When UCL Press sent out its first, tentative call for proposals in early 2014 – a completely new university press operating a brave open access business model – I could not have been more surprised when Lisa Jardine emailed me, about ten minutes after the call went to all staff desks, to say she had a complete manuscript she wanted to publish with us. Of course, I was aware that theCentre for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL), of which she was the director, was at UCL, and I had hoped at some future date to meet her. But never in my wildest dreams did I think that she would publish something with us.
Her reasons for choosing UCL Press were that she wanted to give something back to UCL, which had given CELL a home when it was transferred from Queen Mary, University of London in 2012, and that she actively wanted to demonstrate her support for open access publishing. Her choice sent a clear message – she was interested not in royalties but in readership, and she believed that scholarly research should, morally, be made available to all for free. It was a brave move, and it kick-started UCL Press in a way that few other scholars could have done.
The Press has since gone on to receive well over 100 book proposals in just over a year – I wonder if that would have been the case if she hadn’t chosen to publish with us. It was a pleasure to work with her – she was frank, charming, receptive to queries and suggestions, and professional to the end. During the course of production of the book she told me that she might not be as fast at proof checking or responding to queries as she normally was because she was having treatment for cancer – she never did miss a deadline. But by that time we had set the date for the official launch party of UCL Press at which she was due to speak as our inaugural author. I wondered if she would be well enough to make it but she assured me that she wouldn’t miss it for the world and that she had scheduled other arrangements around it to ensure she could come. And she did make it, and spoke passionately to a crowded room about her belief in the rights of everyone to have free access to scholarly research outputs. She even had cupcakes made specially for the guests, with the title of her book iced on them:Temptation in the Archives.
The book, about Anglo-Dutch relations, received a glowing review in THE, in which the Dutch scholar Henriette Louwerse praised Jardine’s ‘delicious storytelling’, and highlighted the ‘refreshingly personal’ way that Jardine ‘describes the process of archive work not simply the outcome.’ We feel immensely privileged to have worked with Lisa, to have had her support in UCL Press’s early days, and we pass on our sincerest condolences to her family.
Lara Speicher, Publishing Manager, UCL Press