Charles Taylor, 2/3

I bought Charles Taylor’s new book A Secular Age the other day. It’s a good book, but its publishers have given it a stupid dustjacket that is guaranteed to annoy (it isn’t big enough; see also here). And this reminded me that last year I bought John Rawls’s Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy, another book with a stupid dustjacket, similarly annoying, though differently stupid (crinkly clear plastic). Both are published by Harvard University Press. So what’s going on? Why is Harvard experimenting with stupid dustjackets on new books by distinguished political philosophers? Are there other books by DPP’s that they are mangling in this way? And when will they stop?

9 thoughts on “Charles Taylor, 2/3”

  1. Chris, you spent enough time there to know the answer to this question: overweening Harvard pride, which leads them to believe that their books are so important that people will buy them no matter how preposterous the design.

    And we do, don’t we?

  2. Hallo Chris

    The cover of my copy of ‘Scanlon – What we owe’ (HUP) is printed askew. Very annoying. The spine is half cover, and the cover is half spine.
    ‘Nussbaum: Frontiers of Justice’ (you guessed it) is similarly skew but not as bad. And both sit there and mock me: why didn’t I check the cover before I left the shop eh?

  3. Someone ought to box publishers’ ears for the practical joke they dare refer to as digital reprinting. My (digitally reprinted) copy of Moral Luck by Bernard — Homer and I have got ethics right — Williams (Cambridge University Press) leads to brain-crunching headaches after two minutes of reading. The Germans do this sort of thing better, see Rüdiger Safranki’s perfectly legible (as well as readable) bio of Heidegger for instance.
    Williams is great of course, even if he is not a catholic, and CUP do him down by mangling his work (and other people’s) like this.

  4. Oh, if only it were a just a practical joke. It’s an atrocity. I understand the rationale: it allows them to print much, much smaller batches of books cost-effectively, and so to keep in print books that sell regularly but in pretty tiny quantities. But the quality ranges from the genuinely embarrassing (books that look like they’ve been printed by fax machines) to the mildly annoying (books that are just slightly fuzzier than the real thing, but enough to create those headaches after twenty minutes or so).

    Thanks, Sjoerd, I thought I was the only one who felt quite so strongly about this. Two or three more comrades and a few pitchforks….

  5. I’m glad you agree, Patchen. I’m surprised, actually, that, as far as I’m aware at least, none of the grand old grumpies such as Roger Scruton, George Steiner or Paul Johnson, nor any critic of the stature of Stefan Collini has written anything about this. Especially Steiner one might think would be livid about this sort of thing. Perhaps he just hasn’t noticed. I suppose a certain level of remuneration enables one (that is, them) to buy hardcover first editions and one doesn’t notice what is being done to one’s work. Fame and a few fellowships would help as well, one imagines.

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