Herbert S. Bailey Jr., the fifth director of Princeton University Press, and one of the most influential and well-respected scholarly publishers of his time, died on June 28, just short of his 90th birthday. He directed the Press from 1954 to 1986. A member of the Princeton University Class of 1942, Bailey joined the Press in 1946 as its first science editor. Then, after a brief stint as its editor in chief, Bailey was named PUP’s director.
At 32 he was the youngest head of a major university press in the United States. During his long tenure at the Press, Bailey brought its publication program to a new and unprecedented level of distinction, enhanced its international reputation, placed it on firm financial footing, and propagated its surpassing standards for book production and design. He undertook a number of monumental projects, including the Papers of Woodrow Wilson, the Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, and, most notably, the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein.
In 1969 he acquired the world-renowned Bollingen Series, which was established to publish the Collected Works of C. G. Jung, and eventually comprised more than 250 extraordinary titles from archaeology through religion. Some of the individual titles include Kenneth Clark’s the Nude; E. H. Gombrich’s Art and Illusion; Aleksandr Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, translated and with commentary by Vladimir Nabokov; and the Wilhelm/Baynes translation of the I Ching, or Book of Changes (which remains the Press’s single best-selling book with more than 900,000 copies in print).
By the end of Bailey’s PUP years he and his colleagues had nearly tripled the Press’s annual title output. Among his many legacies was the establishment of the PUP’s modern editorial board, comprising Princeton faculty members from different and complementary fields. Closely resembling its present form, it served the purpose of preserving and enhancing the scholarly quality of the Press’s books.
During his 32 years as PUP’s director, the Press won 250 prizes, including two National Book Awards, seven Pulitzer Prizes, and two Bancroft Prizes. Included among many important PUP authors of the time were George F. Kennan, John Tyler Bonner, Herman Kahn, Richard Ullman, Herbert Feis, R. R. Palmer, Albert O. Hirschman, Richard Rorty, Robert Pinsky, Richard Feynman, Earl Miner, and Wilfred Cantwell Smith.
Bailey was born in New York City in 1921. Following his 1942 graduation from Princeton University he spent three years as a naval radar instructor in World War II.
In his inaugural role as editor, he built up PUP’s offerings in the sciences and mathematics, and later, as director, in poetry and translations. Eventually he helped move the Press into positions of publishing leadership in the social sciences and political theory while bolstering its traditional strengths in history and the humanities. This balanced scholarly publishing portfolio, reflecting the broad and inclusive intellectual character of Princeton and of liberal learning itself, continues today.
Having institutionalized the modern identity and structure of Princeton University Press, Bailey exercised a commensurate influence throughout the larger world of publishing and letters. According to Sanford G. Thatcher, who served as PUP’s editor in chief under Bailey, and later as director of the Pennsylvania State University Press, Bailey played a prominent role in several important initiatives, including the National Enquiry into Scholarly Communication (1976 to 1979), “whose final report made numerous recommendations that are still relevant today, including more widely distributing the financial burden for supporting the system of scholarly publishing.”
Thatcher recalls, too, that Bailey championed the adoption of acid-free paper throughout American publishing and was an early innovator in the propagation and application of computer technologies, noting his role in the Library of Congress’s Optical Disk Project Advisory Committee in the 1980s, and subsequent efforts. Adds Harvard University Library director and former PUP editorial board member Robert Darnton, “Herb retired Princeton’s linotype presses reluctantly, but was one of the first to foresee the possibilities of digital book delivery.”
Bailey’s 1970 book, The Art and Science of Book Publishing, originally published by Harper & Row, “became a classic in its field virtually on the day of publication,” says publisher Charles Scribner Jr.; it stands as an enduring testament to the breadth and depth of his command of publishing.
Bailey’s professional influence can best be measured in the work of younger Princeton colleagues who carried the lessons they learned from him beyond PUP’s walls into leadership roles throughout the nation. Sanford Thatcher and Joanna Hitchcock not only became distinguished and highly successful press directors in their own right, but succeeded Bailey as presidents of the Association of American University Presses. Other future directors trained by Bailey included John Irvin at Minnesota, Carol Orr at Tennessee (also a later AAUP president), and John Putnam at Northwestern. Putnam would go on to become executive director of the AAUP.
Joining Bailey in the leadership of the PUP during his decades at the helm were three outstanding fellow publishers, R. Miriam Brokaw, associate director and editor; William H. Becker, associate director and controller; and Harold W. McGraw Jr., chairman of the board of McGraw-Hill Inc. and president of the PUP’s board.
Becker and Brokaw served as Bailey’s closest advisors and, along with him, formed the core management of the Press. McGraw, who died in 2010, served on the Press’s board from 1962 onward for 25 years, eight as its chairman, and provided the Press with the endowment to fund the most ambitious publishing project in its history, the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein.
Bailey is survived by his beloved wife, Betty, four children, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. After his retirement in 1986 he and Betty lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He visited the Press only a few times during his later life. A particularly notable occasion was its centennial reception in June 2005. One of the speakers that evening quoted a line from Bailey’s 1970 book— a line that rings as true today as it did then:
“What makes a great publishing house are great books, written by great authors, edited by great editors, designed with taste, produced with skill and efficiency, and energetically and widely sold.”
This spare, yet wise and powerful sentence stands as the goal that the current staff of Princeton University Press pursue, inspired as we are by the enduring example of Herbert S. Bailey Jr., and by the magnificent legacy he has left us.