Dean’s Corner: The Journey to Looking East

Hong Shen and Margo Taft Stever
“Looking East” authors Hong Shen and Margo Taft Stever

Late last month, UC Libraries celebrated the publication of the new English-language edition of Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Asia, The Photographs of Harry Fowler Woods.  This book, co-authored by Margo Taft Stever, James Taft Stever and Hong Shen, spotlights a little known but important historical event in U.S.-Asian relations.  The publication was commemorated with a book signing at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, as well as a donor event hosted by the library, which took place on the 400 level of Langsam Library.  These events provided UC Libraries with the opportunity to connect with the broader donor community, while celebrating an accomplishment three years in the making.

The road to publication has spanned my entire tenure at UC Libraries.  This is a significant milestone for both the Libraries’ global engagement and UC’s fledging publishing endeavor, an initiative being led by UC Libraries.

The Taft party on the transport ship Logan
The Taft party on the transport ship Logan.

Shortly after I came to UC in 2012, a longtime friend of the university introduced me to the Chinese-language edition of Looking East.  It had been published by Zhejiang University Press earlier that year, and my friend suggested I consider publishing an English-language edition.

Secretary Taft shaking hands with a Moro Chieftan.
Secretary Taft shaking hands with a Moro Chieftan.

I was immediately attracted to the rich, historical photographs, ones I had never seen before, even having grown up in China.  That fall I traveled to Hangzhou, China and visited Zhejiang University (ZJU) to meet with the leadership of their university Press and with Professor Shen.  That first meeting went well and I reached an agreement with both ZJU Press leadership and university leadership to publish the English edition.

Upon returning to UC, I invited Professor Shen and Margo Taft Stever to visit our campus and present about the Taft diplomatic mission.  The visit was a success and, inspired, I continued talks with the Zhejiang University leaders, secured an editor in university archivist and head of the Archives and Rare Books Library, Kevin Grace, and a publisher in Orange Frazer Press, an independent publisher headquartered in Wilmington, Ohio.  And with that, Looking East traveled back to America.

Pi Yung Kung in the Hall of Classics.
Pi Yung Kung in the Hall of Classics.

The English edition of Looking East affords a wonderful opportunity to raise global awareness on this important and under-promoted historical and diplomatic event.  With added content regarding William Howard Taft’s relationship with the University of Cincinnati, I hope this book will engage UC alumni around the world, particularly in East Asia.  Looking East is an invaluable resource for not only understanding history, but also the present and future.

Looking EastLooking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Asia, The Photographs of Harry Fowler Woods is now available for purchase, either on the publisher’s website or amazon.com.