I started at Boydell & Brewer as an editorial assistant in the US office in early 2012, working on Camden House and University of Rochester Press books. One of my primary responsibilities was what we called “reconciling”: after the copyeditor had finished with the book and the author had reviewed the edits, my job was to sift through all of the author’s corrections and accept or reject them.
The first project I remember working on is Hilary Brown’s Luise Gottsched the Translator. Scrolling through the manuscript page by page, determining what should be capitalized, what should be italicized, and whether the copyeditor’s edit did in fact change the author’s original meaning, I found myself drawn into the story of an eighteenth-century German woman, married to a prominent intellectual, who found an outlet for herself in translating over fifty volumes covering a range of topics.
Brown’s book is a recovery not only of the work of a woman writing and working in a male-dominated era but also of the practice of translation, which has historically been undervalued. Much like translators, editors also work behind the scenes to help an author reach a larger audience. The work of a good editor is almost invisible, enhancing the author’s writing without intruding. It’s a delicate balance. Perhaps it was because of this parallel that the story of an underappreciated female translator particularly spoke to me.
In the years since I worked on this project, we have changed our production process and we no long reconcile books in house. This saves time and eliminates redundancies in the system, allowing us greater control over the production schedule and freeing us up to publish more books each year—in short, it makes a lot of sense. But it also means that I spend less time these days paging through the fascinating volumes we publish.
For a variety of reasons, this past January I found myself finishing the reconciliation for one of our forthcoming titles, Marie Rolf’s translation and revised edition of Claude Debussy: A Critical Biography, by François Lesure. Rolf is a meticulous translator and editor and herself an accomplished Debussy scholar. She is always careful to preserve the meaning of the late Lesure, who was a colleague and close friend, but her revised English edition also makes many improvements to the original French edition, following up on ambiguous citations and streamlining the organization of the book to make it more accessible to readers.
It was a rare treat for me to spend several days working my way through this book, encountering in the marginal comments the back-and-forth between the translator and the copyeditor (who both always had the original author in mind). It is a reminder of the many hands involved in crafting what appears in the published book.