As we move towards our new season of books (those publishing between March and August this year), we asked our acquiring editors to give us a little preview of their list. Here’s the third entry in the series, from Three Hills Editorial Director Michael McGandy.
On Saturday, April 27, Thomas Cole’s Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek will be previewed at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. The very same day as this exhibit unveiling in Cole’s New Studio building on the Cole property in Catskill, New York, Cornell University Press will be ready to share the art and text about Cole’s Catskill Creek series with the wider world in a book of the same title. This will be the first book on which I have worked that will have an opening event with masterpiece art hung on the walls and a party to celebrate, and I am reveling in the prospect of a kick-off gala featuring the visual art and artist as well as the masterful curator of the exhibit and author of the book.
On Sunday, May 19, just fifteen days after the exhibit opens to the general public, H. Daniel Peck will give his curator talk. I plan to be there and I look forward to Professor Peck’s reflections on the artistic and thematic connections among twelve paintings executed across two decades of Cole’s career. As I worked on the book manuscript what impressed me most was how Peck, John Guy Vassar, Jr. Professor Emeritus of English at Vassar College, looks to writerly story as well as painterly technique to link paintings as early as View Near Catskill (1828-29) and late as Settler’s Home in the Catskills (1842). There is a story behind Peck’s telling of Cole’s story that warrants telling, and I expect to hear some of that account on the evening of May 19.
That Sunday will also be a time to laud the contributions of Betsy Jacks, Director of Thomas Cole National Historic Site, and her staff, including Kate Menconeri, Curator, and Heather Paroubek, Manager of Visitor Engagement, who both contributed greatly to this volume. Indeed, I have learned not only that art books come with opening celebrations but that they require a team. The Cornell University Press staff who have been closely engaged with Thomas Cole’s Refrain—Karen Hwa, Senior Production Editor; Scott Levine, Art Director; Diana R. Silva, Senior Production Coordinator; and Cheryl Quimba, Publicity Manager—have found the members of the Cole House group to be models of professionalism and sources of creative insight into book editing and design. On May 19, I expect we will all raise a toast in praise of their work and the partnership between our two institutions as well as our joint collaboration with another co-sponsoring institution, the Hudson River Valley Museum.
Most satisfying for this editor will be the very public recognition and launching of the book with a focal event. As anyone who has written, edited, marketed, or in any way contributed to publishing a book, so much of the labor is behind the scenes. Once completed and when its publication date rolls around, most every book heads off into the world with typeset words of praise and quiet satisfaction to sit (one hopes, face-out) on a bookstore shelf to await a browser. Thomas Cole’s Refrain, by contrast, will have a party, indeed at least a couple of parties. And that makes me think that more books should have their own parties—to celebrate the work itself and all of those who brought it out into the world. Maybe book publishing can learn even more from the world of art and art curation: more parties; more celebrations; and more public toasts of authors and staff. My gratitude to the people at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, for the months of partnership and all the lessons learned, is immense!
Michael McGandy is Editorial Director for Three Hills, an imprint of Cornell University Press.