BMCR 2022.11.18

BMCR: Thirty Years After

This paper was first presented at BMCR’s 30th anniversary celebration in October 2022. Listen to a recording of the talk here.

So the story begins one evening in the fall of 1990 when I ran into Rick Hamilton when he was visiting my mother at Bryn Mawr Terrace nursing home, not far from where we now meet. “Hey,” he said, “I’ve got an idea. What we need is a new book review journal for Classics. It needs to be timely and quick, with concise reviews. It just takes way too long for book reviews to be written and get out. The books sometimes aren’t even still available for sale by the time the book review appears.”

I think it was that emphasis on timeliness that made me respond in, as near as I can remember, exactly these words. “Sounds like a great idea—and we can send the reviews out via e-mail.” Rick gave me a look. It’s important to realize that from that moment, everything else that has happened was carved immovably in the annals of fate. Everyone who is here for this celebration was doomed from that moment forward to be here, whether you knew it or not.

The idea made sense because Rick had founded Bryn Mawr Commentaries a decade earlier and perfected, in the world of desktop publishing, the cheap production, cheap reproduction, and cheap binding that let him sell commentaries to a book or a play of ancient literature for a buck apiece. The original idea for BMCR was we would produce half a dozen of those fascicles per year. We’d sell them for $0.50 apiece, something like that, and distribute them as widely and rapidly as we could to our professional colleagues.

Things progressed. We got to the point of putting together the first issue of Bryn Mawr Classical Review by rushing around to a group of our friends and saying, “Hey, have you read anything new lately? Sit down, write a review of it. Just something soon, quick. We want to prime the pump.” Our first pump priming fascicle was ready to go on November 26th, 1990, the end of Thanksgiving weekend. The workflow as we now call it consisted of Rick’s putting together the Word file, with all the frustrations in those days of getting the camera-ready copy exactly right. Then he would print the camera-ready copy and take it to the copy shop on Lancaster Pike and hand me the file to go away with for what I remember as several hours of laborious work. Microsoft Word didn’t have a “save-as-text” feature in those days. So I turned the printable text into all ASCII e-mail text. That meant taking Greek text quoted in a review and turning it into TLG Beta Code. I like to claim that I soon held the record for the fastest ability to translate formatted Greek text into TLG beta code by touch typing.

When that was done, I took all the reviews, bundled them together, and started to send them to a very limited list of people who had responded to a posting I made on the Humanist list.[1] The next sound you heard was clattering and banging as e-mail boxes across the country crashed because the massive 250-kilobyte file that I was sending was too big for their quotas. We persisted. We were stubborn, which is not the same as smart. It was several issues later before it dawned on us that it was possible not to send out all the reviews at once, but to break them out and send them out one at a time. As you will hear elsewhere in this conference from Cliff Ando, that choice—made for practical operational rules of e-mail—turned out to be also a significant editorial choice, as it transformed the simultaneous publishing and reading by many of a given e-mail message into an academic and intellectual event.

Time passed. We got a few more people to write some reviews and we wrote off to some publishers asking for some books. The first indication I had that we were doing something a little out of the ordinary came in February of 1991 when the prescient Ann Okerson, then at the Association for Research Libraries in Washington, wrote to me out of the blue and said, “Hi, I’m tracking this new phenomenon of electronic publishing of journals on the Internet. I hear maybe you’re doing something like that. Should I put you on my list?” It turns out that Ann had brought together all the people who were talking about this sort of thing a few months earlier at a conference in late 1990, and she was aiming to grow her list in the course of 1991. She went on to publish the first printed directory ever of electronic journals.[2] It had a total of 27 titles in it. And here now all these years later, as near as we can tell, three of them are still publishing. Two of them are represented here at this Bryn Mawr Classical Review celebration; the other is called “DargonZine” and isn’t quite so scholarly as either BMCR or Postmodern Culture.[3]

