Origin and Survival of the Bastard Title

If you love to hold books as much as you love reading them, you might savor the first few moments of cracking a new binding and taking time to explore the front matter before arriving at the main content.

Whether you enjoy paging leisurely through those initial leaves or you breeze past them with indifference, at some point you may have stopped, as I have recently, to wonder about that extra, seemingly redundant title page, known simply as the half title. Why is it there? What purpose does it serve aside from beckoning us forward to page one? Continue reading “Origin and Survival of the Bastard Title”

Origin and Survival of the Bastard Title

Watershed and Community

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View of Hudson River from Cold Spring, New York © Angela Rutherford

The need for improved water resource protection is urgent, yet land-use activities increasingly imperil our water supplies. With that in mind, we’re excited to present a three-part blog series, “Watershed Paths to Water Protection,” on citizen stewardship of water resources by Karen Schneller-McDonald, author of Connecting the Drops: A Citizens’ Guide to Protecting Water Resources.


We’ve seen the headlines.

Officials Call for Drastic Action Amid ‘Water Quality Crisis’ in Newburgh

Hoosick Falls Water Contamination Crisis

Hopewell Families Win Battle for Money in Toxic Water Fight

And that’s just the beginning, as threats to water quality become reality, affecting life and health in an ever-growing list of communities.

How can we protect our water? To facilitate local discussion about water protection, the Hudson Valley Regional Council and the Saw Kill Watershed Community hosted a workshop on September 25 in Red Hook, a small Dutchess County town on the Hudson River. People filled the community meeting room, drawn by a shared concern: protecting their drinking water. Continue reading “Watershed and Community”

Watershed and Community

November is “And the Sparrow Fell” Month with Three Book Talks Planned in Ithaca by Author Robert Mrazek

Five-term congressman, film director, and bestselling author Robert J. Mrazek will be presenting three book talks this month to discuss his coming-of-age-tale set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, And the Sparrow Fell.  Mrazek, a Cornell alum and Ithaca resident, will discuss his new novel, a vivid and urgent story in which many of the characters and events are informed by his own personal experiences, particularly his time at Cornell University. Ithaca landmarks such as the State Theater, Fall Creek, and the Chapter House are featured throughout the book.

Please take advantage of this unique opportunity to hear Robert Mrazek speak locally in Ithaca. He will be discussing his new book at the following times and locations:

We do hope you can attend one of these events. Continue reading “November is “And the Sparrow Fell” Month with Three Book Talks Planned in Ithaca by Author Robert Mrazek”

November is “And the Sparrow Fell” Month with Three Book Talks Planned in Ithaca by Author Robert Mrazek

Something Completely Different: Working with John Cleese on a Public Talk and a New Book

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Mapping the directions of John Cleese’s Escher-like mind. Drawing by Julia Smith.

By Dean Smith

In the fall of 2015, Cornell University Press hosted a folk concert in our offices at Sage House with author and Cornell history professor Richard Polenberg to celebrate Hear My Sad Story, his new book about the true stories of folk songs like “Casey Jones,” “Stagger Lee,” and “John Henry.” Sixty people showed up for the free event. Folk music enthusiasts jammed the foyer and sat knee-to-knee on the staircase all the way to the second floor. Polenberg played four songs on his acoustic guitar and the crowd sang along with him—a magical Ithaca moment—as the sunlight shafted in from all sides after a cold rain.

After the concert, I noticed three women at the top of the second-floor steps. We’d roped off access to the offices on the second and third floors. I asked if they wanted a tour of what had been Cornell benefactor Henry Sage’s mansion and the university infirmary for most of the twentieth century. I showed them our carved oak bats and owls, stained glass windows, and fireplace tile sequences featuring fairy tales such as Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin. Our managing editor’s fireplace is adorned with Arthurian characters such as Lady Guinevere and Sir Lancelot.

At the end of the tour, one of the women, Gerri Jones, told me that Professor John Cleese would like a place like this. At first, I didn’t think I heard her right. Continue reading “Something Completely Different: Working with John Cleese on a Public Talk and a New Book”

Something Completely Different: Working with John Cleese on a Public Talk and a New Book

From Immokalee Organizer to MacArthur Fellow: Meet Greg Asbed


Human rights strategist Greg Asbed has been granted a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship. A co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Greg’s story, and the story of the immigrant farm workers who have fought for and won significant gains in worker rights against great odds, has been documented in I Am Not a Tractor! How Florida Farmworkers Took On the Fast Food Giants and Won by Susan L Marquis, forthcoming from ILR Press this fall. The following is a brief excerpt from the first chapter. 

God, it was frustrating, but the two knew they were in the right place. When Greg Asbed and Laura Germino looked out the window of the small storefront office, they faced the cracked asphalt, broken concrete dividers, and courageous weeds that made up the Pantry Shelf parking lot. Throughout the day, the occasional beat-up Ford or rusted Chevy would pull in, seeking the shade of the grocery store wall. But most were walking. Women, arms loaded with bags, walked out the market’s doors and down streets patterned by the shade of trees loaded with Spanish moss and the glaring sun of southwest Florida. Some carried fruit that reminded them of home in Haiti, but most were carrying the soda, chips, and other junk food that was cheapest in the overpriced market. Continue reading “From Immokalee Organizer to MacArthur Fellow: Meet Greg Asbed”

From Immokalee Organizer to MacArthur Fellow: Meet Greg Asbed

Women’s Suffrage: The Centennial

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Originally published by From the Square, the NYU Press blog. Reprinted with permission. 

