Prepared on behalf of the Society’s Council
1. The Publication Process
The Sussex Record Society (a registered charity) was formed in 1901 in order to publish original manuscript source material for the history of Sussex, usually in either full text or calendar (detailed list) form. By its Centenary in 2001 it had achieved 85 volumes. In earlier years there was an emphasis on medieval and early modern sources (both ecclesiastical and civil), with particular attention being paid to material for Sussex held in the Public Record Office (now the National Archives). More recently, while early records remain an important quarry for volumes, modern sources have increasingly been published.
Today, the Society tries to publish one volume per year, from a range of sources which is as balanced in terms of subjects as the availability of suitable editors permits. Volumes usually have a print-run of not less than 450 (depending upon the prospects for external sales), which are issued to individual and institutional members, with a surplus available for sale. Where the subject is likely to interest members of another society, special offers may be made to its members. Early volumes remain in demand, and older volumes are currently being made available on the Society’s website.
The Council and Officers:
Management of the Society is in the hands of a Council of twelve annually-elected members (with officers), meeting three times a year. These are answerable to an Annual General Meeting of all members. Any Council member may assist with the preparation of a volume, but the officers who most commonly advise and work with individual editors are the Secretary, and Literary Director(s). It is the Council which decides on the suitability and ‘commissioning’ of proposed volumes (below), takes major decisions about them, monitors their progress, and decides on the sequence of publication.
The Proposal and Commissioning of Volumes:
There are two formal stages in the acceptance of a volume for publication, following initial informal discussions, and the submission of a paper outlining the editor’s intentions.
The first stage is the volume’s minuted acceptance by Council as ‘Proposed’. This constitutes an acknowledgement that the Society is interested in its publication, and would hope formally to commission the volume when there is evidence that work is sufficiently well advanced on an acceptable text. Depending on the other commitments of the editor, it can take between one and several years before a volume is commissioned.
The second stage is the formal ‘Commissioning’, which constitutes an undertaking by the Society to publish a text in its series, subject to the delivery of an acceptable final text, and to other factors such as the availability of sufficient funds. The year of publication cannot be stated at commissioning, since a number of factors may affect intended dates, including editorial delay, but as a rule of thumb (and without a formal undertaking to that effect) a volume will normally be published within five years of a final text being delivered.
Editors are found by a variety of means. Some are approached on behalf of the Society, but often it is the potential editor who approaches the Society with an idea in mind for a suitable volume. The Society welcomes all ideas, and is glad to offer preliminary informal discussion and advice. After this, it will request a paper to put before Council outlining what the editor intends. Council will want to be assured that the proposed text will be a coherent one which meets the Society’s criteria for publication, and that it will be of value as a tool for those researching the history of Sussex. It will also want to establish that the records to be dealt with are amenable to being published in the Society’s format, that the proposed text can be contained within a single volume, and that the editor has sufficient experience, expertise and knowledge to undertake a project of this kind.
Editors offering texts which may depart from the Society’s usual format (below) are invited to explain their reasons and to secure consent for this. Guidance and assistance will be offered as necessary during the process of editing, but while every effort will be made to resolve problems which may arise at this stage, the Society reserves the right to reject a text which fails to meet the standards or objectives which were anticipated.
The Society, which is non-profit making, meets all the publication and printing expenses of its volumes, sometimes aided by external grants. Editors are unpaid (though they may earn prestige), but certain costs (e.g. of photocopying) may be reimbursed provided that these are agreed in advance. The Society would not be viable without the public-spirited collaboration of its editors, to whom its gratitude is extended on behalf of the historians who will benefit from their work.
Texts published by the Society are the joint copyright of the Society and the editor concerned, unless otherwise agreed in advance. The Society reserves the right to publish the text in microform, electronic, or other format.
Since 1983 volumes have been published to a volume size of approximately 245 mm. x 170 mm. (a text ‘template’ is available for editors on request). Normally they contain title pages, an introduction (with editorial notes) of c. 30-40 pages, the principal text, and an index. The index may be compiled either by the editor or by a professional indexer, though in the latter case the close involvement of the editor is desirable. Illustrations may be included where appropriate, and an illustrated dust jacket is provided. The whole will normally run to some (300) pages, though individual volumes may have up to 50 pages more or less than this. It is suggested that intending editors have a look at recently-published Society volumes in order to get a better idea of what is sought. Potential difficulties with the Society’s constraints should be discussed in advance. More specific advice accompanies these preliminary notes.
Delivery of Text:
The Literary Director(s) will hope to see specimen pages of text as it progresses, in order to make sure that there are no potential problems on the horizon. Texts (except illustrations) are normally printed at present from the editor’s digital files, as supplied initially to the Secretary and then converted to the master computer used by the Society in order for final work on format, pagination, preliminary pages, etc. Even where the editor has worked to the Society’s page size, minor discrepancies occur between computers, and indexing by page should not be undertaken until a definitive printer’s text has been approved. Editors wishing to present a text in a different format are asked to discuss the matter at an early stage.
The finished volume is normally ‘launched’ at the Society’s Annual General Meeting in the Spring of the publication year, and in order to met this deadline, final texts need to be in the hands of the Secretary by the previous Autumn.