Tributes to legendary copy-editor Judith Butcher

Tributes to legendary copy-editor Judith Butcher

Tributes have been paid to Ann Judith Butcher, former Cambridge University Press chief copy-editor, who (as Judith Butcher) was author of the standard-setting Butcher’s Copy-editing (CUP), first published in 1975.

Butcher died earlier this month (6th October), aged 88, after suffering several bouts of pneumonia.

Ann Judith Butcher (known to many as AJB) was also an associate director at CUP for many years.

Her landmark reference book Copy-editing: the Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Copy-Editors and Proofreaders, subsequently renamed Butcher’s Copy-editing, defined her unique approach: “The main aims of copy-editing are to remove any obstacles between the reader and what the author wants to convey and to find and solve any problems before the book goes to the typesetter, so that production can go ahead without interruption or unnecessary expense.” 

Maureen Bradshaw, former controller of copy-editing, humanities and social sciences at CUP, said: “Judith helped create and manage the systems we used to produce books which I think we can modestly say are of the highest standard in the world. Today, although a lot of things have changed in the publishing industry we still think about the best construction of a sentence, the avoidance of repetition, the sheer sense of a sentence, the orderliness and usefulness of the bibliography, footnotes, endnotes, etc. that go to make sure the reader understands what it is the author wants to convey.

"This is what Judith stood for and believed in, and was her life’s achievement. Along the way she directly or indirectly improved thousands of books, and possibly more importantly, led hundreds of us to a successful and happy career in publishing. She was a modest, thoughtful person who never made a fuss but firmly insisted that we aspire to the highest standards of work."

Meanwhile Sir Geoffrey Cass, chief executive of CUP, 1972-92, said: “Judith was a great stalwart of the Press.” Tony Wilson, chief executive of CUP from 1992-99, also paid tribute: “Judith was far and away the best copy-editor 'on the block', and wrote the definitive handbook on the subject.”