Here’s the story you requested about The Esperanto Book. As it happens, I don’t know a lot of the story, but here’s my end of it. This was originally written in 1987 as an article for the bulletin; I don’t remember if it was printed. I’ve updated it to all be past tense.
27a januaro 1987
Esperanto: Learning and Using the International Language
I never expected to be in charge of a $20,000 project for ELNA. I had come to the 1986 national convention because, as a fairly new member of the Board of Directors, I felt some responsibility to be involved: to meet my fellow directors, find out how things were running, gather the latest gossip, and offer my two cents worth now and then. Afterwards, I planned to return home and spend a pleasantly busy Centennial helping the New England group grow.
Then, within the budget discussions (which, by the way, are regrettably but unavoidably dull), The Esperanto Book came up. This is a book that would cover everything that an American interested in Esperanto would need to get started: history, lessons, examples, dictionary. Dave Richardson had already written it. All we needed was an estimated eighteen thousand dollars for the typesetting and printing costs.
It was clear that ELNA had no such money floating around. In fact, ELNA was still rejoicing that it had more or less broken even, after significant losses in previous years. But, in a moment of unguarded enthusiasm, I suggested that the money could be raised. I volunteered to speak to the members of the convention and ask for money, to show the other Directors that you have to ask for money to get it. This is important: that’s all that I volunteered to do.
The twenty or so people who were there no doubt remember it. I explained the situation: how useful the book would be, how it would go into libraries and advertise for us, how classes would use it. And how it would take $25,000. (I added a little for inflation, and because I preferred having too much money to running out.) Then I threw in $10 of “mia mono... mia propra mono... mia kara mono!” Then I demanded that every executive committee member there add some more. (“La estroj devas estri.” Of course, I probably should have warned them beforehand that I was going to do this. Oh well.) Then I asked everyone else for a contribution. And in fifteen minutes, we had raised $357, or about two percent of the total needed.
Well, I was satisfied that I had done my duty and shown the Board how to squeeze an audience for money. My punishment came the next day. ELNA asked me to coordinate the entire project. If I had suspected that this would occur, I might never have made my little speech. Who needs more work? But this was for ELNA... it would not happen at all otherwise... the Centennial was coming up... so I neglected my local group to coordinate the Book Project.
With the help of many people, we succeeded! The donations and pre-orders came flowing in in response to my letter. (One memorable day, I came home from work to find checks totaling $1,000 in my mail.) And so we were able to typeset and print the book (now famous as Esperanto: Learning and Using the International Language, or more briefly as “The Richardson book”). We printed a hard cover, professional looking book, one that looks great in libraries and indeed is still advertising Esperanto for us. We sent complimentary copies to everyone who donated $50 or more, and you can still see the names of those who donated $500 or more in the front section.
We missed our 1987 goal by a few months, but the book has done very well nonetheless. We sold out the first printing of three thousand copies in less than two years and have printed another three thousand copies. And part of the profits from “The Richardson Book” now go into the Book Fund, so we will be able to reprint it again when necessary and also support future projects.
And that’s how the Richardson book happened, except, of course, I still had to write up a final report on the project... write thank-you letters...