Books have had a major impact on modern history. Books archive a reasoned position to which later generations can return. No matter how a book is received in its time, it is a touchstone that represents a summation of what was, in some cases, a lifetime of research. A serious book with cogent arguments remains as a silent witness long after its author’s lifetime. It is therefore not surprising that when Christian Reconstruction challenged some basic tenets of modern evangelical thought, the necessity of publishing books was immediately addressed.
At first our books were published through established publishing houses. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company published the works of my father, Rousas John Rushdoony, from the late1950s to the early 1970s.1 Later, in the 1970s, Thoburn Press of Fairfax, Virginia, produced a number of titles in paperback editions. A problem soon arose as my father was writing books faster than they could be published and, as a printing sold out, it became financially impossible to keep them in print. As a result, my parents started a non-profit publishing company in 1976 named Ross House Books.2 Its name came from Dorothy Rushdoony’s maiden name, as recognition of her years of labor on my father’s books. Until the early 1990s, she was almost solely responsible for getting my father’s manuscripts ready for publication.
As I write, one of Chalcedon’s biggest projects is undergoing its final proofreading. Faith and Action is a three-volume, 1,604-page complete anthology of all my father’s Chalcedon Report articles, with 183 pages of indexes. These are the essays which gave impetus to the Christian Reconstruction movement. It has been a huge project, one we undertook three years ago. Some of you donated to this project at the time and are still awaiting its completion. In order for you to understand why such projects take so long, I would like to describe some of what goes into publishing a book.
Most new manuscripts go to a publisher as a digital Word file. My father’s manuscripts, on the other hand, were all handwritten, so each one had to be typed into a digital format. Moreover, older books had to be converted from a typeset edition to Word. In the case of anthologies, such as A Word in Season (2010–2016), Good Morning, Friends! (2017), An Informed Faith (2017) and the forthcoming Faith and Action, the essays had to be read and organized by a general editor as to general subject, then divided among volumes so none would be too large.
The manuscript is still a “rough” draft even after it is in a digital format, so one or more proofreadings take place. Even previously published material is often filled with typographical or transcription errors that were never caught. The format of quotes and footnotes has to be checked for consistency, as well as the spelling of names. Dates must be checked. This is often where editorial questions arise if the proofreader is uncertain of what the author is saying or believes the reader could be confused. A single errant word or punctuation mark can change the meaning of an entire paragraph. Any editorial changes must be checked against the original manuscript or presented to the author for approval. I personally approve all changes made to my father’s work, which are typically minimal. In one case, however, I found the original printing and subsequent reprints had skipped lines of the original manuscript. As we all know, “spellcheck” is not always an author’s best friend, particularly when words with very specific, technical meaning are changed.
Typesetting is the formatting of a document to the fonts and visual style of the book. Before 1980 this was strictly the provenance of specialist typesetting companies with expensive equipment. It was only in the mid-1980s that desktop computers were able to typeset documents, and then it was several years before the quality was suitable for book publishing. The developed technology now allows the small publisher to work directly with the large book printers. Except on our largest anthologies, Chalcedon does its typesetting in-house. Chris Ortiz has done most of our typesetting for some years.
Typesetting changes the digital files, so another round of proofreading takes place. Because a typeset page has a different format than the Word document, it is a second opportunity for errors to be caught. It requires a good eye to see the difference between a standard comma and an italicized one! More substantial mistakes can actually enter at this stage, however. Section headings will have a font distinct from the text, and page headings (for left or right-facing pages) must be correct to each chapter. Once again, each footnote and quotation must be checked. Once the typesetter makes the corrections, they are rechecked by the proofreader. Susan Burns has been doing the bulk of Chalcedon’s proofreading in recent years.
Most of our books are indexed. This is itself a huge undertaking. How long would it take you to carefully read the 1,604 pages of Faith and Action? To that one must add the task of flagging words to index. That, however, is the easy part. The art of indexing involves indexing the ideas and concepts involved without superfluous references to words used repetitively. My father’s works brings many ideas and references to bear on any given topic. Few books today are indexed, but we publish books as enduring resources and indexing greatly facilitates a book’s utility as a reference.
