On anniversaries, time, patience, perseverance, and publishing

On anniversaries, time, patience, perseverance, and publishing

By Christie Henry

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As Cicero wrote, “we truly can’t praise the love and pursuit of wisdom enough, since it allows a person to enjoy every stage of life free from worry.”

These same words of wisdom scale readily from an individual to an organization like PUP, as we navigate every stage of the book, and every stage of our life as a publisher. In October, we celebrate annually the opening of this Press in 1905; well over a century later, we retain the love and pursuit of wisdom that inspired PUP’s origins.

We also do our very best to enjoy a life free from worry. This has been a considerable challenge, especially so in our recent collective experiences. From COVID to the costs of climate change, from global supply chain disruption to government debacles throughout the world, from burnout to banned books, from Amazon’s shift in ordering to antagonistic algorithms in social media, our path toward a worry-free world has felt Sisyphean at times. But unlike Sisyphus, we’ve a team supporting each other in the mountainous climb, and bracing one another for the occasional rollback of the boulder. And we know in our hearts and minds that the love and pursuit of wisdom are far from futile.

That pursuit has taken us to new heights this year, as it has in every year since the Press’s founding. As I write, we have emerged from a weeklong collective break, among our efforts to sustain wellness and build resilience. We have just held our first European Advisory Board meeting since 2019, and have had the joy of doing so at 99 Banbury Road, our newly acquired and inspiring home in Oxford. We are celebrating our office in China in its fifth year; each of these global teams embodies and is an epicenter of our global mission. We have also relied on the patience that the I Ching counsels:

Even in the midst of danger there come intervals of peace when things go relatively well. If we possess enough inner strength, we shall take advantage of these intervals to fortify ourselves for renewed struggle. We must know how to enjoy the moment without being deflected from the goal, for perseverance is needed to remain victorious.

This is true in public life as well; it is not possible to achieve everything all at once. The height of wisdom is to allow people enough recreation to quicken pleasure in their work until the task is completed. Herein lies the secret of the whole hexagram…. while waiting, we are sure of our cause and therefore do not lose the serenity born of inner cheerfulness.

As we sustain our integrity through these challenging times, our inner cheerfulness has persevered—not individually at every moment, but again this is where we rely on each other. And in so doing, we nurture our strength and fortify our abilities to grow book to book, idea to idea. Among our pursuits this coming fiscal year are these:

  • Optimizing our staff-choice hybrid organization and ensuring connectivity, community, and belonging for all
  • Launching our inaugural all-staff reads program, with Ruha Benjamin’s Viral Justice and Mariana Alessandri’s Night Vision as the first two selections, and including conversations led by our Equity and Inclusion Committee
  • Animating more backlist intellectual property as part of a strategic initiative, including revitalizing the Bollingen Series (with ongoing support from the Scribner family) and turning up the volume on backlist audio
  • Investing in sustainability, including increased attention to manufacturing and our spaces of collaboration
  • Sharing our experience in marketing and sales in China with our first client press, the University of Chicago Press
  • Expanding press.princeton.edu with new functionalities in digital and audio
  • Continuing Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging investments, from Supporting Diverse Voices grants to new initiatives in neurodiversity and accessibility
  • Inhabiting the world of ideas with intention and impact—and books!

As anniversaries help remind us of what matters, so too do they help us reflect on our time. These initiatives, and all that we have yet to even imagine, entail time, patience, and collaboration. We are grateful to so many who entrust that collaboration to us and help us to enjoy every stage of this publishing life.

Christie Henry is the director of Princeton University Press.