Before I was ever an undergraduate and entering bibliographical details at the end of assignments, the locations of book publishers interested me. I might go so far as to say they distracted me. It’s probably as well I didn’t have a search engine at my fingertips and was limited to a school atlas or a globe in my (sedentary) wanderings.
Now as an editor and proofreader, and with a search engine at my fingertips as I work, I still can’t resist finding out more about where the books I encounter in bibliographies come from. I’m not sure why some are more alluring than others. Perhaps it’s simply the sound of a word in my head (if I’m even pronouncing it correctly). Or perhaps it’s an association with a childhood memory or a person I know who hails from that part of the world.
Take Hoboken, New Jersey, home to many a book I encounter. The internet tells me the first officially recorded game of baseball took place there in 1846, that it’s the birthplace and hometown of Frank Sinatra, and that it’s the third-most densely populated municipality in the United States. It also provides interesting information about the etymology of ‘Hoboken’ and the city’s history both before and after the arrival of Europeans. The website of the Hoboken Business Alliance tells me ‘Hoboken is one of America’s most walkable cities’. I’m a keen walker, so that appeals to me, as do the photos of the city.
Then there’s St. Paul, Minnesota, another publisher location rich in history. My childhood love of Little House on the Prairie (on TV) may have influenced my interest in this city. The distance between St. Paul and Walnut Grove, Minnesota, where 11-year-old me would have happily moved, is almost as great as the width of Ireland, where I live. But all it takes is the state name for my thoughts to transport me – slate, chalk and tin pail in hand – to the schoolhouse, the Ingalls and Olsen families, Reverend Alden, Dr Baker, and the power of nature to put an end to best laid plans.
Not all the tempting locations are so far from home. Chawton, Hampshire, was home to Jane Austen for the last eight years of her life. The Visit Hampshire website tells me it’s where she wrote or revised all her novels. Now, revisiting that site (online), the lure of guided village walks, or simply a visit to the house and village to go ag spaisteoireacht (taking a stroll about, up and down), is strong.
And lastly (for this post) there’s Wien (Vienna, home to a regular client and the location of some of the publishers mentioned in her bibliographies). I had a Viennese pen pal when I was at school, and we got to meet up once when she visited Ireland. She was a generous gift giver, and I received many beautiful books and postcards during our years of letter writing, and once a chocolate surprise in the form of Mozartkugeln.
It’s not that much of a journey from Ireland to Chawton, or even to Vienna. I may get to both in the coming years. But I notice that none of the references I list below even need a place name. Or wait. The title of this post includes a quotation. And here I am again at my desk, heading, without moving, to New York, thanks to Dr. Seuss.
With so much information published online and with the expansion of ebooks, the inclusion of place names is nowadays seen by some as unnecessary. But while I’m not one to shun progress, I do miss the detail when it’s not there. Its absence might save me time, but sometimes the distraction is worthwhile.
 Visit Hampshire, https://www.visit-hampshire.co.uk/explore/villages/chawton, accessed 1 November 2022.
 Dr. Seuss (1990). Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (New York, NY: Random House).