October 24, 2001: From the Editor

In the spring of 1988, PBS ran a series hosted by Bill Moyers called Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. The show introduced a wide audience to writer Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces, a book that takes shared elements from folklore and religious stories to imagine a composite, archetypal hero, and in so doing examines the psychological roots of human mythology. The series — still among PBS’s most popular — rekindled interest in Campbell’s 1949 book, which soon landed on the New York Times paperback bestseller list.

For its publisher, Princeton University Press, it was a heady moment, and one that caused both excitement and anxiety as the usually quiet academic press scurried to provide copies of what had been a backlisted scholarly title for a suddenly interested lay public.

The furor over Hero was another landmark event in the notable history of Princeton’s press, which grew up alongside PAW. In 1905, PAW’s first business manager, Whitney Darrow 1903, was looking for an easier — and cheaper — way to print the weekly newsletter. He paid a call on New York publishing magnate, Princeton trustee, and PAW supporter Charles Scribner 1875. Impressed by Darrow’s initiative, and interested in the idea of a printing plant that might evolve into a scholarly publishing house, Scribner gave Darrow $1,000 toward the project. With another $4,000 he was able to raise, Darrow bought a local printing business and set up shop in a rented space above a drugstore on Nassau Street.

Five years later, now based in the gracious new Scribner Building on William Street, the Press was incorporated, with Darrow as its first director, and in 1912 it published its first scholarly book, a collection of writings by former Princeton president John Witherspoon. In ensuing years the Press would publish such works as Albert Einstein’s The Meaning of Relativity and Edwin S. Corwin’s The Constitution and What It Means Today, as well as numerous Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners.

But it is the more recent history of the Press that is the focus of our cover story, which starts on page 18. In 1986, Walter Lippincott ’60 took over as director of the Press, and it soon became clear, as writer Ann Waldron learned, that the commotion over Joseph Campbell was only a harbinger of excitement, and controversy, to come. Lippincott has made no secret of his mission to put the Press on solid financial footing — at the expense of some cherished traditions. Who knows? Whitney Darrow might well be pleased.


Current Issue    Online Archives    Printed Issue Archives
Advertising Info    Reader Services    Search    Contact PAW    Your Class Secretary