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The Oxford Guide to Style (Language Reference) Hardcover – 21 Feb 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 634 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198691750
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198691754
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 4.1 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 547,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

This immensely detailed and eclectic second edition of The Oxford Guide to Style is a descendant of Hart's Rules for Compositors and Readers, first published in 1893. Inevitably the strict tone now nods a little more than it used to towards description of a changing language and has shifted slightly away from the unadulterated prescription of rights and wrongs. Thus, it is now acceptable to be addressed as Mrs Susan Elkin (not Mrs--husband's forename--Elkin) even if you're not a widow or a divorcee. You may also use contractions such as "isn't" even in quite formal writing and omit the full stops in--for instance--OBE.

Intended primarily for use by anyone who is preparing a book for a publisher--especially but not necessarily OUP--the Guide has 16 sections ranging from Languages and Specialist subjects to Indexing and preparation of copy and proofs. Anyone who works with, or is fond of, words would find it useful and interesting. At the same time the Guide doubles as a rather good general reference book. Where else could you find in a single volume an American-English mini dictionary, chemical symbols, Greek letters, standard abbreviations for names of publications--and a commendably clear account of the vexed question of whether or not, and when, you should capitalise words derived from proper nouns such as "Hellenic", "pasteurise" or "Dickensian"? And if you want to play Call My Bluff there's some wonderfully esoteric vocabulary here. Consider colophon which is "a publisher's emblem, device or imprint". And did you know that ^ is a caret? --Susan Elkin

From the Publisher

Horace Hart: Controller of the Universe

Horace Henry Hart was Printer to the University (a post also titled Controller of the University Press) between 1883 and 1915. He was born at Sudbury, Suffolk, in 1840, son of a shoemaker. Although originally destined to be a schoolteacher, at 14 he was sent to the printers Woodfall & Kinder in London as a reading boy; after two years he was apprenticed to the compositor's trade.

By the age of 26 he had risen to be manager of the business, and by 1866 he had moved to take charge of the London branch of the Edinburgh-based Ballantyne Press. Hart left in 1880 when he was appointed manager of the head office and main works of William Clowes & Sons, then the biggest printing house in Britain, with the most modern equipment. Nonetheless he left Clowes after only three years when the vacancy for a Controller of the University Press at Oxford was advertised.

It was a new post, combining the two branches of printing (the Bible Press and the Learned Press), which had hitherto been run with separate managers and accounts. Expansion of the University's publishing in the 1860s had thrown out of balance these two sides of the business - housed in opposite sides of the quadrangle of the Press's Oxford headquarters: previously bibles, prayer-books, and religious tracts had formed a majority of the Press's output, but an increase in the production of secular and scholarly books, in keeping with a general rise in literacy, expansion of education, and opening of new markets throughout the Empire. The volume of work was too great for the existing machinery or staff; in many respects the equipment was antiquated, while traditions among the managers and staff were obstinate.

Seemingly undaunted by the prospect, Hart quickly made swift progress in combining the two branches and modernizing the printing works as a whole. By 1885 he had built an extension to the machine room, filling it with the latest machines. A year later he convinced the Press to begin using wood-pulp paper, which needed no preparation before printing; in the same year he introduced collotype and printing by lithography (mainly of plans and maps). The old 'stitching room' was expanded into a full-scale bindery to keep up with demand. In 1886 Hart made a tour of type foundries in Germany to buy matrices for a large number of ordinary and exotic types unavailable in Britain, and the following year the Press's own type foundry was enlarged and equipped with two new machines. (At Hart's behest, composition by Monotype machines would begin in 1903.)

In 1893 he devised the first of his Rules for Compositors and Readers at the University Press, Oxford as a single broadsheet page for in-house use, at first perhaps simply to clarify for his rapidly expanding staff the basic rules of usage and typography by which they should operate. Over the course of thirty-nine editions and one hundred years Hart's Rules grew in size, coverage, and expertise, drawing on contemporary resources to give it a unique authority. It has grown to be the much-loved and -respected standard work on all aspects of editing and typesetting, and has recently been fully modernized and expanded as the Oxford Guide to Style.

Hart can fairly be called one of the most influential printers of the last two centuries. Certainly the transformation of OUP's printing into arguably the most prestigious press in the world is directly attributable to Hart's tireless efforts, and the best of the books produced under his directorship have few rivals. In 1914 the poet Rupert Brooke was sufficiently moved by a Clarendon Press edition of Donne to catalogue (with tongue at least partly in cheek) in a list of things worthy of praise, 'Charing Cross Bridge by night, the dancing of Miss Ethel Levey, the Lucretian hexameter, the beer at an inn in Royston . . . the sausages at another inn above Princes Risborough, and the Clarendon Press editions of the English poets. But the beer and the sausages will change, and Miss Levey one day will die, and Charing Cross Bridge will fall; so the Clarendon Press books will be the only thing our evil generation may show to the cursory eyes of posterity, to prove it was not wholly!

Hart was a small, dapper man, an excellent conversationalist and gifted manager with an superb sense of humour (he cherished an overseas envelope that addressed him as 'Controller of the Universe'). Very active - his typical working day could span 6.30 am to 8.00 pm with only three short breaks and a brisk walk or cycle - Hart once won a commendation for saving a man from drowning. While it is said that he wrote poetry and short stories in his youth, it seems by the time he was manager of OUP's printing he had no interests apart from the Press. And so it was that through constant pressure of work exacerbated by insomnia, Hart suffered a nervous breakdown 1887, and another in 1898. A final severe breakdown in 1915 led to Hart at last resigning his post. Age 75, he retired to a house in Boar's Hill, a village overlooking Oxford.

Among the tributes paid to him at the time of his retirement, the bibliographer Sir Walter Greg wrote, 'I should like to add before saying goodbye that I believe that under your guidance the Oxford Press has, in the combination of the technical and artistic sides, come as near perfection in its work as any press we are likely to see for a long time.' From the British Museum Sir Frederick Kenyon wrote, 'Under your Controllership the press has become the head of the printing and publishing trade in the whole world.' Amidst other events organized to mark the occasion, one is particularly poignant: grateful colleagues performed the phenomenal feat of disseminating a leaving card to all OUP staff, past and present. It circulated throughout the British troops stationed in Europe, so that a generation of erstwhile Press employees, now in the mud of the Western Front, could sign their farewells.

In October of the following year Horace Hart finally succumbed to the depression against which he had battled for some twenty years. Early one morning he drowned himself in Youlbury Pool, a beautiful, secluded lake in the grounds of a neighbour's garden.

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