Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica. [Malta Historical Society]. 7(1977)2(194-196)
Heritage. An Encyclopaedia of Maltese Culture and Civilization, Malta, [p.195] Interprint, 1977, nos. 1-6. Published by Midsea Books Ltd., Klabb Kotba Maltin (3A Strait Street, Valletta); 15c per issue.
Heritage is the latest in a series of bold ventures by the newly founded publishing house, which originally started as a book club aimed at providing the Maltese public with suitable reading material and gradually widened its scope and activities so as to cater for the publication of books on Malta in the English language. The success encountered so far by the Klabb has come as a happy surprise to most of us. Part of this success is due, I think, to the know-how and good taste of those who are responsible for the printing and production of most of the Klabb's publications. With the introduction of new establishments and sophisticated techniques over the last ten years, there has been considerable progress in the art of printing in Malta, (though, of course, costs have soared and it is no longer easy for one to be one's own publisher). Heritage is a case in point. I think it can be safely said that, typographically, it is the finest example of periodical literature published in Malta to date. Having said this, however, I must add that Heritage may well be labouring under a dilemma which presumably bedevils the whole activity of Klabb Kotba Maltin. It is not easy to strike a balance between what is 'popular' and what is 'scientific', between quantity and quality, between business and culture. I am afraid that the Klabb, in its praiseworthy effort to reach a wider public, has published quite a few books which were not worth publishing because they were devoid of literary or 'scientific' value. Similarly, Heritage, to keep up the tempo of a monthly publication, might suffer from hurried decisions as regards selection of contributions and their authors, insufficient and uncritical proof-reading and other shortcomings. A more judicious and exacting editorial board could be the answer. An enterprise such as Heritage ought to depend on tutored minds. If standards are maintained, this review, which has already secured a very wide readership, can become a veritable cultural catalyst in this Island. If standards were to drop, then it would become — God forbid! — a monthly document of mediocrity and parochialism! To go back to the 'design' of the magazine. Much as I admire the documentary illustrations so aptly and lavishly included in the text, I must say I do not see the point of having so many hand-drawn illustrations whose main purpose seems to be a prop to the readers' imagination. Such illustrations are worth publishing only if they are highly original and artistic: otherwise adult readers are not to be treated like schoolchildren! The true-to-life depiction of 'Archbishop Caruana disguised as a hawker selling bananas and oranges in Mexico City' on p. 26 of Heritage 2 lacks justification. Similarly, precious space could have been saved if the authors' biographical note on cover page 2 of each and every issue were omitted. It is not [p.196] really important to know that a certain contributor "was employed for sixteen years as clerk with the British Armed Forces and is now employed in a similar capacity by the Maltese Government", and that "for many years he was the secretary of the Societa (sic) Don Filippo Borgia of Birkirkara and in 1974 was elected President of the same Societa (sic)". If at all, these biographical notes (thank God no photos were included!) are to be kept to a bare minimum.