Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Jim Mairs about The Red Book

July 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses. How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

After nearly 40 years with W.W. Norton, former v-p, senior editor and director of production Jim Mairs left the company in 2002 to found his own company, Quantuck Lane Press, which is distributed by W.W. Norton.  He is mainly responsible for the existence of this stunning and important publishing project, The Red Book.  This is how it is described in the Norton catalog: “The most influential unpublished work in the history of psychology.”

And this is Jung himself, describing his work on this book from 1914 to 1930:

“The years, of which I have spoken to you, when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, the scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.”

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jim Mairs for many years and wanted to talk to him about the “inside story” of this incredible publishing project, from the physical to the almost spiritual elements of the project.  For anyone interested in the way truly special books can still be published in this modern era of publishing, or for anyone interested in The Red Book as an icon of Jungian psychology, I hope this discussion will be valuable and interesting, as it was for me.