Musings

Robert Cotner, Editor


S

omeone asked me recently what I did for a living. I said, "I edit a journal." "What journal?" he asked. "The Caxtonian," I replied. "Does it pay well?" he asked, somewhat nosily, I thought. "It doesn't pay anything," I answered. "I thought you said you did this for a living?" he said, becoming a bit surly. "For living, I edit the Caxtonian. For earning, I work elsewhere," I countered. "Oh," he said as he turned to leave, unimpressed.

So it is and so it has been for the past 10 years. Every month a major portion of my life revolves around the question, "What shall I feature in the Caxtonian next month?" And I'm happy to report, I've never come up short. For ten years, once a month, before the 10th of the month, almost always, Caxton Club members, subscribers, and friends have had a copy of the Caxtonian in the mail.

I usually work two or three issues ahead of deadline. Currently, for example, I just finished reading the fourth volume of Carl Sandburg's six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. I'll finish the remaining two volumes within a month and then read a more current biography of Lincoln and a new biography of Carl Sandburg. This fall, we will take the grandchildren to Lincoln's New Salem and Springfield for a weekend of Lincoln study. And in February 2004, I plan a Lincoln issue.

But the Caxtonian is not my publication; it's ours! And in almost every issue there are two, three, or four feature stories by Caxtonians and other book lovers. Working with the writers who so faithfully submit intelligent, diversely original stories is the finest of pleasures. Weaving the various unsolicited articles into some cohesive form, issue to issue, is the greatest challenge. Sometimes, it seems almost a mystery the ways things come together.

For example, take the September 2003 issue. Norma and I had sat with Sem Sutter at a Caxton dinner meeting four months ago, and I told him I had just finished reading Amos Elon's The Pity of It All. He said he was reading it as well, and that the University of Chicago, where he is a librarian, has a wonderful collection of printed items relating to Elon's study. "Why don't you give me a story with as many illustrations as you can provide, and I'll do something in "Musings" on Elon's book. We agreed. Then a month ago, Pierre Ferrand, our resident European scholar, sent me the marvelous piece on Primo Levi, and thus, quite serendipitously, I had the lead story for Sem's and my plan, fulfilled in September.

It's very much like that in this living of mine: We have a coterie of friends who share from the lives of their own minds, and they send their writing to me. And I meet people frequently, as NJC and I carry on this bookish life of ours, and I'll say to them, "Write an article on that for the Caxtonian!" And they often will.

To all those scores of people who have shared so generously their writings with The Caxton Club, I say "Thank you!" There would be no monthly publication without them. I must thank, as well, Mike Braver, who has formatted each issue for ten years; Charlie Shields, who was my first copy editor until his illness; Carolyn Quattrocchi and my son Jon in St. Paul, our current copy editors; and our printers, River Street Press, who printed the first two years free of charge and who take a special interest in providing high quality printing with each issue.

"What's the response of the club to the Caxtonian?" you ask. A conversation, reported by Fred Kittle, overhead during a recent social hour before a Caxton dinner meeting, may suggest an answer to the question: The first Caxtonian said, "Can you believe that Bob Cotner puts the Caxtonian together single-handedly every month!" The second replied, "Oh, yeah?" The first continued, "Yeah, and without any pay! Can you believe that!" The second countered, "Really? I gotta have a drink!"

There is some indication that the Caxtonian is appreciated by many, from generous comments and incoming letters. One member wrote recently, "I've kept every copy received over the past many years." And we have both individuals and a foundation, who are annual donors to the publication. To them we are grateful.

The Caxtonian has, I believe, added to the intellectual lives of many people and provides a continuing link between people who love books. Thanks to The Caxton Club for providing the opportunity to edit this publication these ten years. Thanks, as well, to the Editorial Board and our Contributing Editors, who have important roles in the publication. I must thank Paul Gehl and Bob Karrow of the Newberry staff for providing generously of their time and the library's rich resources to illustrate the Caxtonian.

Thanks to one and all!


















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