By Bruce McKinney
Book magazines, like some chemical elements, have half lives that tend to be short. The history of book collecting magazines is littered with high hopes and good intentions, none of which have ever saved a single publication from what Dylan Thomas has called "the dying of the light." Publishers, even those who read their history, are not troubled by the lottery odds of finding success in publishing for they, like Macbeth, have their moments upon the stage and thus achieve a certain immortality. In some sense there is no publisher's failure, only the audience's failure to appreciate. It takes a certain self confidence and bravado to undertake such an endeavor. One such man is Scott Brown, editor of Fine Books & Collections, a transformation of OP, short for Out-of-Print, which he started with Dee Stewart who has recently retired from the field. His new partner, Webb Howell, brings a publishing background, knowledge of the process and a personal interest in books to the next stage of this project.
The publication is much changed. Fine Books & Collections is now in color, the black and white issues under the name OP look a bit pale by comparison. Around the waistline it has gone from 36 to 48 pages giving the magazine added heft. It is an interesting effort well worth supporting.
I spoke with Scott by phone recently about the revised publication. He spoke of his continuing desire to make the publication timely and to be willing to tackle some of the larger issues in the collecting field. And he of late brought Nicholas Basbanes, the Twain, if not the Tolstoy, of book-related writing in as clean-up hitter, adding to what is already a skilled group of contributing writers. The revised publication now has a broader perspective, as the old and new names make clear. Here are some of the articles in the first issue of the revised publication:
Gently Mad by Nicholas Basbanes -- A reflection on the trinity of book collecting;
Fine Presses by Scott Brown -- Peter Koch explores the limits of publishing with ancient Greek texts;
Beyond the Basics by Joel Silver -- Leaf books take a page from history. Now we know about two books the bibliographers missed.
How I got Started -- Bill Fisher, Co-organizer of Pablo Neruda, 1904-2004: A Centennial Exhibition.