It’s an odd thing to launch I book, I am discovering. There’s so much that happens under the surface of bringing them to fruition that it’s hard to know how to speak about them once they exist. They are such a temporal creation – a product of one’s former selves – with all their foibles etched onto the page. Do you speak on their behalf? Or try and let them speak for themselves?
Empire of Scholars was sent into the world in London last week (13 Jan 2014 in Senate House, Bloomsbury) and the launch went better than I had hoped. I had spent the morning submitting my British citizenship application and the afternoon dashing about trying to work out launch logistics, and found myself flustered, nervous and a bit overwhelmed when the event began.
It is always one of my fears with these type of things that no-one will show up. But I should not have worried. The room was totally packed out with people standing and sitting on the floor, and I could see folk from all the corners of my life visible around the table and propped against the walls. Peter Mandler (Cambridge) and Elleke Boehmer (Oxford) said very generous and substantive things, as did many members of the audience, and it was odd to hear myself spoken of in the third person.
I had purchased some decent wine and afterwards many people stayed late at the reception, meeting new people, and actually seeming to enjoy themselves. This I took as the best endorsement of all. After all – as the book itself tries to show – the business of scholarship is a communal and a collaborative one: the work of many minds and many unseen hands. And surely the reason that we produce these things in the first place is so that they might serve as part of a conversation with our colleagues, past, present and future.
I am not sure what the best way to send a book out into the world is, but for me at least it feels like some kind of big ritual like this was important.
Thanks to all those who came and if you email me now I’ll send you a 50% launch discount voucher which is valid until the end of January 2014.