But Ann’s message was the first thing that made me realize a genre was being born. There were other people doing what we’d been doing—people who knew more than we did. For a conference of the Society of Scholarly Publishers in May, Ann had me come down to the Doubletree Hotel (then a Hershey hotel?) on Broad Street in Philly to deliver a 15 minute presentation on what it was like publishing Bryn Mawr Classical Review. I did my 14 minutes and 59 seconds and looked around brightly, and I can still see the woman in dark clothing in the third row who had the first question. “So have you applied for and gotten an ISSN for your so-called journal?” At that moment, a great blank space opened in my mind, and I realized that in many important and material ways, we had no idea what we were doing, and I had no idea what I was talking about. We were just making stuff up as we went along.

Evidence is limited from that period, but by June of 1991, we reported that we had 176 e-mail subscribers. Even as the paper subscription list was growing to what would be eventually about 250, we continued to publish in both media. There was no way at the outset to archive what we had published, so we included a note that if anyone wanted back issues they wrote to[4] and I would mail out that 250K file again, warning you to clear out your mailbox first so that we didn’t go over quota. By 1992, Gopher was available and we put BMCR on the CCAT Gopher site at the University of Pennsylvania so I could stop mailing out “back issues”. In summer 1993, Mosaic, the first graphical Internet browser, was released to the amazement of nations, and we marched boldly forward by creating a flat, boring web page that consisted of a single set of links back to the Gopher site. (I also picked up a sideline as a humanist who had heard of the Internet and got flown around the country to give demonstrations of what a hyperlink was and how the “back” button on the browser worked.)

We were slow coming onto the web for reasons I’ll describe in a moment, but we also got some more attention. In late 1993 we had a message from Richard Ekman, the secretary of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York, asking if he and Professor Richard Quandt from Princeton could come down to Bryn Mawr and talk to us and hear about this electronic journal we were publishing. So they came down for an afternoon’s conversation and we told our story, a pretty practiced one by then. And when we had done so, one of our interlocutors said, “So this is really very interesting. Do you think you would be interested perhaps in applying for some financial support for your journal from the Mellon Foundation?” We were so committed to staying cheap and simple (and therefore sustainable and accessible) that Rick Hamilton’s answer to that question made perfect sense at the time. “Funding? What for?” Program officers of the Andrew W Mellon Foundation are not accustomed to getting that answer when they offer people the opportunity to apply for funds, so the conversation had to go on a while longer. We ended by agreeing that there were two important things we could do, one of which was work on getting Bryn Mawr Classical Review properly on the web and solving the problem of presenting formatted ancient Greek text in that medium. We were also such pioneers—or so all four of us thought—that we committed to providing a template, a kit, a training manual or something like that for other people who wanted to engage in this radically novel idea of an electronic journal. We got the grant.

God displays her sense of humor in a variety of ways. By the time we had actually made any progress on the grant, the assembled world had figured out how to publish electronic journals. The great commercial publishers were shoveling their content onto the Internet and charging a little—or a lot—extra for it. HighWire Press at the Stanford University Library was being formed as a refuge for academic publishers—learned societies, for example—that wanted to have a way of doing electronic journal publishing without doing all the work themselves or signing up with a giant commercial publisher. We went on doing all the work ourselves and always have.

As it happens, we were slow to bring Greek to the worldwide web and slow in fact to get a real website—more than our page linking to our Gopher site—though we had highly skilled collaborators helping us work on this.[5] As many classicists will remember, if it was possible in the mid-90s to do Greek pretty easily on a Macintosh, it was painfully difficult to do on a DOS-based computer, and the World Wide Web was a very difficult place in which to hope that you could present classical Greek text, fully formatted with dots and breathings and accents. It was 1998 before Unicode solved our problem for us, and with the help of Anne Mahoney at Tufts University, we got our first real responsible website in 1998.[6]

Anybody who has a website has updated it, upgraded it, and revised the technology repeatedly. We have done so once, about three years ago, and we’re in a stable and economically safe posture. The very modest direct costs we incur are supported by the very modest cash flow from Bryn Mawr commentary sales over the years. We are very proud to be not only ancient as e-journals go but also to be the oldest continuously-operating, fully Open Access academic journal in history. But OA isn’t free, even when it’s cheap, and it’s to Rick’s credit that the sustaining success—over forty years!—of the commentary series has made the review available to a wide audience.

