SOLANUS – the East Wind blows again!

As most readers of this Newsletter will be aware, SOLANUS has played a very useful role as a focus for scholarly articles on a wide range of book studies relating to Russia and East-Central Europe since its foundation in1966. Its First Series, which began under the editorship of Robert Fulford of the then British Museum Library, began as a publication distinguished more by the quality of its content than by its physical appearance – a very slim work bearing the lengthy subtitle “Bulletin of the Sub-Committee on Slavonic and East European Materials of the Standing Committee on National and University Libraries (SCONUL)”. Twenty annual volumes of the First Series appeared (with Paul Fletcher of Glasgow University Library, John Screen of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies Library and Mike Gollop of the Brotherton Library in turn editing the journal in succession to Bob Fulford) before the journal was re-launched in 1987, this time subtitled “International journal for Russian & East European bibliographic, library & publishing studies”, under the editorship of Gregory Walker of the Bodleian Library.

A note in volume 20 had stated the SOLANUS Advisory Committee’s intention that the journal should, from volume 21, become “a more substantial scholarly publication with a more broadened coverage”, and the New Series (whose numbering began again from volume 1) was from the outset greatly enhanced from a typescript publication of 20 to 50 pages to a professionally-printed one of over (often well over) 100 pages, with a wider subject coverage and contributions from Eastern and Western Europe and the USA as well as “home-produced” articles. Christine Thomas of the British Library assumed the editor’s role from New Series, volume 3, in 1989, and continued until after the appearance of volume 21 in 2007. After Chris’s resignation a hiatus ensued – despite strenuous efforts on the part of the COSEELIS Committee to recruit a new editor, no-one could be found to take on the job … until, that is, I was cornered by Lesley Pitman during the 2009 COSEELIS Conference and reminded that, since I would be retiring soon from my post at Cambridge University Library, I might have some spare time on my hands!

Having agreed to succeed Chris, my first task was to assemble – or re-assemble – the Editorial Board. Several long-standing members of the Board decided at this point to step down, but I was fortunate in recruiting two new members: Janet Zmroczek of the British Library and Professor Simon Dixon of UCL SSEES. We also brought in several new members for the journal’s International Advisory Committee. The next question was, of course, could we attract sufficient material of the necessary quality to revive publication? Fortunately, it seemed that a number of authors had been publishing “for the drawer” during SOLANUS’s absence, and were keen to submit items for us. In addition, Karen Rondestvedt, Editor of SEEIR (Slavic & East European Information Resources) in the USA, generously agreed to give SOLANUS first option on papers from the 2010 ICCEES (International Council for Central and East European Studies) Congress panels in the bibliographical field.

The result was that we eventually managed to publish volume 22 in the summer of 2011 as a “bumper” volume – at nearly 250 pages it was twice the length of most of its predecessors and, I think, fully justified a price increase from a very modest £10 to £25. Work is now underway to gather items for volume 23, which will, we intend, appear next year. There are, however, a number of issues which need urgent attention: a probable move to online rather than paper publishing, a need to regain as many as possible of the subscribers who have been lost to us during the four-year publishing hiatus (especially institutions in Russia and East-Central Europe who had been receiving SOLANUS under now-defunct exchange agreements), and an enhanced website (our current website can be found within the website of UCL SSEES).

In taking over the reins at SOLANUS I have been enormously helped by the Editorial Board: Chris and Gregory, who have willingly passed on their editorial experience, Simon Dixon and his colleague Martyn Rady for advice on strengthening our links with UCL SSEES (under whose aegis SOLANUS is published), Katya Rogatchevskaia for continuing her tireless efforts as Reviews Editor, Charles Drage for his meticulous reading of the articles submitted for publication, and Janet Zmroczek for her help in publicising the journal at meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies and elsewhere. Equally valuable have been the ever-willing assistance of Milan Grba and Rimma Lough of the British Library over questions of distribution and the work of staff at UCL SSEES in distributing volume 22 to our subscribers.

In conclusion, can I appeal to all of you to continue to help by drawing SOLANUS to the attention of faculty members and colleagues generally, and of course by considering submitting articles or reviews yourselves?

Ray Scrivens

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