Stuart Mitchner on Princeton University Press: “The University Publisher”

Stuart Mitchner has a very nice piece on Princeton University Press in the most recent issue of Princeton Magazine, which includes mention of several recent books and authors. To give you a feel, here is the introductory paragraph:

Princeton University Press celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005 with the publication of A Century in Books, which showcased 100 volumes that “best typify what has been most lasting, most defining, and most distinctive about our publishing,” according to the introduction by outgoing director Walter Lippincott, who was succeeded in March of that year by the current director Peter J. Dougherty. The co- chair of the search committee at the time was University Provost Christopher Eisgruber, the University’s newly installed twentieth president and the subject of this issue’s cover story. What the provost said about the new director eight years ago could be said by the president today, that he’s looking forward to working with Dougherty “to sustain the healthy relationship between the Press and the University.”

To illustrate the depth of the rest of Mitchner’s piece, here is a slideshow of the important books featured in the article:

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To read Mitchner’s full article in Princeton Magazine, click here.

A very Kafkaesque 130th birthday anniversary!

In case you haven’t looked at today’s Google Doodle yet, July 3rd marks the 130th birthday anniversary of novelist Franz Kafka. Kafka is the subject of a major three-part biography by Reiner Stach and translated by Shelley Frisch, the first two of which are just out this month from our fair Press (KAFKA: The Years of Insight and KAFKA: The Decisive Years, for those not already in the know).

In the commercial publishing world,  Peter Mendelsund came up with some stellar cover overhauls for many of Kafka’s works for Schocken Books, a division of Random House, including “The Trial,” “Amerika,” and “The Castle.” Here’s a fun birthday video they released for the anniversary, as part of what graphic artist Neil Gower aptly calls the “Tour de Franz“:

The birthday coverage has also been picked up by Michael Cavna of Washington Post‘s Comic Riffs blog, Mashable, PC Magazine, the Guardian, and the Toronto Star, among others. Over at the Christian Science Monitor, Katherine Jacobsen identifies a great quote from British poet W. H. Auden on the brilliant German-language writer:

Kafka is important because his predicament is the predicament of modern man.

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves, so in that spirit, happy birthday, Dr. Kafka!

Happy Father’s Day from #OddCouples

Father’s Day is upon us once more, which can mean only one thing: new eCards, this time for whoever you call “dad,” “old man,” “papa,” “pop,” “pa,” or even your favorite father-figure or head of household. We take our inspiration yet again from Daphne Fairbairn’s wonderful book Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom, which recently published on May 15th.

So go ahead and blog about, Tweet out, post to Facebook, and otherwise share these! Enjoy!

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Mulgan at the RSA: “I was struck that our debate had lost the capacity to ask how capitalism might evolve into something different”

In case you missed it, Geoff Mulgan, author of the recently published The Locust and the Bee, gave a truly excellent talk at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA) back in March and it has just been made available online!

You can also listen to a podcast of the full event including audience Q&A here.

Happy Mother’s Day from #OddCouples

This Mother’s Day, we’re offering up some cheeky eCards for you to share with the special women in your life—all inspired by Daphne Fairbairn’s fascinating book Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom, which publishes on May 15th. Trust us, human beings (yes, this includes Mom and Dad) won’t seem so strange once you’ve read about these other species!

Feel free to blog about, Tweet out, post to Facebook, and otherwise share these! Enjoy!

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Pope Francis and Through the Eye of a Needle

Since the ascension of Pope Francis, there has been much debate over the new pontiff’s concern for the poor, social justice, and his desire for a simple life. Executive Editor Rob Tempio sees this discussion as at the very heart of the debate within the Church over wealth between Augustine and the followers of Pelagius detailed in Peter Brown’s award-winning magnum opus, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550AD:

In his Palm Sunday homily to mark the start of Holy week, Pope Francis enjoined the faithful throngs to lead “simple lives” and reminded them that Christian joy isn’t to be found in “possessing lots of things.” He also relayed something his grandmother used to tell him in Argentina “burial shrouds don’t have pockets” or as he put “you can’t take it with you.” The sentiment in these admonitions echoes Jesus’s claim that no sooner could a rich man enter the gates of heaven, than a camel fit through the eye of a needle.

This teaching of Jesus’s was the centerpiece of a millennia-old internecine struggle within the early Christian Church over the renunciation of wealth. This struggle came to a head in the battle between Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine, and the followers of the British monk Pelagius who preached radical ideas about wealth and advocated its total renunciation as inimical to the Church’s true mission of ministering to the poor. Augustine eventually won this intellectual battle and the Church went on, following the fall of the Roman Empire, to become among the wealthiest institutions in all of Western Europe. This was thanks to, in no small part, the vast amount of alms and charitable donations it received from those seeking expiation for their sins and entry through the proverbial needle. However, the battle was won, or so it was argued, by accepting the wealth in order to better help the poor and those in need.

This struggle for the soul of Christianity and the role of wealth in the formation of the Catholic Church lies at the center of Peter Brown’s “magnificent” and “magisterial” panorama, Through the Eye of a Needle. With the installation of Pope Francis and his calls for people to reject the “consumer culture” of the modern world and to instead lead simple, austere lives–like that of his namesake–so as to refocus the church’s efforts on social justice for the downtrodden and the poverty-stricken, the time is ripe for a clearer understanding of the Church’s historically vexed relationship with wealth.

–Rob Tempio, Executive Editor and Group Publisher in the Humanities, @robtempio

Gary Whitehead reads from “A Glossary of Chickens”

The 2013 Princeton Poetry Festival was this past weekend, but thankfully you can enjoy this video of Gary Whitehead reading from his new collection in the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets, A Glossary of Chickens: Poems.

