Wednesday, September 26, 2007

BAR Highlights: 9/26/07

More recent archaeological news from Biblical Archaeology Review:

“Devil’s Bible” Returns to Prague

A medieval Bible copied by a monk and, according to legend, the Devil is on view in Prague thanks to a loan from Sweden. The manuscript was captured by Swedish troops in 1648, during the Thirty Years’ War.

Jordan Contributes to Temple Mount

The Hashemite Kingdom has announced it will contribute $1.5 million to reconstruction and preservation work for the Al Aqsa Mosque and other structures on the Mount.

Second Temple Quarry Found

Northwest of ancient Jerusalem, archaeologists have discovered the quarry they believe provided the huge stones used by King Herod’s builders when they expanded the Temple Mount. For additional photos, see

Egypt in the Negev
An Egyptian administrative building from the Late Bronze Age has been uncovered in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip. The excavators also revealed the remains of a seventh-century B.C. Philistine village.

Sale of Statuette Expected to Fetch Millions
The Guennol Lioness, a 5,000-year-old Mesopotamian statue, has been at the Brooklyn Museum of Art since 1948 but will be auctioned in December; proceeds will go to a charitable foundation.

Underwater Survey Yields Results
A project to map ancient shipwrecks has found a 2,400-year-old Greek vessel off the coast of Albania.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

YUP Acquires Anchor Bible Series: Part Deux

Just hours after I published my own happy reflections on Yale University Press' purchase of the Anchor Bible series, Charles Halton had the audacity to give a brief list of reasons "Why Anchor Yale Bible is Bad for Biblical Studies and the General Public"! Seriously... how dare he! ;-) His list (supplemented by a few initial comments of my own) is given below:

As a division of Random House, Doubleday had the biggest mass-market exposure of any publisher of biblical studies related books. Now that Yale owns the series, this exposure will probably dramatically decrease.
As a former employee of a major bookstore (I worked for Borders Books & Music for five years, the last year as an inventory manager), I don't think that Doubleday could have ever claimed "the biggest mass-market exposure of any publisher of biblical studies related books." That title probably belongs to HarperCollins, which not only boasts a large imprint dedicated entirely to religious and spiritual titles (HarperOne, formerly HarperSanFrancisco), but also has published some religious titles under its regular label. And as I stated in my first post on this subject (see below), what good are size and resources if they're not being utilized on behalf of your product? It's also important to note that many large bookstores now include titles from academic publishers in their regular backlists. Both of the Borders stores where I worked (in Louisville, KY) carried titles by Jaroslav Pelikan... titles published by YUP.

Anchor Yale Bible is a really bad name: its long, uncreative, and cumbersome–I guess the new acronym is going to be AYB which looks more like a fraternity than an academic series.

Well, I can't argue with this one. Frankly, I wish they would have simply retained the "Anchor Bible" name... or changed it to "Yale Bible" (which sounds nice, but would discard the name recognition of the original series). I guess if you make a deal like this, you should get to put your name on the marquee. ;-)

Yale has a much smaller pocketbook than Doubleday which might limit projects.
The smaller pocketbook is undeniable--but see my response to Halton's first point (and also my post below). I think it's safe to say that Anchor will be more important for the continued success of YUP than it was for that of Doubleday... and hopefully the product will reflect this fact.

Because of the prominence and wide reach of Anchor Bible (even popping up on Barnes and Noble shelves) the thoughtful reach of the field of biblical studies as a whole will shrink.
I certainly haven't shopped in every major bookstore in the country, but I've been in a large number of them, and I've never seen an Anchor Bible commentary on any of their shelves. (I have occasionally seen Anchor Bible Reference Library titles, such as John Meier's A Marginal Jew series and Raymond Brown's two-volume The Death of the Messiah, in both Borders and Barnes & Noble.) But again, if these bookstores already carry backlist from academic publishers, there's no reason why they would stop now... or why they wouldn't begin to carry additional titles, if YUP markets them aggressively and effectively.

YUP Acquires Anchor Bible Series

The ever-vigilant Jim West notes that Yale University Press and Anchor Doubleday have reached an agreement to transfer control of the acclaimed Anchor Bible series (consisting of the Anchor Bible commentary series, the Anchor Bible Reference Library, and the six-volume Anchor Bible Dictionary) from the latter to the former. Based on my experience in the bookstore world, I think that this could be a very positive development--both for YUP and for readers everywhere. YUP takes over a popular, well-established series that greatly enhances their presence in the biblical studies market; also, as a smaller academic publisher, they may be better equipped to give the series the attention it deserves. Over the past several years, many of the key commentaries (e.g., those of Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzmyer) have quietly gone out of print, with no immediate plans to republish. Doubleday lamely attempted to fill the gap by providing print-on-demand paperback editions of some older titles, but these were expensive and shoddily made. My copy of Joseph Fitzmyer's The Gospel According to Luke, I-IX (which we used in a Greek exegesis course with Prof. Adela Collins last semester) fell apart after just a few weeks. Hopefully YUP will reprint most, if not all, of these titles in the sturdy hardcover editions they--and we--deserve!

While I'm indulging in wishful thinking, it would be nice for YUP to borrow a few features from Hermeneia (Anchor Bible's major competitor in the scholarly commentary market), such as the use of actual Hebrew and Greek fonts rather than transliteration, and a larger layout. But I probably shouldn't get too greedy too fast. ;-)