In my last couple of posts I began to describe how my edition of the Apocryphal Gospels came about. After having done the Apostolic Fathers in two volumes for the Loeb, I had decided never to do another translation project again. Too hard! But then, forgetting my decision, I thought it would be useful to have a Greek/Latin – English version of the early Christian non-canonical Gospels. And at the urging of the editor at Harvard, submitted a proposal also for the Loeb Classical Library. But the editorial board decided that they did not want to start publishing new editions of Christian texts in the series, since that would detract from its typical focus on Greek and Roman classics. And so I was now interested in a project without an publisher.
I should say – this may not be widely known – that most of the time a scholar writes a book, s/he does not know who will be publishing it, or even if *anyone* will be. This can be a source of real anxiety, especially for younger scholars who desperately need to get a book published in order to get a good teaching job or, if they have a job, in order to get tenure. But for a big project like this, I was not about to put in all the work – I knew it would be an enormous amount of work – without being assured of a publisher. So before beginning the project, I decided to secure a contract on the book.
Years, ago, Oxford University Press had told me that they would be willing to publish just about anything I write. At the time, they wanted to be my sole publisher – for scholarly monographs, textbooks, anthologies, and trade books. And for a number of years, we had that kind of relationship. But I eventually decided to try a different publisher for my trade books, and ended up with HarperOne (my first book with them was Misquoting Jesus). Oxford is a fantastic press – by far and away the largest university press in the world, more than four times as large as the next larges (Cambridge) and many times larger than others (Princeton, Harvard, UPenn, Chicago, and so on). They have a lot of muscle and publish and enormous range of books. But trade books are not their particular specialty. HarperOne publishes one kind of book: trade books. And so I decided years ago to publish my trade books with HarperOne – I’ve done six with them now – and all my other books with Oxford.
And so I approached Oxford with the idea of a bi-lingual edition (well, tri-lingual) edition of the “Apocryphal Gospels” and they were eager to do it. So I was set to go.
But then a thought occurred.
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