In the early days, indexing was done on slips of paper that were then arranged in alphabetical order on a table, then typed up. Some of our early indexes were far from adequate, so for our anthologies we had very extensive indexes professionally prepared by a Reconstructionist couple, Kyle and Shelby Shepherd (Kyle has also done the typesetting on the large anthologies).
But then, after the indexing, yet another proofreading must take place. Each reference must be checked as to the accuracy of the page number, and textual reference. Every Scripture passage must be checked for relevance as well. It is easy for Psalm 11:3 inadvertently to be changed to Psalm 113, or Isaiah 13:19 to 3:19. After each proofreading, the corrections must be entered before the next step is begun. Changes made after typesetting must be done with care, lest pagination be affected.
Once the “final version” is produced by the typesetter, we try to have a fresh set of eyes look at the text. Emily Rouse usually performs this function. She earned this job some years ago by being the first to point out errors in newly published books. Her final proofreading can take one of two forms. For some smaller books without many quotes, footnotes, Scripture references, or other technical details, I ask her to do a format check, where she looks for inconsistent fonts, margins, spacing, italics, etc. In the case of Faith and Action, an important archive of historically and theologically important work, I asked her to do a complete and careful proofreading of all 1,604 pages. The time it takes us to “start over” with a new proofreading is frustrating, but the importance of this work, I believe, warrants the care.
My father did not buy a book because it had a nice cover, and for the sake of simplicity and cost savings, began publishing Ross House titles without them after 1976. An attractive cover does not make a book any better, but it does make a statement about the respect in which the publisher holds its content; the presentation speaks to how the contents are valued. You can tell the age of our editions by the quality of the cover art. For the last twenty years we have been having our covers professionally designed, most by Chris Ortiz.
It is a happy day when a book project is finally delivered to the printer and an even happier one when 8–12 weeks later the books arrive at our offices. When my father passed away in 2001 I was (and am) humbled and intimidated by the responsibilities I inherited. One of my first comforts was the realization that if I did nothing but keep his written work alive, I could be doing something of lasting value.
Print on Demand
It is not economical to print less than about 3,000 books by a conventional print run. This represents a large capital investment in inventory (and warehousing) for books that do not sell in large quantities. In the late 1990s, while I was waiting in a doctor’s office, I happened on a very brief magazine article about a revolutionary way of printing books called “print on demand” technology. The files were stored digitally, and any quantity of books could be printed and bound, even a single copy (think of a computer attached to a very advanced copy machine). I borrowed the article and researched the references. This technology now allows us to keep books that sell few copies in print, a godsend to a small publisher.
If you like to read digital books, Chalcedon has many available. Digital books allow you to carry a library on a tablet reader. Moreover, the digital files are easily searched. Jill Rouse has created dozens of our titles in digital editions that are compatible with most e-Book formats. You can find them from your device’s app or store.
The time it takes to produce books is frustrating. It strains our small staff, already working on other deadlines. Sometimes one book project must be shelved while another is given priority, and the printing of a book is always a strain on our limited budget. Such struggles, however, are part of life and part of Chalcedon’s effort to give Christian Reconstruction as large a footprint as possible. We believe in the victory of the Kingdom of our God and His Christ and, while our work is at times frustrating and our progress painfully slow, we pray it will be used in the service of that Kingdom beyond our time and place. Your support to such ongoing, behind the scenes work is greatly appreciated.
1. Some were published by Craig Press, a publishing arm of Presbyterian and Reformed. The single exception to these two related firms was The Politics of Pornography (since retitled Noble Savages), which was published by Arlington House in 1974.
2. Ross House Books was absorbed by Chalcedon as a subsidiary in 2004. In 2008 Chalcedon created another publishing imprint for novels and educational materials, Storehouse Press®.