantly, she offers concrete suggestions to improve these relationships and improve editor retention, including checklists, sample edits, and style memos.

Whereas Einsohn’s contribution focused on text, Camilla Blakeley revealed through a case study of an award-winning project of hers, The Trickster Shift by Allan J. Ryan, the complexities of editing an illustrated book. Tactfully mediating a relationship between the author and designer, securing permissions within a specified budget, coordinating captions and credits, and taking into account the effect these added tasks have on the project schedule are some of just some of the considerations for illustrated books, and, again, communication is paramount. On this project, Blakeley set up a meeting with the author and designer at the very early stages, which the designer, George Vaitkunas, credited with making the project particularly rewarding. Blakeley notes, “early communication makes the job not only easier but more pleasurable. This is significant.” (p. 156)

One point of hers that caught my attention was that “while an experienced scholarly editor knows that a table or a graph requires as much editing as a narrative—often more—most of us have no training in how to look at photograph.” (p. 165) She points to a positive editor–designer relationship as an opportunity for editors to educate themselves about these kinds of issues so that they can better serve the author, designer, and, ultimately, the book.

Blakeley’s contribution is packed with examples from The Trickster Shift—of such details as art logs and schedules—that are useful not only because they inform readers about the anatomy of an illustrated book project as it evolves but also because editors can easily appropriate and adapt these documents for their own use.

Blakeley does a tremendous job of giving the designer on her project a voice, but what sets this book apart is that we get to hear directly from designers themselves. Learning from designer Richard Hendel, for example, about not only how designers fit in to the book production process but also how designers view editors (both flatteringly and unflatteringly) can be an important step to better communication and a more effective workflow. Hendel stresses that “The designer cannot properly address a text until an editor has understood and clearly dealt with the physical aspects of the content: how chapters and chapter titles are arranged, how subheads are dealt with, kinds of extract, and the like.” (p. 175) Referring to English typographer John Ryder, Hendel writes, “Ryder felt that editors should be more critical about how something in the manuscript will eventually appear in the printed book—the need to edit visually before the design process even begins.” (p. 176)

In her chapter, designer Sigrid Albert looks at the evolving role of the designer and the changing relationship between editor and designer as the publishing landscape adjusts to accommodate ebooks and other technologies. “The traditional printed book as a highly crafted cultural object, whether in a humble, low-budget or a luxurious, highly produced format, is the goal of the editor and designer. At the highest level of the book production process, the editor has shaped a piece of history, and the designer has shaped a piece of art,” writes Albert, in one of my favourite quotes from the book.

Whereas the traditional book all but demands a strong, communicative relationship between editor and designer to transmit a single vision, digital books have meant that content and form are separate: “book content is increasingly being stored in databases and tagged with content-related markup—such as chapter titles, subtitles, subheads, extracts—by the editor, while the visual design is controlled by a separate style markup—such as margin widths, font, font size, font weight, colour, or line height—delivered by the designer.” (p. 184) Albert wonders if the relationship will only grow further apart as designers eventually stop designing single books and instead create digital templates that they license. Yet, Albert says, “From the designer’s point of view, the design process, despite the technological advances, still requires a synthesis of information and a variety of visual choices to form an aesthetic unity.” (p. 193)

Yuri Cowan (“Reading Material Bibliography and Digital Editions”) and Darcy Cullen (“The Object and the Process”) also explore the implications of a workflow that incorporates digital outputs, with Cowan taking a more theoretical approach and Cullen sharing the triumphs and growing pains of UBC Press’s first steps into the realm of digital production. Writes Cowan, “our editors can inform their theoretical approaches with recent scholarship in the sociology of material texts, creating a model of readerly engagement and a generation of reader/editors who will be neither overawed by the authority of print nor seduced by the hyperbolic claims made for the electronic edition.” (p. 236)

The book’s other contributors—Peter L. Shillingsburg, Alexander Petit, Peter Mahon, and John K. Young—offer scholars’ perspectives on various facets of the academic publishing process, and although these chapters are all worth reading for the sake of interest, I believe that the general editor-reader will find the essays I’ve mentioned most engaging and directly relevant to their work—and it’s to this specific but vast audience, editors of whatever genre and whatever experience level, that I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Freelance editors who have never worked in house may have the most to gain from this insiders’ view. As Amy Einsohn writes, “Some presses make an effort to train, coach, and acculturate their freelancers, but most freelancers have few opportunities to learn about the publisher’s activities, customs, and mores,” (p. 69) and being informed about a publishing house’s inner workings helps editors anticipate what may be expected of them.

