As part of CUP’s150th anniversary, current and former staff compiled a list of 150 of our most notable books. But one of the entries on this list is not a book at all—and is all the more significant for its differences. In 1942, Comstock Publishing began a partnership with the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell to produce our first record album—American Bird Songs. This unusual publication is in fact a set of six 78-rpm records that marked innovations in both scholarly publishing and ornithological study.
This may not have been the first record album to be issued by a university press—I confess I have not researched the matter exhaustively—but it is highly unlikely that there were any earlier university press–issued wildlife recordings. The debut of this album was also the first step in creating a new imprint at the press: the Cornell Records Division. Over the next two decades, Cornell Records and the Lab of Ornithology produced twelve albums of recordings of songbirds from the United States, Mexico, and Africa; frogs and toads; and insects. American Bird Songs included familiar blue jays and mourning doves, water birds like loons and whistling swans, marsh birds like bitterns and Wilson’s snipe, and a wide variety of warblers. Thousands of copies of this album were purchased by amateur bird lovers and professional ornithologists alike—and for students at camps and schools.
These recordings showcased the emerging field of wildlife recording, which was virtually invented at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology. In the late 1920s, Professor Arthur Allen produced the first recordings of birds made in the wild in North America. He worked with Peter Paul Kellogg, a graduate student, to develop the technologies to produce better recordings, including Kellogg’s concept of the first portable (under twenty pounds!) tape recorder for fieldwork. Peter Keane, an undergraduate student, came up with the concept of using a parabolic dish to isolate the sound of a particular bird. Albert R. Brand, a former stockbroker who became an adult student at Cornell, funded much of the early recording work and produced the first album of bird songs.
The Lab of Ornithology’s sound recording collection now includes tens of thousands of wildlife sounds and the lab continues its technological innovations. Cornell University Press and Comstock Publishing are proud to have played an early role in sharing their work with the world.
About the author of this blog post: Karen Laun is the self-proclaimed press historian and an enthusiast of all things old and dusty. In her spare time, she is a Senior Production Editor and also works in the ultramodern world of e-books as Digital Publishing Editor.
Gangs of Russia author Svetlana Stephenson wanted to become a sociologist after she read a collection of essays entitled American Sociology given to her by her father at the age of fifteen.
Growing up in Russia, she couldn’t obtain a degree in sociology from Moscow State University without having first worked in an industrial plant or for the party. So she studied history and later obtained a doctorate in sociology from the Russian Academy of Sciences.
“I consider myself a historical sociologist,” she said. “This was the time of Gorbachev. I got a job at the Russian center for public opinion and I was lucky to have it.” Continue reading “One Book at a Time”
Our goal for Giving Day is to raise $15,000 and open one of our new titles to the world. Your contribution will realize that dream.
Give the gift of reliable knowledge to everyone.
Cornell University Press has been publishing high-quality scholarship since 1869–rigorously edited and voraciously read all over the world in print and digital form.
Your gift on Cornell Giving Day (March 14th) will allow us to continue our experimentation with open access and give back to the world. We already have 150 open titles being accessed across the globe in 150 countries by thousands of people. With your support we’ll make it 151.
A Cornell book stimulates thinking otherwise. The more of our books that we open to the world the more we can change it through that stimulated thinking.
Our books help effect positive change in the world. Deadly River from our ILR Press imprint exposed the UN’s role in the cover up of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. The award-winning Violence as a Generative Force brought an unknown genocide in Bosnia into the light of day. Continue reading “Let’s Change the World”
At Cornell University Press, we strive to change how we think and act in the world, one book at a time. The world in question is sometimes the globe itself—for instance when we publish work on environmental policy and impacts that are not limited by borders. At other times, a book may pertain to key topics of history or politics in distant places such as Korea or Indonesia where geopolitics turns. And sometimes the subject matter is closer to home: New York State, the counties of the Southern Tier, and Ithaca.
Continue reading “150 Notable Books: In Our Own Backyard”
Because it’s our 150th anniversary and we’re excited about it, we’re offering a special deal for anyone who wishes to subscribe to our 1869 Book of the Month Club.
Starting in March, and running until the end of 2019, we’ll send you one new surprise book each month for just $15 each.
So, for $150 you get 10 front list books, shipped to you for free.
All you have to do is subscribe to the 1869 Book of the Month Club and send us your payment before March 15th. We’ll take care of the rest. We’ll even throw in a special little 150th anniversary gift from time to time throughout the year.That’s how excited we are, and how much we value our 1869 members.
For more details, email us.
(The 1869 Book Club is only available to subscribers in the US.)
As part of our celebrations of our 150th anniversary, we’ve compiled a series of short biographies of our esteemed directors. Here is the first entry, about the first director, in this series.
Daniel Willard Fiske, 1869–1871
Photo courtesy of the Cornell University Library Rare and Manuscript Collection
When Cornell University Press was established in 1869, the board of trustees appointed Daniel Willard Fiske (usually known as Willard Fiske) as its first director. Fiske’s background was well suited to running the press, he was already the university librarian and held a chair in North European languages at Cornell. Earlier in his career he was an assistant librarian at the Astor Library in New York City, founder of the Chess Monthly journal, editor of the Syracuse Journal, partner in a bookstore, and a former editor of the Hartford Courant in Connecticut.
University founder A. D. White and Fiske were boyhood friends and Fiske was an important adviser to White in the early stages of planning the university, which included plans for a university press from the beginning. Once the press was up and running, with student labor recruited and Benjamin Hermon Smith appointed as manager, White was not as closely involved. He was officially replaced as director by Smith in 1871 but kept a close watch over its affairs until his retirement in 1883.
My sister kindly gave me Becoming by Michelle Obama as a Christmas present, and I finished reading it on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Unsurprisingly, it really got me thinking…
Why do books matter?
Continue reading “Becoming by Michelle Obama (or why books matter to me)”