In response to:
Bedtime Story from the February 12, 1970 issue
To the Editors:
As a constant reader of The New York Review of Books, which usually makes excellent choices of its reviewers, may I protest the treatment Hamlet’s Mill received in the publication from a reviewer who was in no way equipped to review it [NYR, February 12]. I am too old a hand in the writing and reviewing game to be offended by adverse criticism, but—and it is a very large “but”—I insist the criticism must come, if not from peers, at least from one who indicates the limits of the training he brings to his task.
Mr. Leach, the English anthropologist chosen to review my book, is cited by you as the author of several books dealing with the tribal relations of primitive villages, especially of the Far East. Dr. von Dechend and I, co-authors of Hamlet’s Mill, are historians of science, to which anthropology is a recent and very “step” relation. Moreover, ten years of specific studies in technical astronomy, ancient and archaeological history and myth lie behind the writing of Hamlet’s Mill. Mr. Leach was assigned by your publication a whole page in which to evaluate the book for an American audience innocent of his lack of authority—a lack of authority which is not suggested in his own comment except for his kind allusion to the reputation of the authors. The review itself, couched in irrelevant and inapplicable terms, nonetheless implies an expert knowledge in the field of the book and is made none the more graceful by its offensively jocular tone.
In the publishing of over twenty books in my career, I have never before written to protest an adverse review. This one was so totally unjustified that I must ask you to give this letter of protest equal space and prominence with Mr. Leach’s review.
Giorgio de Santillana
Note: The justification for asking Dr. Leach to review this particular book is that he is considered an authority on two relevant topics, (a) the analysis of myth and (b) primitive time reckoning. For the latter competence see his paper “Primitive Time Reckoning” in C. Singer, E. J. Holmyard, and A. R. Hall, A History of Technology, Vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), pp. 110-127.
May 7, 1970