Every year the Association of American University Presses sponsors a University Press Week during which to highlight the important work of nonprofit scholarly publishers. As in years past, AAUP member presses have come together this week to organize a blog tour, a series of posts demonstrating our many contributions to culture, the academy, and an informed society. Today’s theme: “Throwback Thursday.”
Like many university presses, HUP has a long history and a deep, deep backlist to show for it. Though the varying pace of scholarship across disciplines can limit the useful life of works in some fields, one effect of the cumulative nature of knowledge production is that importance can long outlast relevance. A belief in that enduring importance led us to celebrate our centennial in 2013 by bringing back nearly three thousand titles that had become unavailable in the time since their initial publication.
In perusing that collection we noticed, of course, that many of the works were quite clearly showing their age. Their titles, especially, could betray root in times when patterns of language and habits of publishers were vastly different than they are today. In fact, we found time and again that the titles of these works put us in mind of nothing so much as the “tawny historical verisimilitudes” of the hyper-literary, lyrically-mischievous, artfully-anachronistic indie-folk-pop balladeers The Decemberists. And so, for UP Week’s Throwback Thursday, we present the following score of titles and ask: book or song, vintage or retro, Backlist or Decemberists?