For we have always been happy to have readers who are not classicists. Scholars in many other fields can now follow current work in our field through our reviews, and the enlightened general reader, to the extent that wondrous beast still exists, can easily subscribe—or see us on Twitter or the web—for free. Communicating to those wider audiences something of how interesting and innovative and important our profession’s work is surely does us all good. Our other commitment from early days is democratizing the reviewing community. We began, frankly, with a few chums, and Camilla MacKay’s numbers reported elsewhere at this conference will show that in the early days, reviewers from Bryn Mawr, Penn, the University of Washington, and the University of Michigan (in the singular energy of David Potter) are heavily represented. Our first step to broadening that pool was the creation of the first of our editorial boards, to advise on selecting reviewers as well as reviewing and editing the reviews received. But early on we also formed the practice of posting our “books received” with asterisks on titles that had not yet been placed and inviting qualified volunteers to offer their services. We have some criteria of professionalism defining whom we will accept as volunteers, but we have tried to err on the side of inclusiveness and generosity.[7]

By 1996 we have numbers that show we had still those 250 paper subscribers to the journal, but by then we had 2700 e-mail subscribers. This was a mix of BMCR-only subscribers, Bryn Mawr Medieval Review subscribers, and readers who subscribed to both journals under the rubric of Bryn Mawr Reviews. For in collaboration with the late Eugene Vance of the University of Washington, distinguished in the field of medieval Romance philology, we had founded the second journal, which began at UW, migrated to the Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University, and now flourishes at Indiana University as The Medieval Review, after 30 years editorship from Professor Deborah Deliyannis, who had the misfortune to have been my student at Penn, and who therefore found herself while still at Western Michigan University the custodian of the Bryn Mawr Medieval Review. Deborah took this up with a will and has made TMR a great success with a trickle of funding from the host universities. (Part of what we had imagined in the Mellon grant was that there would be a series of Bryn Mawr Reviews in different fields, all rolling up under the BMR rubric, but BMMR was the only instantiation to succeed.)

Those 2700 e-mail subscribers in 1996 have grown now to almost 10,000 today, receiving their regular mailings via MailChimp. If you were one of our earliest subscribers, I congratulate you. Your e-mail box since 1990 has seen the arrival of over 15,000 messages, almost all of them reviews or lists of books received and posted for review.

If we had known in 1990 where the fates had decreed we would go, we would—like all those ancient worthies given a glimpse of the future by the gods—have refused to believe it. Human beings don’t imagine very readily the calculus of numbers over time, and so the sheer quantity of what we have been able to do is still amazing. But it was the shift to the new medium, with its lack of physical restraints on number of pages and the like, that allowed us to be as ambitious as we could be in getting books and assigning books.

There are more stories and more heroes in our stories that we could tell, but the campfire here will begin to die down soon. Accordingly, I will offer a few reflections on how we got here, what we’ve done, and why it has made some sense.

First and foremost, it’s worth saying that Rick’s original idea was a really good traditional academic idea. He was right: there was a need for a new book review journal in classics. But the most important thing that happened after that night in the nursing home was that our colleagues responded so positively. We primed the pump with our chums’ contributions and at the same time wrote away to the standard academic publishers, saying, “Hello, please send free books.” To our delight, they sent us free books. Rick and I looked at each other and said, well, we should have thought of this a long time ago.