2017 marks the centennial of women gaining the right to vote in New York. Did you know that our great state was a paramount player in the national movement for women’s suffrage? From Woodstock to Williamsburg, Seneca Falls to Chinatown, Buffalo to Battery Park, women in New York were leaders in the movement for sixty-nine years, until suffrage was legalized in 1917. In the city, the women who really changed the course of the cause were a group of elite socialites with names like Astor, Belmont, Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt. In Gilded Suffragists Johanna Neuman brings these high class and high power ladies to life, illustrating how they leveraged their social celebrity for political power, turning the women’s right to vote into a fashionable cause. Susan Goodier and Karen Pastorello highlight the activism of rural, urban, African American, Jewish, immigrant, and European American women, as well as male suffragists, both upstate and downstate, that led to the positive outcome of the 1917 referendum. In Women Will Vote they convincingly argue that the agitation and organization that led to New York women’s victory in 1917 changed the course of American history. Continue reading “Women’s Suffrage: The Centennial”

Women’s Suffrage: The Centennial

Why Indonesia’s Muslim preachers are doing so well

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Cornell University Press has just published Hearing Allah’s Call: Preaching and performance in Indonesian Islam. Anthropologist Birgit Braeuchler interviewed the author, Julian Millie, of Monash University, about his new book.

Birgit Braeuchler: Your preparation for this book included fourteen months listening to Islamic sermons in West Java. I imagine there must be many preachers there, simply because there are so many Muslims in that part of Indonesia—about forty million in a province not much bigger than the island of Hawaii. But let me ask . . . the title of your book emphasizes performance. Why is that concept such a big part of this project?

Julian Millie: I work with colleagues at the State Islamic University in Bandung. A couple of years ago, students in the Islamic predication program helped us do a survey about the features that made preaching successful amongst West Javanese audiences. They went to their home villages, and came back with their reports. According to almost all of these surveys, a sermon was successful if the preacher was able to hold the audience’s attention for its duration . . . In other words, the students regarded a captivating sermon as a successful one. Continue reading “Why Indonesia’s Muslim preachers are doing so well”

Why Indonesia’s Muslim preachers are doing so well

The Bell Tolls for Ringling

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Ringling Bros. circus performer Gleice Gillet on the lead elephant

By Steve Zeitlin, author of The Poetry of Everyday Life

This past spring I bought two tickets to the last show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, scheduled for May 21, 2017, in Uniondale, New York. The iconic three-ring circus, mother of all American circuses, was closing its doors after 146 years. At the time, my friend the circus historian Richard Flint was busy researching a book commissioned by Ringling Bros. to commemorate the history of the famed circus for its 150th anniversary in 2021. Ringling didn’t make it that far. 

“People call it the Greatest Show on Earth,” Richard told me, “but it literally was the greatest show on Earth.” A large, profitable circus, Ringling was able to deliver grandeur no other show could match. Not just horses, acrobats, and clowns. Not only numerous elephants, but lavish costumes, state-of-the-art lighting, three rings, five weeks of rehearsals, Broadway choreographers to help train a bevy of showgirls and clowns, original music composed annually for each season. As Richard’s friend said to him, “Ringling’s demise is something like the Catholic Church shutting down.” Continue reading “The Bell Tolls for Ringling”

The Bell Tolls for Ringling

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Cover Copy

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In real estate, as we all know, it’s location, location, location. In the book world that location is the cover of the book and the websites on which the book is featured. In both cases, the prime real estate is where you find the descriptive copy for the book, in all its facets and aspects.

In design, use of space is crucial. It’s all about how you provide the information/content/user experience. What makes a design work is how accessible it is for its purpose. In the case of books, that design aspect applies particularly to how accessible the descriptive content is on the cover.

In politics, delivery of message is key. How a politician says what he or she wants his or her constituents to know, maybe perhaps even more than what is said, determines how well the message is received. In books, how we describe what’s in a book is tied closely to what we write, but delivery of that message is crucial. Continue reading “Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Cover Copy”

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Cover Copy

Outbox: Smart Books

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Top L to R: Unbuttoning America by Ardis Cameron, The Borscht Belt by Marisa Scheinfeld. Bottom L to R: Where the River Burned by David and Richard Stradling, The Angola Horror by Charity Vogel, Under the Surface by Tom Wilber

By Michael J. McGandy

A couple of months ago I was recording a segment for “1869: The Cornell University Press Podcast” and our marketing director, Martyn Beeny, asked me what I meant when I talked about “smart books.” I had used the term in association with the sort of titles I wanted to acquire for our new regional trade imprint, Three Hills. “Smart” sounded like a good word, even a smart word, but what did I mean by it?

I paused, and audibly gulped. (You can listen here; the gulp comes at 2:06.) While I pulled myself together and said something about books that were “well-researched,” “informed,” “fair,” and “searching”—all good words, too—the truth was that I was not sure what I meant when I used the term “smart.” I felt that I knew what a smart book was but, when asked by Martyn, I realized I did not have a handle on what was obviously an intuitive feel for the sort of title I wanted to sign for the imprint.

A lot of work in publishing is, in fact, done by feel and intuition. That is part of the peril and fun of what we acquisitions editors do when we make judgments about quality and determine what we want to publish. Yet my failure to be articulate on this topic bothered me, and so I thought more on it. I use the term most often when I am talking about my trade and academic-trade titles—books that are meant to appeal to broader audiences—and that sense of readership plays into the concept of smart that, after some reflection, I struck upon. Continue reading “Outbox: Smart Books”

Outbox: Smart Books