Buenos Aires Publishing House
Book editing is one of the most delicate lines of the publishing work, and it requires an intellectual equipment second to none. In a certain sense, the intellectual equipment of the book editor must surpass that of the authors whose manuscripts he may be called to edit. The author's knowledge may be limited to the field on which he writes, but the book editor must know enough about a number of fields to be able to detect any mistake in any manuscript. In some cases, as in the editing of highly scientific works, the services of a specialist may be required.
If the book editor had been on the job, one recent book on religious conditions in Europe would not display the surprising mistake of putting in the mouth of a king of England the words that Henry the Fourth of France wrote to one of his companions: "Hang thyself, brave Crillon. We fought at Argues, and thou wast not there."
And I remember the occasion, a short time ago, when one book editor, rather young and new at the job, had the unpleasant experience of receiving from the field proof that a small book recently published under his supervision contained a miscalculation of an astronomical character. He refused to believe me at first when I explained the matter to him. That miscalculation had passed by me also in an article published in the paper. The author had assured us that he had had all his calculations checked by a mathematician, and his theory approved by an astronomer. Just the same, that error was there, and the publishing house decided to withdraw the book from circulation, and lost a thousand dollars on the deal.
Yes, a book editor has to know many things besides Bible doctrines and the teachings of the Testimonies. He has to be, as it were, a walking encyclopedia—just what we expect a good proofreader to be. And besides, the book editor must be a person of great tact, who puts all his knowledge at the disposition of the author without letting him feel it at all. He needs a spirit of real self-denial, to put his best on another man's work without expecting any recognition.
The book editor is not to dictate what must go in a book. His attitude must always be that of a colaborer. He must make suggestions with such tactful ability that the author will accept them. It is his duty to help the author achieve the "simplicity and ease" that the Spirit of prophecy recommends. Both should remember that "the matter should be prepared by more than one or two minds, that it may not bear the stamp of anyone's peculiarities."—"Testimonies," Vol. II, p. 671.
By virtue of his training, the book editor will exercise special care to detect any deviation from orthodox doctrine. Of course, his keen eye will notice any incorrect word, or any defect of syntax or grammar, but more important than all that will be his ability to detect any undercurrent of thought that might lead the reader to erroneous conclusions on vital points. The book editor must have vision and imagination, and be able to reason from cause to effect and make deductions and inductions. He can never take a manuscript, read it casually, make his corrections in style and grammar, and call it done. He has to penetrate the inner meaning of every phrase to get to the real thought of the author. He must be sure that he understands everything that is said. And all that must be done in a sympathetic way, not as one questioning the wisdom of this or that statement, but as one who really wants to cooperate.
I do not pretend to describe fully all the duties of a book editor in our large home-base publishing houses, because I am not familiar with their way of functioning. But allow me to say a few words about what we have to do as book editors in our smaller publishing louses, and in the mission fields. In most cases, the book editor must also be a translator. The controlling committee may feel impressed that such and such a book in English would be a good book for their field. Sometimes a few suggestions are made about needed adaptations, and the book editor-translator has to work them in as he goes on with the translation.
As the constituency increases, the need is felt for books produced by men who know intimately the conditions of the field, and who can write in the language of the country. It is better if they are natives of the country. And that is when the work of the book editor becomes important. I dare say that among our English-speaking constituencies there is such an abundance of writers that the reading committees can well afford to reject any manuscript that does not come up to the standard. In our case, in the mission fields, we cannot be so independent. Many a time a manuscript has been requested, but when it comes, it is very far from what we want. However, it is not rejected unless it is absolutely unsuitable. The book committee reads it, makes criticisms, and leaves to the book editor the task of carrying them out in cooperation with the author. In some instances, the book editor has to practically rewrite the entire manuscript.
Whatever may be the source of the books we produce, whether they be original or translated, they have to be of high literary quality when they are finished. They must represent our denomination in a dignified way. I have always told my helpers, proofreaders, and copyists, that, because of the great pressure under which we generally work, I consider the possibility of three standards in our publications.
The first and easiest standard to attain is for our church publications that are strictly for our own people. This literature is to be presented in a style as clear as possible, and as free of mistakes as possible, but in it we may allow more leeway to the writers. We do not need to polish their expressions as carefully. We have to reduce the cost as much as we can; so if they send us typewritten copy, after making the necessary corrections, we often pass it on to the typesetters without recopying it.
The second standard applies to our missionary paper, the Watchman, and to our tracts. These publications are printed with the general public in mind, and we have to offer them in a better literary dress. The proofreading and the editing have to be done with more care. We must be sure that they present the truth faithfully and clearly, and with a suitable approach to the Catholic mind. The third and highest standard is the one applied to the preparation of books. For them,. I advocate the most meticulous care in every operation. If it is a book already published in another language, we must have the translating done by the ablest translator we can get. Then we will have his version carefully compared with the original and gone over by somebody who is an authority in the language of the country. We must especially keep an eye on adaptations to be made in order to suit the work to the field.
We all cooperate to maintain a high standard in our productions, so that they are rated as far superior to the general run of books in South America. The world recognizes this fact and praises our books. We are glad of it, but what makes us even happier is the fact that these books lead hundreds, even thousands, of people to a saving knowledge of the gospel. In order to obtain such a result, no effort is too painstaking.