Thanks to Katherine Kim, one of Whitehead’s Tenafly High School English students, for recording the event. Happy viewing and happy weekend!

(Harlem) Shaking Up Italo Calvino

Our anxiously awaited Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985, masterfully translated by Martin McLaughlin and with an introduction by the inimitable Michael Wood, is still forthcoming. But in the meantime, writer João Chiodini has created a quirky little Harlem Shake-meme video featuring some of Calvino’s greatest hits. (The video features Portuguese editions, but you get the idea.)

Don’t forget to check out one of the letters from the Calvino collection in the latest issue of Harper’s.

Amy Binder on MSNBC’s “The Cycle”

Amy Binder, co-author with Kate Wood of Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives, was on the guest spot of MSNBC’s “The Cycle” to debunk myths about conservative undergraduates:

Looking Back at 2012 “Through the Eye of a Needle”

As we come to the end of the holiday season and are almost to the New Year, we take the time to reflect on the magnum opus of the historian of late antiquity Peter Brown: Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD.

2012 has seen reviews of Brown’s important book in the New Republic, the New York Review of Books, and in the UK in BBC History Magazine, The Guardian, The Literary Review, and The Times Literary Supplement, to list just a few.

Why the interest in how Christianity and conceptions of wealth changed over a period of a two hundred years a few millenia ago? With ongoing discussions about how much each of us owes society (whether we’re talking holiday gifts or taxes and the so-called fiscal cliff), the issues around giving and our beliefs couldn’t be more timely–and it certainly can’t hurt that Brown is the top scholar to draw connections between the ancient past and today. As Glen W. Bowersock writes in the New Republic:

It is exciting to watch a historian who has already written so extensively on Late Antiquity absorb so much new scholarship, revise his old reviews, and re-imagine the world we thought we knew from him. . . . Through the Eye of a Needle is a tremendous achievement, even for a scholar who has already achieved so much. Its range is as vast as its originality, and readers will find everywhere the kinds of memorable aperçus and turns of phrase for which its author is deservedly famous. . . . There can be no doubt that we are in the presence of a historian and teacher of genius.

In his piece “A Masterpiece on the Rise of Christianity” in the New York Review of Books, Garry Wills (who also selected the title as his book of the year in the Chicago Tribune) says:

To compare it with earlier surveys of this period is to move from the X-ray to the cinema….Every page is full of information and argument, and savoring one’s way through the book is an education. It is a privilege to live in an age that could produce such a masterpiece of the historical literature.

Writing in his five-star online review at Christianity Today, Peter Leithart affectionately calls the book “deliriously complicated,” and goes on to write:

As usual, Brown leaves no stone unturned in his search for insight and evidence. … He paints a colorful social setting for early church debates about theology and ethics without becoming reductively sociological, and often overturns accepted mytho-history in the process. He quietly draws on contemporary theory but typically lets ancients speak for themselves because his aim is to introduce us to an exotic world. Through it all, he focuses on the masses of details by treating attitudes, beliefs, and practices about wealth as a ‘stethoscope’ to hear the heartbeat of late Roman and early Christian civilization. … Brown has captured the rough texture of real history. It is testimony to the success of Brown’s subtle, provocative, and beautifully written book.

Across the pond, Tom Holland champions Peter Brown and the book in History Today, BBC History Magazine, and Twitter. In History Today, Holland calls Brown the “greatest living historian of late antiquity.” He goes on in BBC History Magazine:

Through the Eye of a Needle is the crowning masterpiece of Peter Brown, the great historian who virtually invented late antiquity as a periodisation. The book’s theme might seem specialised: the evolution of attitudes towards wealth in the last century and a half of the Roman empire in the west, and the century that followed its collapse. In reality, like so many of Brown’s books, it gives us a world vivid with colour and alive with a symphony of voices. It is not only the most compassionate study of late antiquity in the west ever written, but also a profoundly subtle meditation on our own tempestuous relationship with money.

Meanwhile, Peter Thornemann of the Times Literary Supplement calls it “[O]utstanding. . . . Brown lays before us a vast panorama of the entire culture and society of the late Roman west.” And at The Guardian, Tim Whitmarsh writes,”His sparkling prose, laced with humour and humanity, brings his subjects to life with an uncommon sympathy and feeling for their situation.”

Through the Eye of the Needle has also been selected as a best book of the year at the Institute of Public Affairs blog, among others. Doubtless, the interest in the origins of how society balances faith and finances will continue well into 2013 and we would do well to heed the fascinating lessons of Brown’s much-lauded work.

To learn more about the author and his latest book:


Through the Eye of a Needle
Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD
By Peter Brown

UVA Today writes “Poetry Encyclopedia Has Something for Everybody”

Sometimes the headline says it all! Anne E. Bromley wrote up this feature about the long-awaited Fourth Edition of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (PEPP), edited by an entirely new team of scholars under Editor in Chief Roland Greene.

The feature includes interviews with PEPP General Editor Stephen Cushman and Associate Editor Jahan Ramazani, both in the English Department at the University of Virginia.

If you’re on Facebook and are a fan of the new PEPP, make sure you check out (and “Like”) the Facebook page, where you can find this and other stories about the PEPP Fourth Edition.

Four PUP titles in LJ’s Best Sellers: Mathematics

Princeton University Press has four titles in the top ten of Library Journal’s most recent Best Sellers: Mathematics list! Elliptic Tales: Curves, Counting, and Number Theory by Avner Ash & Robert Gross comes in second place, followed closely by Fascinating Mathematical People: Interviews and Memoirs edited by Donald J. Albers & Gerald L. Alexanderson in third, Dana Mackenzie’s The Universe in Zero Words:The Story of Mathematics as Told through Equations in fifth, and Alexander Hahn’s Mathematical Excursions to the World’s Great Buildings in ninth. How’s that for a back to school special?