Classics… Or What’s in a Name?

I recently finished taking Art History I & II, and when I ordered my textbook last Fall, I was happy to see a classic art history text was being used: Janson’s History of Art. I had the kids’ version on my bookshelf, right next to another classic text, Helen Gardner’s Art Through the Ages. Throughout the two classes, it seemed odd to me that Janson’s name wasn’t needed when citing the text for papers and assignments, but I was really busy just trying to get everything turned in. Somewhere mid-Art History II, it dawned on me that much of the modern art history must have been added later, and, come to think of it, it sure sounded a bit more up-to-date in language (read that as “politically correct”) than one would expect to find in a book written in the 1960’s. So I checked into it a bit.

Turns out that H.W. Janson and his wife Dora wrote the original Janson’s History of Art in 1962, and over two million copies were sold in fifteen different languages. He expanded it once himself. When H.W. passed away, his son Anthony worked with the publisher to update and expand the text, but the book was still essentially the work of his father, and continued to be so through the 6th edition, printed in 2004. However, when the 7th edition was printed, six authors are listed, and the name of Janson is not included in the list! Evidently the publisher decided to completely revise the text, but kept “Janson” in the title for name recognition. It seems perfectly fine to me for a publisher to want to write a new text, but isn’t it odd to keep a classic title and completely rewrite the text?

I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Today I ordered a copy of the real thing. At least the last updated father/son version. I’m looking for a 2nd edition as well, which was H.W.’s final edit.

And by the way, Helen Gardner is no longer listed as the author of Art Through the Ages. Hmmm….

Hold on to old treasures… they may be gone someday!

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