Thursday, February 03, 2011

'edited in content'

I like to keep an eye open for books that someone may recommend, and, if I like what I see, I generally skim a review or two, and maybe then open my public library web site to see whether I can borrow a copy. If the library holds the work, chances are it's not at my local branch and, maybe also, someone's already got it out. In either case I invoke the hold function and wait for email saying come get.

I did this recently and braved the melting ice and snow on a bike trip to retrieve my book.

It's on Ernest Shackleton's attempt to cross the Antarctic in 1915. There are many accounts of this adventure and many editions of the book which, duly charged, I clunked into the backpack and took off for the next leg of my trip (for some groceries).

The version of the book that the library coughed up was
Endurance: Shackleton's incredible voyage, Alfred Lansing (Wheaton, Ill., Tyndale House Publishers, 1999). Here's the cover.

On returning home I turned this over and began to read. A few pages in my eye caught the data on the back of the title page. This is where publishers generally put credits, rights information, the copyright statement, and various standard numbers. It's also where they put Cataloging in Publication data, if they happen to be registered with the Library of Congress and participate in that program.

CIP, as it's called, enables publishers to have their book given electronic cataloging prior to publication. This free service gives book jobbers, merchants like Amazon, libraries, and others an online bibliographic record for their use before the actual book comes to hand. Most publishers think this is a good idea because it increases their sales and costs them little effort or expenditure. All they have to do in return is print the data on the back of the title page. It looks like this (from a book I'm currently reading).

I've a professional interest in this process, since I used to be a cataloging manager at LOC and many of these CIP statements came from people who worked under my (easy-going) oversight. The records aren't signed but I can sometimes tell which of the 100 or so people who worked in my division created a given one.

I was a little nonplussed to see that the Shackleton book lacked CIP data. This rarely happens and almost never with a book you'd get from a public library, and, in fact, my library took its cataloging data not from the edition they let me have but rather from the McGraw Hill edition of 2006. Here's the relevant page from the edition I borrowed.

I couldn't fail to notice that it was not only CIP data that were absent. This edition, the publisher wanted me to know, had apparently been censored to remove unseemly statements, or, as they put it, "this work has been edited in content for a Christian audience."

I've never encountered this before. It must be unusual because a Google search turns up no instances of it or any discussion (that I noticed) of the practice of bowdlerizing books for Christian readers.

It would be interesting to see what's been changed from the original edition. I've no way of doing that, however, and, feeling a little put out by the notice, have put aside the library copy for return next time I'm out that way and have spent four bucks to order a used copy of the Carroll & Graf version from Better World Books. I'll have to wait a week or so, but it seems worth it so as (eventually) to be reading all the author's words as the original publisher printed them.

The cover of the book I've ordered looks like this.

There are some excellent photos from the expedition, including this one.

{source: Royal Geographical Society}

1 comment:

Brass Castle Arts said...

Kinda makes you wonder what had to be edited out which would shatter the morale or psyche of a Christian, doesn't it? There must have been an awful lot which they deemed unsuitable for a Christian audience in order to justify (if censorship can ever be justified) a whole 'nother edition. Once you've taken away all that, is there anything left of the story? It's too bad to insult Christians (and others) with so little intelligence.