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Scolar in the States

English-American publishing collaboration holds particular charm for William J. McClung, editorial director of the University of California Press. He is also American director for Scolar Press, whose London headquarters are near London University and the British Museum.

The combination of McClung and Scolar Press is natural. His position places him where he can identify and promote quality in bookmaking. And Scolar, founded in 1966 by Robin Alston at the University of Leeds, went into business to produce luxury medieval manuscript facsimiles.

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Inspecting samples of Scolar's luxury printing and scholarly and trade book titles can be a treat. Whether the volume is ''Chaucer's Works,'' Thomas Wright's ''Arbours and Grottoes'' with its plan for St. James's Palace and Gardens, William Morris's ''A Book of Verse,'' E. M. Forster's ''Commonplace Book,'' or Beethoven's ''Op. 59, No. 1 - The Razumovsky Quartets'' with its zeal and dashes, the gems of Western civilized thought are extolled and celebrated in sensuous reproduction. Inherent care and attention fairly leap from the bindings , the paper watermarks, the generous margins framing type or sketch.

The choices themselves are another part of the printing choreography. The titles and authors, and the eras they represent, have shaped English thought and taste, creating distinctive aesthetic parameters which have also influenced American history and typographical practice. It's hardly surprising that McClung declared, ''Scolar has a definite commitment to the book as a work of art. Out of 40 National Book League Awards in 1981, Scolar received four. Last year two of our eight new books were selected.'' It also is hardly surprising that these quality volumes are priced $210 to $440.

Scolar is described by McClung as an English ''private scholarly press falling between Oxford and Cambridge University Presses and the large commercial forms.''

Some of its titles are published here by the University Presses of Chicago, Harvard, Pennsylvania, California, and Stanford. ''It continues the tradition of culturally important publishing,'' continues McClung, and carries the translated work of the celebrated contemporary French historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, whose ''Montaillou'' is a brilliant evocation of French medieval life.

Scolar titles also include a record of the British raj in India, some delightful children's books, and several titles by American scholars. McClung hopes United States designed and produced contributions to Scolar's catalog will total five titles annually.

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