And there was an interesting differential story to tell. We wrote to Oxford University Press and promptly got back a large box of books; we wrote to Cambridge University Press and got back promptly a thin envelope saying sorry, no thanks. The months passed and in the fall of 1991, after we were almost a year in business, Oxford University Press came out with their annual classics catalog. We were delighted to see there that a whole bunch of OUP books they had sent us in that box had been reviewed by BMCR and were blurbed in the catalog, not by the name of the author of the review, but by the brand Bryn Mawr Classical Review. About two weeks later, a large box of books arrived from Cambridge University Press and we haven’t looked back.

I pause to say that memory fails me here, but as best as I can tell, we named the journal and chose the “brand” in a conversational exchange lasting somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds as one of us said, “What shall we call it?” The other one said, “Yeah, Bryn Mawr Classical Review” and the first one said, “Sounds good to me.” And we charged forward. I say that in recognition of larger corporate entities that spend millions of dollars on their branding exercises: we seem to have hit a good mark with a lot less than that expenditure.

We’re grateful to publishers all over the world for their contribution. We hope we have done them a service and they seem to agree. We’re also grateful that they have marched forward with us. For the first years, indeed, decades at Bryn Mawr Classical Review, the great cost and the great burden was the mountain of print books in the office down the hall and the student worker desperately wrapping, packaging, and schlepping them off to the post office to send them to the reviewers to whom we had assigned them. Now with publishers’ cooperation, we are able to post a list of books available for review and have the books sent directly from the publisher to the assigned reviewer. Everybody gets a smaller carbon footprint when you do that and the publisher sends out fewer books that just never get placed.

But we are also immensely grateful to and depend on our readers. The idea that there could be 10,000 subscribers to a classical scholarly book review journal was unimaginable in 1990. My lesson came in 1992, when I was talking to a distinguished librarian at the University of Chicago, Pat Swanson. I told her the BMCR story to that point, at which we didn’t have any real archive that a library could point to. She said, “So what are you doing about getting your journal into libraries?” And I said, “Well, it’s kind of hard. And besides, all of the people in classics know about us by now, so we’re good.” Pat gave me a look, and said, “You know, you have to understand libraries are there in large measure so that they can bring material to people that publishers never imagined might be interested, and to a wider audience than the immediate target that the writers and publishers were shooting for.” Quite true, and a good case not only for libraries but for open access.

I want to call attention also to another significant contributing factor to our success and to the value of what we have done. We have been living for the last 30 years through a golden age of classics. One way to measure that is look at the number of entries in the Database of Classical Bibliography AKA Marouzeau AKA L’Année Philologique and the increasingly bulging print volumes of the last thirty years. Ten years ago I visited several truly major classics libraries in the space of a few weeks and observed that the wear and tear on print volumes of Marouzeau dropped off markedly after the mid-90s when Dee Clayman of City University, New York, was able to produce the digital version that we now access online. There is no question that traditional humanities disciplines like ours are under stress of many kinds, but at the same time by measures of published output the work flourishes.

Remember, in the 1970s we classicists were desperate for books to teach in our classrooms. We would scramble over to the library for the annual issue of Classical World in which Judith Sebesta of South Dakota would scrape together what books there were. For at least a decade I taught a regular medieval Latin course, the textbook for which had to be the Oxford Book of Medieval Latin Verse because there was literally nothing else with range and coverage, nothing cheap, nothing readily available. When Julia Gaisser and I added Latin volumes to the Bryn Mawr Commentaries series, I was editor for the postclassical authors, and I’m proud of ones we included in that series, from Boethius to Hrotswitha to Erasmus. But that was a desperation strategy. Scholars Press had been founded in Missoula and moved to Chico and eventually on to Atlanta. It was a combine of the Society for Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, the American Philological Association and Harvard University’s Biblical and early Christian studies programs. They knew that the commercial world, the academic publishing world wasn’t going to take care of classics the way they should. Well, eventually times changed. Bolchazy Carducci, Aris and Phillips, and Bryn Mawr Commentaries were founded in respectively 1978, 1979, 1980. The Cambridge Green and Yellows are a little older, beginning with Webster’s Philoctetes in 1971, but by 1990 they had published in two decades 23 commentaries. Now they’re at 125 and burgeoning. These decades are also the years of the reinvigoration and reinvention under Zeph Stewart, Jeff Henderson, and Richard Thomas of the Loeb Classical Library and the creation by Jim Hankins and Jan Ziolkowski of the flourishing I Tatti and Dumbarton Oaks collections of Renaissance and medieval works, with translations for a wider audience. I don’t have ready numbers and measures for what has happened to commercial and academic publishing in the time, but if you go to the Society for Classical Studies meetings these days and visit the book displays, you will find a flood of books published in Europe and the United States in every branch of classical learning and reception. I might select as one mark of this renaissance the arrival of Ellen Bauerle at the University of Michigan Press to begin her long and distinguished run as acquiring editor for classics there—and express my gratitude to her for asking me to edit Recentiores, a series we ran for over a decade of works in the domain of postclassical Latin literature.

