The Jewish Quarterly Review

New Design Identity for the Jewish Quarterly Review

Today’s post features Jocelyn Dawson, Director of Journals at the University of Pennsylvania Press, in conversation with Anne O. Albert, executive editor of the Jewish Quarterly Review (JQR), on the occasion of the launch of its new cover and design, which were created by Sue Hall of the Number Nine design studio.

The new cover design for The Jewish Quarterly Review

Jocelyn Dawson: Tell us about the image on the front of the new cover. What aspects of the journal’s history are preserved in the new design?

Anne Albert: The new cover of JQR—volume 114, number 1—incorporates a woodcut representing an old printer’s shop. It appears as the title page of a 1710 edition of Isaac Abravanel’s Perush ha-Torah (Commentary on the Torah), which was originally printed in Venice in 1579. Abravanel was a philosopher and Jewish leader whose writings were influential not only among Jews but also in early modern Christian political thought as the West began to take a new approach to biblical history and text. In a broad sense, Abravanel and his work represent a watershed moment in history when Jewish thinkers began contributing to a shared intellectual world of critical humanistic reflections, with print playing a critical role in disseminating and, in turn, shaping Jewish ideas.

In a separate but parallel moment that ultimately owes its origins to early modern scholarship, the Jewish Quarterly Review was founded at the end of the nineteenth century as an outgrowth of the Wissenschaft des Judentums. This was a movement to create an academic approach to the study of Judaism alongside the new scholarship about the Bible, Christian history, and European nations that constituted the vital work of new modern universities: Wissenschaft scholars sought to create space for nonsectarian academic reflection on Jews and Judaism.

At that moment, journals and reviews had a particular cultural caché as the most popular way of disseminating—and accessing—the latest exciting approaches to any academic topic. Israel Abrahams and Claude G. Montefiore founded JQR in London in 1888 as the first Jewish studies journal in English, perceiving an opportunity to facilitate high-level scholarly writing and thinking in Jewish studies for a wide audience. In 1910, the journal moved its operations across the Atlantic under the new stewardship of Cyrus Adler and Solomon Schechter, contributing greatly to a burgeoning American Jewish academic and literary culture.

The new cover is a nod to JQR’s intellectual and cultural genealogy, a legacy that we take seriously as we project forward our signal commitment to applying the most rigorous and exciting approaches of the day to the study of the Jewish past.

We felt the image to be a most fitting emblem of what we do at JQR. It sits at the crux of modernity yet opens a traditional book; it shows what is in essence an action, the physical even joyful work of publishing. It emphasizes the role of Jews not only as writers but also as publishers, as well as the explosive importance of print in catalyzing Jewish knowledge and altering its forms and audiences.

JD: What were your goals for the new design? What do you hope readers will appreciate?

The new interior design of The Jewish Quarterly Review

AA: One of our main impetuses was simply aesthetic. The journal was last redesigned when two members of the current editorial team came on board in 2004 (alongside the tragically departed Elliot Horowitz). After twenty years, it had started to look dated and we wanted to put some pep into the design. (For a fuller history of JQR’s looks over the last 130 years, see here.)

We also enjoyed the chance to think about the reader experience, and we hope our readers will feel the difference. The old page had an elegant font, but a small one, and the page was chock-a-block full. The new design is more readable with more open space, and we have given attention to making our different genres of scholarship legible. Although we editors think a great deal about the table of contents, and how any given issue represents a meaningful and interactive set of essays, most readers now encounter our articles and essays individually online, in isolation from the issue as a whole. So we needed to mark title pages with more information and signposting.

JD: Did anything about the design process surprise you?

AA: How fun it was to leave the aniconic realm of ideas and deal with color and paper weight and form! We also came to appreciate an entire realm of labor that had been carried out under our noses but out of our sight for some time: that of marking and verifying the highly detailed specifications for every type of header and subheader, extract and numbered list, appendix and unnumbered notes. Here we thought we knew all the work that goes into academic publishing (including the menial parts!), only to learn that a great deal was being taken care of by our great partners at Penn Press without our being troubled about it. We value this new appreciation of each printed page that emerges from a publication cycle.

Read the first redesigned issue, volume 114, number 1

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