Manuscript Preparation

Q. I am editing a history book with three parts. The translator for part 1 and the writer of part 2 are now deceased; part 3 was written by a living person. Do I include birth and death dates on the title page? I also have a separate page beginning each part. Should the birth and death date be included there also or instead? Should the birth date of the living author (and editor) be included?

A. One special thing about books is that they are, once published, considered to live on eternally. This condition is reflected in the use of the “literary present” tense: for example, Vladimir Nabokov published his novel Pnin in 1953; but in that book he writes about a misunderstood Russian émigré. In that spirit, birth and death dates are almost never added next to authors, editors, or translators on the title pages of books or with bylines to individual essays. (An exception might be made, for example, for a collection of works by authors from an earlier historical period where birth and death dates accompanying each article may help to contextualize the pieces). The Library of Congress may include birth and/or death dates for authors in its cataloging information for a book, which you will want to reproduce faithfully on the copyright page. And in author biographies (on back covers or near the beginning or end of a book) or lists of contributors it may be appropriate to include birth and death dates as part of a biographical profile. Such more or less promotional information is entirely subject to editorial discretion.