How many times have you read a scholarly work that describes a design or artifact and said, “But what does it look like?” As publishers cut costs, illustrations are disappearing from books. As scholars we’re left with half an idea, half an understanding. We can’t learn what we can’t see.
In other cases old photos are reproduced from previous editions, degraded to the point that they are almost meaningless. Can you find anything useful in this repeatedly over-printed picture of the Matres at Bath? Yet it appears in a book on Scottish folklore.
Miriam Robbins Dexter is co-author of the award-winning book Sacred Display: Divine and Magical Female Figures of Eurasia. This volume bucks the trend of modern publishing; it relies heavily on illustrations to advance its thesis. Miriam describes the issue this way:
Images greatly enhance scholarly books and articles, but it is essential that they be high quality. Most good publishers will not accept fuzzy or low-pixel images. It is possible to purchase excellent images from museums but those are quite expensive. Crisp line drawings are not as expensive as museum copies, and they reproduce much better than poor quality photographs. Line drawings are an excellent means of rendering publishable images.
At ASWM, we want to be able to include quality images in our proceeding anthology. We are issuing this special call for donations to enable us to include artists’ original line drawings for the anthology. We will work directly with illustrators, rather than placing the burden on individual authors to find and hire artists.
At the same time we are working on the anthology, we can develop a resource that will have a long-term impact on scholarship. Among ASWM’s members are many visual artists; we plan to set up directory that would link them with authors in need of illustrations. Miriam says, “I applaud the idea of pairing authors with artists who can render excellent line drawings: it is an idea whose time has come.”
ASWM is in an ideal position to provide a service and enhance publication of scholarship. If you would like to help us with this project, please go to our Donations page. And watch our site and newsletter for updates on this important project.