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Meeting of the Harvard Bilingual Libraries

The first meeting of the newly minted Harvard Bilingual Libraries took place at Dumbarton Oaks on November 2. Director Jan Ziolkowski represented the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library and welcomed editors of the four other bilingual series published by Harvard University Press: Jeffrey Henderson and Richard Thomas of the Loeb Classical Library; James Hankins of the I Tatti Renaissance Library; Aviad Kleinberg of the Hackmey Hebrew Classical Library; and Sheldon Pollock of the Murty Classical Library of India. During the morning discussion, the editors shared strategies for tackling the unique editorial challenges posed by bilingual publications. Veteran bilingual series editors Ziolkowski, Henderson, Thomas, and Hankins offered advice to Kleinberg and Pollock, who are launching their respective series. They reflected on the circumstances that historically paved the way for their series, and identified factors that contribute to the continuing success of each. In the afternoon, the editors were joined by members of Harvard University Press. Director William Sisler, Editor-in-Chief Susan Boehmer, Executive Editor-at-Large Sharmila Sen, and Assistant Editor in the Humanities Ian Stevenson contributed valuable insights from the publisher’s perspective. They addressed questions and concerns outlined in the morning session, and helped formulate plans for branding and marketing the series individually and in tandem. A central theme was, predictably, how such series will translate to digital platforms.

The editors officially adopted the name “Harvard Bilingual Libraries” in an effort to make explicit what was only implicit until now, namely that Harvard University Press boasts an impressive and prestigious array of bilingual series. Their shared format, with the original language text on the left page, and a corresponding English translation on the right, is unusual in the book market. Conversation throughout the day often returned to the recognition that Harvard University Press produces high-quality bilingual editions with a deliberately long-range view. Their effect is cumulative over decades, as every new publication enhances the value of the series and its companions. As English is used more and more in teaching, translations are becoming essential to the survival of language-based humanities; the Harvard Bilingual Libraries cover a large portion of pre-modern literature, and thus constitute vitally important cultural capital. The strong sense of shared experience among the editors, along with their dedication to bilingual editions and the humanities, convinced the group that all five series stood to gain much from future exchanges and collaborations.

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