Letters to the Editor
A Case of Press Bashing?
John H. Kyle, May 1990
You are no doubt aware by now that this Press (University of Texas Press) has come in for some rather heavy bashing from our author Francis Nicosia and that the AHA has more than once lent support to his charges. Perspectives has published without verification Professor's Nicosia's lengthy and inaccurate description of his perceived mistreatments ("Scholars and Publishers: A New Twist to an Old Story," March 1990 Perspectives). We have now received a letter from Professor Roger Chickering, at the University of Oregon, saying that at its December 1989 meeting the Conference Group for Central European History "condemns the manner in which the University of Texas Press has handled the non-American and foreign language rights" to Nicosia's book The Third Reich and the Palestine Question. The CGCEH's resolution speaks of carelessness on our part, a statement that in itself could be considered both careless and unprofessional, since it is based solely on Nicosia's version of events surrounding the illegal German-language edition.
None of Nicosia's assertions were checked against the facts that exist in his files and in ours (which are wide open; see below). There is no evidence that any other scholarly presses were consulted regarding standard procedures in the handling of foreign rights. Indeed, the integrity of scholarly presses as a group has been brought into question by Nicosia, and that question has been advanced by the AHA through the publication of his unedited, unchecked, and unscholarly broadside. I could answer both the Perspectives article and CGCEH's resolution with a line-by-line correction and defense, but this would probably settle nothing. My response would doubtless be even more tedious reading than Professor Nicosia's charges, and it would probably be considered equally distorted and self-serving.
Thus, I would like to propose a somewhat radical approach to resolving this matter: I suggest that the AHA select a scholar from its ranks and a scholarly press director and send them to Austin to undertake a complete review of our dealings with Professor Nicosia and of the events surrounding the illegal German-language edition of his book. The scholar should be someone of standing, someone perhaps who has published two or more books and who has the professional stature and objectivity that both the AHA and the University of Texas would approve. The scholarly publisher should be intimately familiar with rights contracts and with the procedures for dealing both with authors and with foreign publishers. The purpose of such a visit would be to review all of the written history; to talk with members of our staff, with the University faculty and administration, and with University attorneys who have participated in the controversy; and to issue a report from their observations. We would hope that the report would then be published in Perspectives and serve in lieu of a response from me to Professor Nicosia's article.
I assure you that every courtesy will be extended to this team. Our files will be totally accessible as will our staff, and we will be at the team's service in helping them meet and talk with anyone they wish to see here in Austin.
We think a more balanced assessment of this controversy is necessary not only because of the author's unsupported allegations and the resulting bad publicity that the University of Texas Press has sustained but also because he has questioned—without offering any evidence whatever—the integrity of all scholarly publishers in their relations with scholar-authors. Historians and publishers have long worked in an interdependent and productive relationship, and it would be a service to scholarship if the AHA would now work to reduce the friction between publisher and scholar that Nicosia and the illegal German edition of his book have generated.
John H. Kyle
University of Texas Press
Editor's Note: The article, "Scholars and Publishers: A New Twist to an Old Story," March 1990 Perspectives was published at the direction of the AHA's Professional Division, based on its careful review of the material supplied by both Professor Nicosia and the University of Texas Press, including the Press's own statement of the facts of the case. That material was used in verifying the accuracy of Professor Nicosia's account.