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History of GSL Publishing

A brief history of Geological Society Publishing


The Geological Society has a long and successful track record as a significant publisher of geological content, starting only four years after the Society’s inception and continuing without break to the present day.

The Geological Society’s earliest serial publication, Transactions of the Geological Society of London, was first produced in 1811 with William Phillips as publisher. In 1821 the Society became its own publisher until 1856, when the series ended.

It was supplanted by the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society (QJGS) which, from its start in 1845, was published for the Society by Longman, Brown, Green & Longman (later becoming Longman, Green & Co. Ltd) – an arrangement which lasted for over 100 years, until 1951. The Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society included the Proceedings of the Society, which then met fortnightly from early November until late June.

In 1951 H. K. Lewis & Co took over. The standing of the QJGS owes much to three employees who acted not only as the Society Secretary, but also as editor and indexer:
  • William S. Dallas, editor 1868–1890;
  • Leo B. L. Belinfante, 1890–1930; and
  • Arthur Greig (1931-1961, indexer 1931-1983, who worked for the Society for 74 years).
In 1958 the Memoir series was started, in 1964 the Special Publications and in 1967 the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology (to become the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology in 2000) while the Proceedings expanded. The burgeoning publishing output of the Society put an overwhelming pressure on the Executive Secretary who, at the time, was responsible for all editorial duties and publication schedules began to slip. By 1971 both the QJGS and QJEG were 18 months behind schedule and the Scottish Academic Press, under Dr Douglas Grant, stepped in and saved a near-catastrophic situation by becoming the Society’s publisher of books and journals. The Executive Secretary was relieved of all editorial duties.

In 1971 the QJGS was transmuted to the bimonthly Journal of the Geological Society (with continuity of volume numbers and including the Proceedings) and academic editors were appointed. The first, William W. Bishop (1971-2) and the second, Bernard E. Leake (1973-4) overtook the backlog and got the issues out on time, restoring confidence in the journal. By 1975 both QJGS and QJEG had appointed Editorial Committees under a Chief Scientific Editor, a system of editorial administration which continues to this day.

In 1979 Blackwells Scientific Publications became the Society’s book and journal publisher and the number of Special Publications increased markedly, but whereas institutional journal subscriptions had increased in each year from 1971 to 1978, they declined from 1979 onwards.

In 1988 The Geological Society’s wholly owned Publishing House (GSPH) was established in Bath to publish its books and journals, initially under Publication Manager Roger Cooper (1988-9), and then Michael Collins (1989-2001). The Director of Publishing, Neal Marriott, took over in 2002. The GSPH expanded the number of books and journals published enormously, adding titles published on behalf of other societies.

Up to 1952 the Society, as its own publisher, communicated frequently with Fellows by mailing notices of forthcoming meetings, accounts of recently held meetings and other information, all under Abstracts of the Proceedings of the GSL. This reached No. 1490 in September 1952 after which (with the same numbering) it became Proceedings of the GSL, reaching No. 1664B in September 1971 when the series ended. Circular No 1 started in September 1952, ending in January 1972 with Circular No 169, after which the Geological Society Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 1 of March 1972 took over. This expanded to include short papers and concluded with Vol. 20, No. 1, January 1991, when the Society, still as publisher, started the Geoscientist, Vol. 1, No. 1 of February 1991. This incorporated the British Geologist of the Institution of Geologists, which had rejoined the GSL. The Proceedings were ended completely with a last issue in December 1993.

The following JGS Editorial on the foundation of the Publishing House may also be of interest: http://jgs.lyellcollection.org/content/146/1/1.full.pdf+html

Bernard Elgey Leake
12 February 2011