NEW ENGLAND'S PATRIOTS OF PUBLISHING

By JIM BARNES

(Excerpts from Independent Publisher, September/October, 1999)

Driving into the Green Mountains of Vermont this summer, it didn't take long to get caught up in the Spirit of '76-that patriotic, independent spirit that New Englanders are famous for. We crossed the border into the charming village of Bennington, and visited the spot where General John Stark rallied his troops with the words, "Boys, yonder are the Redcoats, and they are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow." A few days later in Concord, Mass., we gazed up at the Minuteman statue marking the site where the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" started the war against the British. Not two hundred yards away stood the Old Manse, home to both Emerson and Hawthorne. Where else can one find such a combination of literary and revolutionary spirit than in New England? . . .

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. . . Vatche Ghazarian jokes that Armenians were the world's first independent publishers, and as with most jokes, the truth may not be far off. Armenians began publishing books and community newspapers coincident with the advent of the printing press. Rich and influential in the silk trade, the Armenian community of Madras, India used the first printing press in Asia to publish an "Armenian Constitution and Declaration of Independence," a century before the French Revolution.
"Few historians credit the Armenians of Madras with planting the seeds of democratic thought," said Ghazarian. "As with independent publishers today, publishing the work is only the first challenge. Without marketing, publishers run the risk of 'talking to oneself."' Armenian publishing in New England began with the growth of the large immigrant population which settled initially in the mill towns of Massachusetts. Ghazarian founded Mayreni Publishing in 1995 in response to the growing need of Armenian presses to outsource their work. From their office in the Boston suburb of Waltham, they edit and produce a 36-page, bilingual Armenian English newspaper published weekly in Los Angeles-a direct result of using new technologies and the Internet.
Mayreni ("mother tongue" in Armenian) will publish three books next year: a Middle Eastern cookbook; a collection of profiles of Armenian writers, scholars, activists, and artists at the millennium; and a translation of the Summa Theologica of the Armenian church written originally in the fifteenth century. "Success in today's market requires knowing your niche," said Ghazarian. "We have focused on the small, but historically prolific and committed area of Armenian publishing. In our third year, we broke even. In 2000, we will publish our first 'truly published work,' by an author to whom royalties will be paid. It's been a slow process-there have been many times, even recently, when we have had no idea where our next project would come from or how we'll make the mortgage. But somehow, when you're committed, things work out." . . .

 

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