Pittsburgh, otherwise known as ‘the steel city’. My image of the place, unfairly tainted by the UK’s steel industry crisis, was of a struggling post-industrial metropolis, possibly in need of a complete makeover. The location of this year’s ASECS meeting completely overturned my prejudices: what I encountered was an impressively upbeat conurbation boasting several splendid art deco buildings, majestic bridges spanning the Allegheny river and recreational treats such as the Andy Warhol Museum, the National Aviary Center and the unlikely named Mattress Factory.
The annual ASECS meeting took place in one of the oldest hotels in Pittsburgh, the Omni Penn, which has just celebrated its centenary. ASECS delegates would join the long list of illustrious guests which boasts John F. Kennedy and Bob Hope. For a UK-based publisher, the ASECS meeting is both a great way of showcasing our books from the ‘Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment’ series to faculty and academics, and, just as importantly, of meeting our US-based authors. With email and file transfer sites, communicating with authors is easy, though the one missing aspect for me is the human element. Meeting authors in person is very rewarding, always interesting, and sometimes surprising as the mental images we inevitably form of a person are, more often than not, completely wrong! This year I finally had the pleasure of meeting, amongst many other ‘old friends’, Sabrina Ferri, whose book Ruins past: modernity in Italy, 1744-1836, marks our first foray into Italian studies, and Clorinda Donato, co-editor of Enlightenment Spain and the ‘Encyclopédie méthodique’, which is part of our growing programme of Spain and Hispanic studies-related works.
ASECS is also an ideal opportunity for me and the new General editor of the series, Las Vegas-based Greg Brown, to get together in person. Whilst I manned our book stand in the exhibitors’ hall, Greg attended panel discussions and met several potential new authors. We hosted an inaugural drinks reception to celebrate the series – many thanks to Byron Wells and Vickie Cutting at the ASECS Executive Office for their organisational help – where the chocolate and fruit dessert proved very enticing.
My abiding memories of Pittsburgh: warm (even though it snowed on the day of departure), generous, up-and-coming and forward-looking. Next year’s ASECS in Minnesota may be slightly chillier, but wrap up warm, shelve those Fargo-esque preconceptions, and you may be surprised by what you find.
– Lyn Roberts