Scholars Press itself died in 1999, and the inexhaustible Jeff Rusten of Cornell was vice president for publications for the APA in those days who scrambled to get partnerships with Project Muse at Johns Hopkins (founded 1995, the year after JSTOR) and with Oxford University Press, as homes for TAPA and for the APA Monograph series, respectively. 10 years later, as vice president for publications of the APA myself, I had to make the decision with colleagues to shut down the APA Monograph series because, as worthy as the tiny number of volumes we were producing was, there was no demonstrable need for volunteer labor to produce books when the rest of the publishing business was doing so well.

BMCR has also flourished in part because we have been in the age of companions, handbooks and volumes of conference proceedings. Full credit to our colleague here, Camilla MacKay, who came aboard as a senior editor in 2007, for being the one who insisted that reviews of such volumes should include their full table of contents. As those kinds of volumes have become much more important in the production and promotion of classical scholarship, side by side with traditional peer reviewed journals, it has been our good fortune but also our opportunity to help those works to be reviewed thoughtfully and be made known to a wider audience.

Some puzzles remain.  Why do journals and journal articles not benefit from subsequent peer review and discussion when published?  And one glaring gap in what we do, which we have tried to surmount and never succeeded, is that we have not found a way to review digital-only online projects and products. We have made repeated efforts to round up individuals who will do reviews of the Database of Classical Bibliography, or Perseus, or Bernie Fischer’s marvelous visualizations of ancient Rome. We have been completely unsuccessful in that regard. Such is the persistence of what it is fashionable to call the fetishization of the book that it is still the case that scholars all over the world will jump at the chance to review something if they get a free book and, if they don’t get a free book, the opportunity is not as compelling.

So where do we go?

From here, this would not be me and it would not be me talking about the subject of contemporary developments in scholarship, publishing and communication, if I didn’t hark back to something I learned when I was 16 years old, reading a brand new book called Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan. The content of a new medium, McLuhan says, is always an old medium.[8] You invent motion pictures and the first thing you do is stand the camera up in front of people putting on a play and it takes most of a hundred years before that turns into the operatic strains of the music video. You invent digital publication, and the first thing we did was to take an old-fashioned thing, the book, and an old-fashioned practice, book reviewing, and shoveled it online in strict imitation of what had gone before. Whenever folks praise BMCR, I try to suppress my smile of satisfaction that we have gotten such credit for innovation by doing something quite old-fashioned. But that is the way of the world very often.

