1.2M Copies of Pope's New Book Printed

Interview With Vatican Publishing House Director

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By Giulia Galeotti

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI’s new book has already been printed in seven editions, with 1.2 million copies, reports the director of the Vatican publishing house.

In this interview with L’Osservatore Romano, Salesian Father Giuseppe Costa spoke about the initial response to «Jesus of Nazareth Part II: Holy Week — From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection» (published in English by Ignatius Press), which was released March 10.

Q: In January you foresaw the publication of the volume in March, which happened perfectly on time. Whose merit is this?

Father Costa: The merit is a bit everyone’s, but first of all of the author’s, who handed it in on time. Following, then, was a long work of translation into the different languages and, since February, the printing and organization that really entailed much determination.

Q: What is the history of the book?

Father Costa: Almost a year and a half ago, Monsignor Georg Ganswein [the Pope’s secretary] gave me the text in electronic format in a memory key and printed on paper.

The Pope finished the text with a pencil, with his unmistakable small calligraphy, which later, as usual, Birgit Wansing put on the computer.

Q: In Italy, the first volume was published by Rizzoli, whereas the present one is being done by the Vatican publishing house, a notable change.

Father Costa: Certainly. The book printed by the Vatican typography is distributed by the RCS, which with its excellent organization has guaranteed to us the distribution of 300,000 copies in three days.

Q: The matter of the translations must be not very easy.

Father Costa: In Italian, above all, it wasn’t easy, because in these decades Joseph Ratzinger’s books have been translated by several people. The challenge was to find a certain homogeneity of language.

It is important to avoid, also, the risk that the translation into several languages might not preserve or might betray the author’s thought. Fidelity to the original has been ensured with attention and care thanks to the translators of the secretariat of state.

Q: Were there problems of translation with the first volume?

Father Costa: Yes. For example, the Chinese translation was not impeccable, and others didn’t respond to the theological language.

Q: Have there been further requests for translations of the first volume?

Father Costa: Yes, there is greater interest and as a consequence, the number of publishers has increased. And we are only at the beginning; we have signed contracts with 22 publishing houses worldwide, but we are in negotiations with others.

Q: How are the publishing houses selected?

Father Costa: When it is known that the Pope is working on a book, requests come from many countries, so that the publishing houses in the end are only a part of those who requested it.

In the United States, for example, Ignatius Press seemed to us to be the most appropriate, although it had been requested by important publishing houses such as Doubleday and Our Sunday Visitor.

For the French edition, we chose Parole et Silence, a publishing house that is growing, very committed to the diffusion of papal teaching and, in Spain, we chose Encuentro.

Q: Have there been complete changes?

Father Costa: Not all the publishing houses of the first volume have also printed the second. The choice is due to several criteria — of publishing and organizational seriousness, of course, but also of reliability.

We decided on publishing houses that are capable of promoting not just a book but also its content.

Q: What are the numbers foreseen?

Father Costa: On March 10, seven editions came out — in German, Italian, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish — with a total of 1.2 million copies.

The German edition came out with 50,000 copies, but Herder has added 50,000 and is ready for other printings. The Italian edition is already distributed with 300,000 copies and we are reprinting another 100,000. In France, 100,000 copies are ready. Portugal has started with 20,000. The Croatian edition will arrive at the end of March.

Q: Is an e-book already being planned?

Father Costa: In the prologue of this book, the Pope himself announces a third part dedicated to the infancy Gospels. And the Vatican publishing house is planning a unique edition of the three volumes.

We are convinced that this new book of Benedict XVI will be a long seller. As such, it will be appropriately promoted through presentations, meetings and other initiatives.

Q: The volume is dedicated to the last days of Jesus’ life. Is the launching in the proximity of Easter an accident?

Father Costa: No, this is undoubtedly the best time. It could have been published earlier, but in November the book-interview came out.

Q: Benedict XVI is surely a signature that allows for saving on advertising.

Father Costa: Not only that, but as a publisher I must say the Pope has made the Vatican publishing house grow, because we have had to adapt our infrastructure and organization, demonstrating capacities we didn’t have before.

Obviously the Pope stimulates us also in the cultural realm, so that we propose essays in which his works and books are commented on, so that his teaching is thus divulged among the greater public.

Q: There are no authors if there are no readers. Is this true also in the case of Benedict XVI?

Father Costa: It’s always easy to read the Pope’s words, even on the most complex points.

Benedict XVI is a refined theologian, and at times he also goes into aspects that have to do with the method of research, but whoever is interested in the narration of the faith, in the spiritual dimension or even only in human communication, always finds his pages very comprehensible and captivating.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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