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Subject Areas and Publications

Module by: Lawrence McGill. E-mail the author

Few of the art and architectural history editors surveyed enjoy the luxury of focusing strictly on art and/or architectural history titles at their presses. Almost all cover additional subject areas as well, including classics, ancient-early modern history, archaeology, photography, design, fashion history, film, literature, new media, visual culture, urban studies, and museum studies. Some editors are also responsible for covering area studies such as East Asian studies and Latin American art and architecture.

Seven of the university presses represented in the survey employ additional editors who cover topics related to art and architectural history. In some cases, the division of responsibilities is by region, in others it reflects the volume of titles handled by the press in this area. One editor wrote, “One of my colleagues handles most museum co-publications, some new editions of our previous publications, and occasionally other books.” In all cases, though, the senior editor responsible for art and architectural history titles was the one who responded to the survey.

Art and architectural history accounts for widely varying portions of the total publication output at different presses. At four of the presses surveyed, art and architectural history titles accounted for 5 percent or less of the total titles published by the press in 2005. At the other end of the spectrum, there were three presses at which more than 20 percent of the titles published in 2005 were in the areas of art and architectural history (and related subjects). At four other presses, art and architectural history publications represented between 11 and 20 percent of their total output. (One press that is just beginning to publish in this area had no titles to report in 2005.)

In terms of absolute numbers of titles published, these eleven presses issued between 19 and 250 new titles apiece in art and architectural history during the past five years. Altogether, they accounted for a total of 938 titles in the field published over that period. Excluding Yale University Press, whose output in this field was double that of the second largest university publisher in this area, each of the other ten presses produced an average of 69 titles between 2000 and 2005, or about 14 titles per year.

Consistent with this historical average, these ten presses said that they expect to publish, in the aggregate, about 139 new titles in the field during 2006, or about 14 titles per press. Yale’s output is expected to remain at least the same as its historical average as well.

Most of these presses (7 of 11) said that they have become more active in publishing in this subject area over the past 10 years, while just one said that it had become less active. Similarly, five expect their press to become more active in this area over the next five years, while just two expect to become less active. Broadly speaking, this would seem to signal a continued commitment to publishing in the field of art and architectural history (and related areas) that scholars in the field might find reassuring. It should be noted, however, that the nature of the titles being published under the rubric of “art and architectural history and related subjects” may be undergoing some significant changes as well, which may or may not be in synch with current directions in scholarship. This is a question worthy of further study.

Of considerable concern to scholars in the field of art and architectural history is whether opportunities to publish single-author scholarly monographs (SASMs) are changing. (Trend data on the number of SASMs published at eight key university presses are presented in section 2 of this report, on page 16.) While art history editors were not asked to provide trend data on the publication of such titles at their presses, they did provide estimates of the percentage of single-author monographs published at their press over the past three years. On average, editors reported that slightly more than half (54.5%) of the titles published in their areas over the past three years were single-author scholarly monographs. Across all eleven presses, the percentage of SASMs ranged from a low of 29% to a high of 90%.

About a quarter (24.5%) of the books published at these presses were classified as exhibition catalogues, 10% as edited volumes, 5% as “other books associated with museum projects,” and 3% as textbooks. Single-author scholarly monographs represented the largest category of titles published at seven university presses (accounting for a majority of titles published at six presses), while exhibition catalogues represented the largest category of titles published at four presses (including two at which exhibition catalogues represented more than half of their published output in art and architectural history over the past three years).

Another significant concern in circles of art history scholarship is whether publishing opportunities for younger scholars are changing. While some art history editors (in interviews) indicated that books based on dissertations are less likely to be accepted for publication than in the past, the survey respondents reported that nearly a quarter (23%) of all titles published in art history and related areas over the past three years were based on dissertations. Two presses indicated that 40% of the titles they published in this area were dissertation-related.

Similarly, editors reported that roughly one-third (32%) of the titles published in their areas over the past three years were “first books.” At two presses, at least 50 percent of the titles published were first books, while at two others at least 40% were first books. The range of responses to this question was quite large, however, from 6% of all titles at the low end to 60% on the high end.

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