JHU Press Blog

A Commitment to Community

by bjs | Thursday, March 23, 2017 - 6:00 AM

In the introduction to a recent special issue of the journal Library Trends , the guest editors simply state that “libraries are part of the fabric of society.” That kicks off the discussion of “Libraries in the Political Process,” the topic of the Fall 2016 issue edited by Christine Stilwell, Peter Johan Lor, and Raphaëlle Bats.

Lor, an extraordinary professor in the Department of Information Science at the University of Pretoria who also serves on the journal's Editorial Board, and Bats, a conservateur de bibliothèque at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Sciences de L’information (ENSSIB), in Lyon, France, also provided essays for the issue. The print publication grew out an open session called “Libraries in the Political Process: Benefits and Risks of Political Visibility, ” part of the Library Theory and Research (LTR) section of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) World Library and Information Congress in Lyon, France, in August 2014.

Stilmann, a professor emeritus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South Africa, joined the editorial team during the process of putting the issue together. The three guest editors participated in a Q&A about...Read More

Behind the Book: The Snake and the Salamander

by krm | Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - 6:00 AM

When Matt asked if I was interested in writing a few paragraphs to accompany each of the illustrations he was creating for a book on the amphibians and reptiles of the northeast, I jumped at the chance. A quick check of his website convinced me that he could produce really wonderful, high quality, scientifically accurate illustrations. He wanted to explore the fantastic colors and body forms exhibited by this group of lesser known vertebrates. I wanted to explore the diversity of lifestyles and habitats used by these critters. Our goal was a book that would excite the interest of naturalists and students as well as be of interest to the general public.

Our first discussions centered around how to define the northeast for our purposes and which species to illustrate. If we only dealt with New England we would have about 60 species to work with. And we would be missing a number of very colorful species found in the New Jersey Pine Barrens as well as the states as far south as Virginia and West Virginia. Defining the northeast as Maine to Virginia would also correspond to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Region 5 and Partners in...Read More

Ten Principles of Good Sustainable Design History

by krm | Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - 6:00 AM

1. Good sustainable design history is aware of contemporary design strategies. Industrial designers in recent years have adopted several strategies for sustainable design. Among them are use of life-cycle assessments , developing related voluntary certification programs (such as Cradle-to-Cradle ), and upcycling. Understanding what the profession is attempting to do to reduce its effects on the environment is important.

2. Good sustainable design history uses history to critique contemporary design strategies. History allows us to see how decisions made in the past affected society and the environment. We may use it to understand how past design decisions in architecture, fashion, and industrial design had effects on the waste stream, on the health of consumers, and on resource use. Contemporary efforts at sustainability may be responses to problems of the past, and they may also repeat problems of the past. Because upcycling has a history, history can investigate the opportunities and limits of past upcycling practices.

3. Good sustainable design history recognizes history as an important contributor to contemporary design approaches . By evaluating past practice, history provides...Read More

Five Things That Will Surprise You about Civil War Medicine

by krm | Monday, March 20, 2017 - 6:00 AM

I once heard historian Drew Gilpin Faust tell an audience at the National Humanities Center that at least one book about the Civil War had appeared for every day since Lee surrendered at Appomattox. That’s a major challenge for the historian who seeks to say something new about the topic. So, in the spirit of the common blog theme . . .

Here’s Five Things That Will Surprise You about Civil War Medicine!

1. Surgery was humane and, often, successful.

Surgeons used both ether and chloroform during the war, performing all of those amputations that are emblematic of their craft. The Mutter Museum recently surveyed visitors to a Civil War medicine exhibit and found that 89% thought these operations were done without anesthesia. Perhaps the scene in Gone with the Wind in which Scarlet hears a man screaming off stage has created this impression, and indeed the peculiar circumstances of the Atlanta siege may have led to such medical horrors, but most men were asleep as they lost limbs to the surgeon’s saw. And around 75% of major arm and leg amputations healed, leading to a brisk business in prosthetics...Read More

In Defense of Equity

by bjs | Friday, March 17, 2017 - 6:00 AM

By Virginia Brennan, Ph.D., MA

As society used to be, or as I used to understand it, equity shone brightly, a star that society reached for. The great machines of universal progress as seen during and after the Enlightenment—medicine, law, education—were to build ships capable of sailing us across the heavens towards universal well-being, justice, and knowledge.

The new Smithsonian Museum of African American Culture and History.

Photo by Virginia Brennan

The recent U.S. federal elections, and the complex societal and economic tensions that underlay them, call into question whether equity remains an ideal in the United States today. They call into question whether the ship of state is guided by self-interest—sometimes rhetorically identified with another American ideal (liberty, or freedom, in the narrowest sense)—rather than the polestar of equity and its bright companion, freedom in a deep and broad sense. This self-interest is interest in one’s own wealth, power, and well-being and those of relatives and friends.

