Commendations

“Ensor’s study is based on extensive and intensive research in the company archive, now held by the Mitchell Library in Sydney. The correspondence files are the mainstay of the research, but there is also valuable quantitative information here (Ensor appends 15 pages of tables). The letters in and out enable Ensor to reconstruct the strategizing and negotiation involved in establishing Angus and Robertson’s London branch, and the decisions about which books to market to British audiences and how …. Literary and cultural historians will prize the detail Ensor provides about Angus and Robertson’s list and the thought processes involved in making the London branch run. This material interlocks with discussions of business-history problems, from trade-specific ones such as how to gauge what an appropriate print run would be to more general questions such as the impact of tax policy and export schemes …. [T]his is a substantial and deeply researched work of scholarship.”

— Christopher Hilliard, Journal of Australian Studies 38.4 (2014): 505-507.

“Where Ensor’s study shines is in his fascinating account of Operation London that would see the London office start to publish books of a universal appeal after World War II …. [S]cholars of colonial book and publishing history will find much to admire in Ensor’s study.”

— Quoted in SHARP (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing) News 23.4 (2014): 16.

“[A] well-written, dense and painstakingly researched book …. Ensor has combined his experience as a publisher and a data analyst to great effect …. This is an informative and well researched book for the specialist reader.”

— Miranda Francis, The Australian Library Journal 63.2 (2014): 167-168.

“Jason Ensor’s study of Angus & Robertson’s British operations in the mid-twentieth century puts the book trade firmly back into its commercial context, while always recognising its cultural resonances … which Ensor identifies and discusses throughout this study with assurance and insight …. [I]t does the important work of claiming a place for the print trade in broader histories of business and imperial commercial relationships. It also highlights the seam of nationalism, streaked with cultural cringe and imperial desire, which runs through Australia’s literary and publishing histories …. I suspect that this book’s most immediate resonance will lie in its contextualisation of current and ongoing controversies surrounding nationalism and literature, and debates about the future of Australian publishing and bookselling.”

— Kylie Mirmohamadi, Australian Historical Studies 45.1 (2014): 159-160.

“The book provides a unique look into the history of Australia’s largest publisher, Angus & Robertson, and its role in the development of Australia’s export book trade …, an engaging history of publishers’ responsibilities to a national literary tradition and to the obligation to survive financially in a constantly changing world of global commercial publishing and bookselling – issues which are as paramount today as they were a century ago.”

— Quoted in InTouch Magazine (Autumn 2013).

“Jason Ensor’s recent empirical study of the publishing of Australian novels suggests that reports of Australian literature’s death have been greatly exaggerated. The statistics that Ensor has generated show that literary fiction appears to be the preferred species of Australian novel selected by publishers for reprinting in domestic and international markets.”

— Brigid Magner, Script and Print 36.4 (2012): 243-258.

“Jason Ensor’s absorbing study of Angus & Robertson’s UK publishing ventures in the mid-twentieth century is a valuable addition to the story of Australian cultural history. It is also a timely contribution to the newly transnational and worldly understanding of what is usually thought of as an iconically nationalist institution, Angus & Robertson. We know that the empire wrote back, but Ensor’s study shows us how the empire also published back.”

— Philip Mead, Winthrop Professor and Chair of Australian Literature, University of Western Australia (2012).

“Jason Ensor’s meticulously researched book provides a publishing history of unprecedented depth, and also demonstrates how transnational Australian literature has always been. The book is also absorbing on a narrative level, as Ensor provides quirky anecdotes about the challenges of producing books that will resonate even today.”

— Nicholas Birns, Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts (2012).

“A comprehensive, well-researched and finely grained study that adds significantly to our understanding of the contemporary Anglo-Australian book trade history. Much can be learned perusing its pages.”

— David Finkelstein, School of Humanities, University of Dundee (2012).

“International relations in A&R’s later history are canvassed in Jason Ensor’s ‘‘‘A Policy of Splendid Isolation’’: Angus and Robertson, George G. Harrap and the Politics of Co-operation in the Australian Book Trade during the Late 1930s’. Without wanting to disturb the general truth that British publishers not only gave Australian publishers a hard time throughout the first half of the twentieth century but were snooty to boot, Ensor carefully documents one exception in the cordial correspondence and mutually beneficial cross-publishing agreements between Harrap and Angus and Robertson. And interesting en passant is the negative feeling across the Australian book trade that Angus and Robertson’s dominance as both publisher and bookseller caused.”

— Quoted in The Year’s Work in English Studies 91.1, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2012): 979.

“This article exemplifies observations made by Jason Ensor: that the AustLit database is now so important for Australian literary research that its policies of inclusion and classification partly define research paradigms, and that there are friction points to be smoothed over between a quantitative approach in which a Marshall Grover ‘western’ is interchangeable with a Shirley Hazzard novel, and a literary approach which struggles to identify what is meaningful in the texts.”

— Quoted in The Year’s Work in English Studies 90.1, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2011): 941.

“Jason Ensor’s ‘Is a Picture worth 10,175 Australian Novels?’, in a wide-ranging, even magisterial, argument, considers the methodologies and protocols of machine learning and data manipulation. He points out that the conclusions of ‘distant reading’ are vulnerable to inadequacies in the original data; that the mode of visual presentation of results is not innocent but itself hermeneutically tendentious; and that data from ongoing enumerative bibliographies can be thought of as having a half-life similar to unstable elements.”

— Quoted in The Year’s Work in English Studies 90.1, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2011): 941.

“Ensor’s other paper, ‘‘‘Still Waters Run Deep’’: Empirical Methods and the Migration Patterns of Regional Publishers’ Authors and Titles within Australian Literature’, argues that considering reprints of novels and changes in the place of publication from first to later novels greatly complicates the traditional view that Sydney and Melbourne have totally dominated Australian publication. The argument is supported by thirty-one graphs of data on publishing culled from the AustLit database. Ensor’s work is self-conscious and nuanced and is already offering micro-explanations for the macro-patterns in publishing which it reveals.”

— Quoted in The Year’s Work in English Studies 90.1, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2011): 941.

“Jason Ensor’s use of standard numerical manipulations to corral large amounts of bibliographic and historical information about books applies old methods to old material to produce new information – in cases like this it is the application that is new, rather than the method. We do encounter new information here, however, and significant amounts of it, and in the wake of both theory and history (in ‘the age of the world target’ as Rey Chow calls it), such a manifestation is relatively rare and to be celebrated.”

— Nicole More, ‘Impossible literary histories’, Australian Literary Studies 25.3 (2010): 49-60.