UBC Press—and hence Cullen’s book—specializes in the social sciences, but I would be intrigued to see how the processes described in Editors, Scholars, and the Social Text compare with the workflow and author–editor relationships at academic presses focused on the natural sciences. Most of those authors probably will not read this book, and perhaps even most social science scholars hoping to get published would not think to read it. In many ways, it is much more information than they need to play their roles in book production. Yet, I hope that some academic authors choose to hear what Cullen’s roster of experts have to say. This book beautifully humanizes the publishing process in a way that could only foster mutual respect between professionals—ones with the common aim of producing great books.

An amazing honour

Holy crap! I won the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence!

The award was announced at the Editors’ Association of Canada banquet on the evening of Saturday, June 2, and I was completely surprised. Thanks again to author Florian Werner, translator Doris Ecker, foreworder Temple Grandin and her wonderful assistant Cheryl Miller, proofreader Lara Smith, designer Naomi MacDougall (interior), cover designer Peter Cocking, and the whole D&M production department for making Cow happen. Thanks to Rob Sanders for trusting me with the project, and a million thanks to Nancy Flight for nominating me for the award and for encouraging me along the way.

Thanks to the EAC for having this award in the first place, and thanks to the donors, awards committee, and judges for this tremendous honour.

I had the pleasure of having a long conversation with fellow finalist Peter Midgley about our respective editing projects—both translations, interestingly enough. I’m very sorry he couldn’t have shared in the award with me, because it sounded as though we had parallel experiences. I look forward to reading the book he edited, The Man in Blue Pyjamas.

East Meets West VIP launch

I just got back from the VIP launch for Stephanie Yuen’s cookbook East Meets West at Lin’s Chinese Cuisine, where Chef Zhang and his staff treated us to delicious snacks, including Lin’s signature xiao long bao, as well as a tan-tan noodle demonstration. It was great to chat with the ol’ D&M crew and meet the author in person, and each of us came away with a swank gift bag from Sunrise Soya Foods and Hon’s Wun-Tun House.

Exploring Vancouver pubs

Starting tomorrow you can get your own copy of Exploring Vancouver: An Architectural Guide, the story of Vancouver as told through its architecture. The book is organized into fourteen walking/driving tours of the city’s neighbourhoods and its closest suburbs, each showcasing structures of note—for their architectural excellence or for their historical significance. Architectural historian Harold Kalman and architectural critic Robin Ward have put together an authoritative but accessible guide featuring eye-popping photography by John Roaf in a stunning package designed by the fabulous Naomi MacDougall.

East Meets West event at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks

Over the course of two years food writer Stephanie Yuen scoured Vancouver’s Asian food scene for the best dishes from some of the city’s most acclaimed Asian restaurants, and the result is East Meets West, a gorgeous, full-colour cookbook featuring not only eighty-eight mouth-watering recipes but also an introduction to the ingredients commonly used in Asian cooking and a directory of where to find some of Vancouver’s best Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Thai, Filipino, Indian, and Nepalese cuisine. Stephanie will be signing books at a free public event at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks on Saturday, April 28, from 11 am to 2 pm. Call 604-688-6755 to RSVP.

An Alcuin Award for Fred Herzog: Photographs

Congratulations to D&M’s art director, Peter Cocking, who won second prize in the pictorial category at the Alcuin Awards for his design of Fred Herzog: Photographs, featuring text by Claudia Gochmann, Douglas Coupland, Sarah Milroy, and Jeff Wall. D&M’s design team has a tradition of doing well at the Alcuins, this year winning seven awards in four categories.

Find a full list of winners here.

Coach House Press as a digital pioneer

Last evening Laraine Coates and I went to see John Maxwell give a talk to the Alcuin Society about Coach House Press as a digital pioneer.

Coach House is known as a literary house and a design and printing house. But, John says, a research project he’s undertaken over the past several years reveals that Coach House has a fascinating history of digital innovations in publishing, which shows that innovation doesn’t necessarily require massive amounts of capital, trained technical professionals, or corporate secrecy. Coach House’s innovation was more down to earth—a product of a love of learning and willingness to tinker.

