Your Oxford Story: Alexander Hardie-Forsyth

28 April 2023
3 min read
Editor- Oxford University Press

Alex Hardie-Forsyth

“Having studied some beautiful historic Bibles with Brian Cummings, I never imagined that I would help to create one myself.”

My first time in Oxford was in 2016. I came to read for a doctorate on the eighteenth-century writer Laurence Sterne. I had previously completed an MA at the University of York, where I took a course in ‘Religion and the Book’ with a truly great OUP author, Brian Cummings. Until recently, Brian’s MA course presented to me a road untraveled. I enjoyed my DPhil, but often pondered what life would have been like if I had pursued my interest in historic printed Bibles.

Following the completion of my thesis, I joined OUP in January 2020 during inauspicious times. My first OUP job was working in the Education division as a Production Assistant. It felt like watching Covid-19 creep across the world in real time, as suppliers from first China, next Italy, and then India became unavailable for print orders. Despite the difficult circumstances we found ourselves in, my manager, Adam Phelps, encouraged me to pursue my interests into areas where editorial, production, and manufacturing closely imbricate. I most enjoy projects where content demands close attention to form and vice versa.

I took a sideways move into the Academic division in 2021, first as an Editorial Assistant in Humanities Books and then as a Project Editor in Law and Medicine Databases. This was my first experience working in a truly international team at OUP. Mark Longaker in the New York office took great pains to help me find my feet—often at awkward EST hours.

Since July 2022 I have been a Project Editor in Humanities Books. I can’t deny that Humanities is my wheelhouse, and I have handed over some remarkable works, including a scholarly edition of Livy’s Fragments and Periochae, first commissioned decades ago. It can give you a peculiar buzz to feel like a small link in a big chain on projects such as these.

My manager, Jenny Nugee-Jacob, approached me in November about a title that had just been approved but would have a very tight turnaround time: a commemorative small-format King James Bible to celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III. I worked hard with the team to formulate a viable publication schedule. There was no margin for error, but we managed to steer everything on course for publication in early March.

I returned to the office on 3 January to a deceptively quiet inbox—a relaxed start to the year, I thought. Before the day’s end we received news: Lambeth Palace were interested in OUP providing the Bible for the Coronation ceremony. So, I went from first to fifth gear instantly, finding a viable edition that we could use as the base text in advance of OUP’s formal call with the ceremony organiser. By the end of that week, we knew we had the commission.

The wonderful thing about a ticking clock on a project too big to fail is that you really get to know your colleagues very well and see the full extent of their talents. The Coronation Bible core team—Andy Delozier and Paul Lansdowne in Manufacturing, myself and Tom Perridge in Editorial, Claire Dickinson and Clare Hofmann in Design, and Matthew Humphreys and Clare Jones in Production—will always remember what we achieved in these last four months. Having studied some beautiful historic Bibles with Brian Cummings, I never imagined that I would help to create one myself. Once given the opportunity, however, I never doubted that we could manage this. It’s what OUP does—and it’s why I’m proud to be here.