The Series Editor’s View: Or, What Hakluyt Society Series Editors Do

What do Hakluyt Society Series Editors do? On this blog, editors of individual volumes regularly speak about the books published in the Publications of the Hakluyt Society series. Less well-known are the sustained efforts made by the Society’s series editors during the long gestation process of a volume from the proposal stage to being guided into print. The Society currently benefits from the excellent, voluntary labour of two Honorary Joint Series Editors, Professor Joyce Lorimer and Dr Gloria Clifton. In this post, the latter shines her light on her work as a series editor and in particular the experience of overseeing the recent publication of Joseph Banks, Iceland and the North Atlantic, 1772-1820.

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When and how did you become Hakluyt Society Series Editor?

I first became a series editor in 2008, after about a year’s apprenticeship as an assistant editor, in which I took on the role of preparing the report for Council on progress with volumes. I already had some experience as an editor of some of the catalogues published by the National Maritime Museum, where I was a curator. Since then I have edited the Society’s annual lectures and worked closely with volume editors in preparing travel accounts for publication. I focus on the 18th to 20th centuries, while my fellow series editor, Professor Joyce Lorimer, concentrates on earlier periods. So far the published volumes for which I have been solely responsible are the two volumes of Australia Circumnavigated edited by Kenneth Morgan (2015) and Anna Agnarsdottir ‘s Sir Joseph Banks, Iceland and the North Atlantic, 1772-1820 (2016).

What does the Hakluyt Society Series Editor do? 

The role of Hakluyt Society series editors may seem a bit of a mystery. Why are they needed in addition to the editors of individual volumes? Briefly, series editors try to put themselves in the place of readers. They read the final draft text and ask questions of the volume editor if they find anything they think is not clear, or if they notice any inconsistencies. They check that text, notes and references are presented in a standard format, as well as that all the maps and illustrations are of reasonable quality and are listed at the start of the book. If a work has been translated into English, they try to ensure that the translation reflects the flavour of the original, while securing a readable text. Beyond their responsibility to readers the series editors also check that copyright permissions have been secured.

Did the Sir Joseph Banks, Iceland and the North Atlantic raise any particular problems?

Most of the problems with presenting this material had to be faced by the volume editor, such as the difficulty of reading Banks’s handwriting – especially as he grew older – and translating the letters he received from a number of other languages into English. Help had to be found for some of these. As the foreign language letters were in a minority the series editor agreed that the original text as well as the translation should be given, so that readers with a knowledge of other languages could check for themselves. The series editor was also involved in deciding how best to present Banks’s statistical material. One difficulty for which there was no easy answer was the size of the volume, at around 700 pages in all. The material could not easily be divided logically into two similar-sized volumes and it really did belong together. We trust that our members, who have been sent the Banks volume last month, will agree.


Gloria Clifton is Honorary Joint Series Editor of the Hakluyt Society, Emeritus Curator of the National Maritime Museum, and former head of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. She is an Individual Member of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and editor of Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851 (1995), and Treasures of the National Maritime Museum (2009, with Nigel Rigby). She is also the author of Professionalism, patronage, and public service in Victorian London: the staff of the Metropolitan Board of Works, 1856-1889 (1992).

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