Coach House’s beginnings are legendary: at the height of the Great Canadian Flag Debate of 1964, Stan Bevington sold screen-printed Canadian flags in Toronto and eventually made enough money to buy his first printing press, which he set up in a coach house. Coach House Press started printing posters, then moved into books. Initially the books were hand set; then Coach House acquired a Linotype machine. In the late 1960s, as Coach House began to print the books of emerging young writers and poets, it found itself becoming a cultural hub.

In the early 1970s, phototypesetting became an accessible technology, and Coach House pursued it rather than seeing it as antithetical to the tradition of hand setting. In 1974 Stan Bevington bought a Mergenthaler VIP (variable input phototypesetter) machine, which took paper tape as its input. The tape encoded not only the text but also the design and formatting. It didn’t take long before the team at Coach House began modifying the tape to create new typefaces for the VIP; they essentially “hacked” the tape to drive new typography. Coach House was adept at tinkering with new technology to wring the maximum functionality out of it.

Coach House also recognized the potential of using a computer to create the tape. In 1974 Bevington bought a Datapoint 2200 computer for that purpose; the Datapoint 2200 was the earliest microcomputer—the forefather of all of our personal computers. At a conference, the Coach House team saw a computer hooked up directly to a phototypesetter and decided to try it for themselves. Ed Hale built a circuit board that took output from the Datapoint 2200 and fed it to the VIP—no more need for paper tape. By doing this themselves, Coach House made the technology their own.

At this point, the software became key in the process. David Slocombe at Coach House tinkered with the software and got it to the point where it was usable by the editors themselves. At the same time, Coach House actively collaborated with Ron Baecker’s computer science lab at the University of Toronto—one of the first places in the world to have UNIX installed. Bevington consulted the lab about onscreen typography and in exchange had access to UNIX. In 1983, Coach House proposed a peer-to-peer network with two other Ontario-based publishers, the Porcupine’s Quill and Penumbra Press, and established an uncanny parallel to what universities were setting up in California and what would evolve into the Internet.

Coach House became known for its computer typesetting. In 1984 some of its staff members branched off to form SoftQuad, a developer of software to edit, view, and publish structured (generalized markup language—or GML) content. It was ahead of its time—at first SoftQuad struggled to find a market, but in 1986 it found its feet when the U.S. Department of Defense made GML—now SGML—a mandatory requirement. Of course, SGML is the direct precursor to the ubiquitous HTML and XML.

Coach House acquired Macintosh computers when they were first released in 1984, initially using them as terminals to the UNIX systems. They then discovered that the PostScript paradigm was the way of the future and quickly adopted QuarkXPress on the Macintosh and even developed a way to translate SGML markup into formatting in Quark. Interestingly, now with the rise of ebooks, publishers care about markup once again.

The 1990s were rough for Coach House; in 1996, the publishing arm of the company failed, but Bevington later relaunched it as Coach House Books, which put its entire frontlist on the web for free. The press then made sales of the beautifully printed books as fetishized objects.

If you visit Coach House Books, John tells us, you’ll discover that all of the technological history is there on site; it’s a living, breathing museum. Coach House has always demonstrated a willingness to adopt new technologies and has had a tradition of research, insightful decision making, and a love of tinkering. Unlike many other players in the publishing industry, Coach House isn’t bothered by technical innovation—a fact that still holds today; for instance, when Facebook was first rising, Coach House became the first Canadian publisher to reach a thousand followers, and it has proven itself to be a pioneer of direct sales and e-commerce. The press’s home-grown innovation hasn’t made Bevington rich, but, in hindsight, it is remarkable to consider that Coach House was always five to ten years ahead of the curve.

John’s talk was followed by the presentation of the Alcuin Society’s Robert R. Reid Award and Medal to Stan Bevington, in recognition of lifetime achievement in the book arts in Canada.

We each came away with a lovely souvenir of the evening: a tabloid-sized print of Canadian typefaces used at Coach House, including Amethyst and Stern by Jim Rimmer, Goodchild and Figgins Sans by Nick Shinn, and Gibson and Slate by Rod McDonald.

My synopsis here doesn’t really do justice to the astounding volume of research that John Maxwell has done for this project. I would encourage anyone interesting in learning more about Coach House’s technological history to visit John’s website on the topic.