Celebrating 25 Years at Camden House

Passing the milestone of twenty-five years with Boydell & Brewer has been cause to reflect on my time with the company and what good fortune I have had to be employed here and to work for and alongside so many excellent colleagues—and with so many valued authors and editors on so many worthy books.

I had been with Camden House for almost four years when its owners, Jim Hardin and Gunther Holst, who had been professors of mine at the University of South Carolina, decided to sell the company to Boydell & Brewer, which was led at the time by its co-founder Richard Barber, and which had been distributing Camden House books since some years before I joined in 1994. I have fond memories of chauffeuring Richard around my hometown of Columbia, South Carolina in my little Toyota pickup when he made the trip over from England to finalize the purchase in late 1997. At that point I had to decide whether to move north to work in B&B’s US offices in Rochester, New York or stay in South Carolina and find a different job. Because I much enjoyed working for Camden House, which allowed me to make use of the knowledge I had gained earning two degrees in German, and because I had a good impression of Richard and B&B and would still be working with my mentor Jim Hardin, I was inclined to give B&B a try. My wife Jill was not particularly keen on moving to upstate New York—we had the area around Asheville, North Carolina in mind instead—but she too was game for something new, and said “I’ll give it a year!” (She ended up flourishing in a new career as a high-school biology teacher, and we have called the Empire State home ever since, first Scottsville, a suburb of Rochester, for four years and since 2003 the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains.)

Brett Sterling, author of Hermann Broch and Mass Hysteria (l) and Jim Walker (r)
Brett Sterling, author of Hermann Broch and Mass Hysteria (l) and Jim Walker (r)

We were warmly welcomed by the B&B US team and especially its US director at the time, the late Susan Dykstra-Poel, who made us feel very much at home in Rochester. In no time, Camden House was chugging along as an imprint of B&B rather than as a press in its own right.

Around that same time, late 1998/early 1999, I began attending academic conferences, although my title was Managing Editor and Jim Hardin was still serving as Editor-in-Chief of Camden House and acquiring most of the manuscripts. I began strings of attendance at the annual German Studies Association and the Modern Language Association conferences that have yet to be broken (except for COVID cancellations) since 1998. In 2000 I began traveling to the Conference of University Teachers of German conference in the UK (now the AGS, Association for German Studies), a streak I kept up until the mid-teens—and I still attend as often as I can, which has kept up our longstanding and strong connection with UK German Studies. Around the same time I added the American Literature Association conference to my schedule to bolster our American literature list. Gradually I assumed the acquisitions function. There have been many other conferences too, notably the Goethe Society of America’s Atkins Goethe conferences and the Duke (now Notre Dame) German-Jewish Workshop. It has been truly rewarding to meet face to face with so many authors, volume editors, and series editors with whom I work throughout the rest of the year via email and phone (and now Zoom!): in many cases I feel that the collegial, professional relationships that have developed are accompanied by real friendships, a very good feeling.

Jim Walker after the 2015 MVP Healthcare Twilight Criterium cycling race
Jim Walker after the 2015 MVP Healthcare Twilight Criterium cycling race

My chief aim in my job is to find the best book projects and assist their authors and editors to publish them in the best possible form. I believe that when well-conceived and clearly written, an academic book can work for a broader spectrum of readers than just expert scholars, and in doing so can open doors between the disciplines and subdisciplines and invite the budding scholar or the educated general reader or enthusiast in as well. I believe that such books are essential if what we call the humanities are to survive and even thrive. The feelings of accomplishment I experience from my efforts on and for our books, which are inseparable from a feeling of successful teamwork—both with our authors and editors and with my colleagues at Boydell & Brewer—make all the hard work worthwhile. I feel very lucky to have a job I love!

This guest post was written by Jim Walker, Camden House Editorial Director. Camden House is a world-leading publisher of academic books on German literature and culture, film and history. The imprint also encompasses a focus on American literary criticism and cultural history. More about Camden House can be found under our Imprints & Affiliates webpage.

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