An individual with this extremely narrow idea of freedom, of liberty, may well reject taxes that support programs enhancing the health, education, and legal protections of all....Read More

Consumption, Markets, and their Political Meanings

by krm | Thursday, March 16, 2017 - 6:00 AM

I began this project ( The Trouble with Tea: the Politics of Consumption in the Eighteenth-Century Global Economy ) more than a decade ago driven by an interest in consumerism, corporate culture, and the commodification of contemporary life. At that time, we saw serious cracks in the global economy when companies, such as Enron, collapsed under a mountain of debt after executives managed to extract millions of dollars for themselves at the expense of investors and employees. Markets and our faith in corporate governance were further tested in 2007-2009 when the meltdown of domestic housing and global financial markets left us with foreclosures, stagnant wages, and unpredictable credit systems. Even though the American economy has recovered from those lean years, we still struggle to understand consumer capitalism and its broader social and political implications. Relentlessly, social media asks us to react to or “Like” stuff (often consumer products) or ideas (often tied to products, brands, or celebrities). According to Mat Honan of Wired , “Liking is an economic act,” or a political expression akin to voting. Advertisers and the brands that they shill through social media depend upon our impulse to consume. Thus, exploring the...Read More

From Here to There: The Complexity of 1-Click Ordering

by krm | Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 6:00 AM

To the average consumer, Amazon appears Oz-like with its magical power of 1-click ordering. For publishers, authors, and distributors, we have glimpses of the shadowy figure behind the curtain. Instead of smoke and mirrors, we deal with inscrutable algorithms, and in place of wanting to go home, we want to be in stock and on sale.

When I started in publishing, authors wanted to see their books shelved at their local bookstore and at national chains. Shelf-space is an even rarer commodity these days, but Amazon book detail pages have supplanted that coveted in-store spot. Once books are finalized, book metadata is pushed to retail and wholesale accounts. From there, the data spreads throughout the internet. There is then a second layer of book data that relates to physical stock. When Amazon orders from HFS , we receive electronic files and respond in kind confirming the order and providing specific details about the availability of each book. That information is usually reflected on the individual book detail pages and relates to the book’s availability.

“Availability” can take on many meanings. Often, online retailers only have the data, not actual books, and...Read More

In Memoriam: James L. Harner

by bjs | Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 6:00 AM

By Gail Kern Paster and Barbara A. Mowat

The news of Jim Harner’s death in May 2016 was distressing to any number of his academic and scholarly admirers—students, alums, faculty, and administrators at Texas A&M University; researchers and teachers who depend heavily on his Literary Research Guide and his On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography , along with the thousands of others for whom the World Shakespeare Bibliography ( WSB ) is an essential research and teaching tool; the worldwide community of scholars who make up the WSB ’s International Committee of Correspondents, many of whom had worked with Jim since 1989; and, of course, the current editor and associate editor of the WSB , Laura Estill and Krista L. May. Jim’s death hit us with a special sadness and poignancy, in large part because we shared with him the years of alternating exhilaration and despair that eventuated in the wonders of what is now the WSB .

When Jim took over as Shakespeare Quarterly ’s bibliographer, his dream was to create a digitized version of the bibliography. The bibliography had been part of SQ ...Read More

Pi day is just another Hallmark holiday

by krm | Tuesday, March 14, 2017 - 6:00 AM

So, Johns Hopkins University Press asked me to write a blog post for Pi Day . Well . . . other than as a marketing tool for mathematics, Pi Day is a bit of a silly idea. So, I thought I'd tell you why, at least from the perspective of this pure mathematician, it’s somehow missing the point.

Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th, because that date can be written (in America) as “3/14”. This looks like “3.14”, the first three significant digits of the mathematical constant pi. Let’s put aside the fact that in many countries the 14th of March is written as “14/3”—there’s a bigger problem here, which is that there aren’t a hundred days in each month. The numerals in “3/14” correspond to months and days. The numerals in “3.14” correspond to units, tenths and hundredths, and these don’t have much to do with months or days. Pi is only a little bigger than 3, but the 14th day of the month is almost halfway through counting up to the number that would make the "3" roll over to become "4". If anything, "3/14" could be expressing the fraction "3 and 14/31",...Read More

Why Is A̶n̶d̶r̶e̶w̶ ̶J̶a̶c̶k̶s̶o̶n̶ Harriet Tubman on the $20 Bill?

by krm | Monday, March 13, 2017 - 6:00 AM

The following is an adapted excerpt from Sharon Ann Murphy’s Other People’s Money: How Banking Worked in the Early American Republic.

The decision to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on future $20 bills is laced with irony. Born into slavery in Maryland, Tubman was someone’s property, valued in dollars and cents, until she escaped to Philadelphia around 1849. She repeatedly placed her fragile freedom at risk, returning to the South to aid family, friends, and even strangers in escaping their fate as slaves, serving as a vital conductor of the Underground Railroad. As prominent slave historian Joshua Rothman opines, “To put Harriet Tubman on our currency is to refute the very idea that she ought ever to have been property. It is to affirm her position as a free woman and a citizen. And it is to allow her penetrating gaze to remind us every day of our nation’s sins and its promise alike.”

But beyond the rejection of her status as property, the $20 bill had significant meaning for Tubman at two different points in her life. In the 1869 biography of the former slave and abolitionist, Sarah H. Bradford related the...Read More