Of course, we can ask if the book has a future at all. I have tried to make these remarks as light on hot air as possible, so this is not the moment for me to do a little profsplaining. I recall a conference I was invited to in San Marino, on Monte Titano, in 1994, organized by Umberto Eco, who brought together about a dozen of us to explain to him in a conference what this newfangled thing called Hypertext was, and we were full of bright ideas. I gave a talk about Cassiodorus and hypertext in Late Antiquity. There were also hypertext fiction writers and scholars of hypertext fiction explaining how the way stories are told will change dramatically as we move into a world with hypertext choices you can make as you read. In his closing remarks, Eco invoked the scene in Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris where the cantankerous archdeacon holds up a copy of a newfangled (in his time) printed book against the façade of the great cathedral and asks, “Ceci tuera cela?” “Will this kill that?” Eco lifted, with some difficulty, his ten-pound laptop in one hand and a paperback book in the other and asked the same question. Notre Dame still stands, and the book isn’t dead yet.[9]

Go to a Barnes and Noble bookstore these days and look for the name of Colleen Hoover, of whom I had never heard until the New York Times discovered her a few weeks ago, ten years after she became a multi-millionaire. She has her own table down front with piles and piles of astonishingly traditional novels (frequent use of the f-word is the only noticeable innovation I could detect) in traditional format and traditional binding. No hypertext there.

The digital books of which the marketplace is so proud exemplify the McLuhan principle again. As your example, take Amazon’s Kindle, whose books are really a throwback to the papyrus scroll where you start at the beginning and you turn over and you turn over and you turn over and you get to the end. And you’re done. They are very poorly designed for the affordances of print books and the print and the codex manuscript, but claim the mantle of innovation for themselves.

We might just as well ask whether reading has a future? When I was very young, a friend of mine, now a very distinguished classical scholar, wrote in her graduation college yearbook, “I had a very happy childhood, which I mostly spent sitting around reading books.” Even then, half a century ago, I thought she was an admirable throwback. I walked around the Bryn Mawr campus today, wondering just how many of the young people I saw could say, “I had a very happy childhood. I spent it sitting around reading books.” I hope there are at least some, but on the other hand we all are flooded by other forms of textual and hypertextual information that make it just that much harder to devote ourselves to the traditional forms of reading. Shall we say that a world more devoted than ever to physical fitness is running consequently short of Sitzfleisch? We complain we are swamped; we complain of information overload.

And again, if I let these remarks venture into hot air, I could begin to speculate about what artificial intelligence might do. There are already systems that will summarize material presented to you for reading automatically. Will we come to a form in which we don’t read anymore, but artificial intelligence reads and summarizes and indexes and cites and footnotes, putting information instantaneously at our demand at the flick of a thought? Scholarship of the speed of thought was what one pioneer twenty-five years ago used to speak of. Is that the world we are heading towards?[10] As I say that, I realize that I could be putting myself in the same position as one very dead white male that we all know very well, who a very long time ago said that writing would destroy memory. And it’s certainly the case that he was right to a limited extent. Fewer people today probably know the entire Iliad by heart than there were when Plato (or the author of the Seventh Letter) wrote those words. Yes, certain kinds of reliance on memory have disappeared, yet we are all here together as academics because we have mastered the modern techniques of memory, we know what to put in our heads and what to depend on that will be outside our heads and how to find it. We know and we remember and we use the technologies of communication to deploy that memory arguably to greater effect than ever before. Will artificial intelligence wind up by destroying reading? I could only imagine saying so if I were content to be at least as wrong as Plato was.

But at the point where I begin comparing myself to Plato, I should probably be telling myself to compare myself to a Trappist monk and keep silence. It’s been a great pleasure remembering these years with you, a great pleasure to see old friends and new here in Bryn Mawr, and a great pleasure to imagine, however imperfectly, the future of Bryn Mawr Classical Review.



[1] Humanist, under the moderation of Willard McCarty, then at University of Toronto, was the place in the late 80s and the early 90s where humanities academics of many disciplines came together to talk digital shop, hear of new ideas, and the like. I had joined the list in the summer of 1989 when I got my first modem and the conversation there must have been part of what inspired the idea I blurted to Rick of sending things out via email. (I got that modem because I had been permitted to access a database of the 5-million word corpus of Augustine’s works on a mainframe at Villanova University. Doing this by dial-up was a cumbersome business but less so than the very limited access one had prior to that, which involved writing a paper letter to the Augustinus-Lexikon office in Würzburg with my requested searches and waiting a month or two for a big package of green bar computer paper to return. Now known as the Corpus Augustinianum Gissense, the database is naturally on the web.)

[2] A. Okerson et al., Directory of Electronic Journals, Newsletters, and Academic Discussion Lists (Washington, DC,  1991). The directory continued in updated editions until 1997 and then surrendered to the impossibility of maintenance when literally thousands of journals were acquiring e-avatars as the large commercial academic publishers came on stream.

[3] John Unsworth is wonderfully here to describe the prehistory and early history of PMC, which beat BMCR to the digital newsstands by about two months back in 1990. It was a pleasure at this conference to learn that the silent partner in their birth was the redoubtable Susan Nutter, director of libraries for thirty years at North Carolina State University, and an inspiration and friend to many who have worked in these vineyards. It is probably more than coincidence that John and I, along with John Wilkin and David Seaman from the early days of etexts at the University of Virginia, are all, as of the date of this conference, bearers of the title “University Librarian”, at UVa, ASU, Illinois, and Syracuse respectively. It is a profession that has been more welcoming of innovation and more innovative than many others that people our institutions.

[4] That address reflected my association with the Center for the Computer Analysis of Texts at Penn, which had been founded in the late 1970s or early 1980s by Robert Kraft, the renowned scholar of the Greek Septuagint. When I came to Penn in 1981, Bob had an “Ibycus Mini Computer”, about half the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, in a room in Duhring Wing, which managed access to the TLG Greek corpus and an odd assemblage of other texts. He had no idea where the complete Latin text of Gregory the Great’s Moralia in Job had come from, though I was delighted to see it, and Paradise Lost had snuck in as well. In 1985, David Packard released the Ibycus microcomputer (on an HP operating system) and for ten or fifteen years, Classics departments typically had one in the room where the department’s Greek typewriter used to sit. One faculty member, in our case the late Wesley Smith, would babysit it, resolve technical issues, and show graduate students how to use it. (Our other collective ancestor and a great hero of the nations was, of course, Ted Brunner of UC-Irvine, who had started work on the TLG in 1972. By cosmic good luck, he had a virtually complete corpus of classical Greek ready at the moment in 1984 when the Macintosh was first introduced, able to display formatted Greek text on its screen. I forget where the APA meeting was that year when a crowd of scholars, some of the generation that still hadn’t learned to type, crowded around a Mac showing TLG texts. The rush of classicists into the use of technology was triggered by that happy coincidence of events.)

[5] John Wilkin, whom I had met at the University of Virginia in 1992 when they were leading the nation in e-text work and who had then moved on to the University of Michigan, was our stalwart if sometimes frustrated colleague in this effort. John has just retired as University Librarian at Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is the new CEO of Lyrasis, the largest consortial service in the country for facilitating acquisition of digital library resources.

[6] I have always imagined envying the people who, at the dawn of writing, invented the individual letters of the alphabet so, though my claims to fame are few, I do relish the thought that it was I who persuaded the Unicode consortium to include lunate sigma, and not just medial and final sigmas, in their character set. I had to prove to them that there were real world use cases where on a single page of scholarly text it could be necessary to use all three sigma forms. It constitutes inventing a letter, in a very remote and modest way, one of the 40,000 or so now in Unicode.

[7] We have not gone back to trace the history of the internationalization of BMCR, but we were concerned for a long time that non-Anglophone books were thinly represented. And as Camilla MacKay’s piece shows, we have made considerable progress, progress we attribute in part to our decision to accept reviews in a few languages other than English.

[8] M. McLuhan, Understanding Media (New York 1964) 8.

[9] The papers of that conference appeared in G. Nunberg, ed., The Future of the Book (Berkeley 1996).

[10] “The world we are heading towards” was the title of a lecture my father took me to hear to on the campus of Texas Western College, as then was, in El Paso almost sixty years ago, given by Arnold Toynbee. He didn’t foresee digital communication.