Bibliographical Society

Annual Letter 2020

March 16, 2020

Dear Fellow Members,

The University of Virginia’s cancellation of classes and most public events as a cautionary step in consideration of the corona virus pandemic has led also to the cancellation of our seventy-third  Annual Meeting, originally planned for Friday, March 20, 2020. My purposes in this annual letter are to report matters intended to be included in this meeting; to commend several graduate student colleagues who were to have made presentations to the meeting as well as the winners of Battestin Fellowships and the biennial Book-Collecting Prizes; to ask your assistance in conducting a Council election; and to express our common gratitude to several essential contributors to the Society’s annual program of work.

We had planned to hold another in our series of programs featuring short papers by current Virginia graduate students who are working in the general area of bibliographical and textual studies. The program would have consisted of talks by four speakers (listed here with their topics):

  • Michael VanHoose: “Typography and the Printing Costs of British Books, 1789–1830”
  • Shalmi Barman: “The Genealogy of the Title Page in Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym
  • Julie Wilson: “Garnett’s 1882 Edition of Beowulf and Pedagogy at UVA
  • Catherine Walshak: “Tourism Culture and Travel Books in the Early Twentieth Century.”

The business part of the meeting would have included the presentation of awards to the 2020 Battestin Fellows. These fellowships are named in honor of the late Martin Battestin, professor of English at UVA, and his wife, Ruthe, a literary scholar and long-time member of the Society’s Council (and now an Honorary Councilor), who has made extraordinary contributions of many kinds to the Society. The aim of the fellowships is to provide summer support for research in the UVa library by graduate students who are working on bibliographical or textual projects. The fellowship selection committee consists of Michael Suarez, David Whitesell, and G. Thomas Tanselle. The winners and the topics they will study are:

  • Lucia Alden“Performing Morality: A Comparative Study of Marginalia in Early Modern Drama and The Faerie Queene
  • Emmalee Dove“Affective Interventions in Manuscript and Early Printed Books of Hours in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, c. 1240-1599”
  • Bridget Reilly“Framing Melville:  The Physical and Critical Manifestations of Moby-Dick
  • Anne Marie Thompson“Modern and Contemporary Poetry among the Book Arts:  A Study of Cross-Genre Compositions.”

This year’s book-collecting contest is the fifty-third that the Society has sponsored—making Virginia’s the fifth oldest of the approximately fifty such collegiate contests in the United States. The Book Collecting Contest results are:

  • First prize–$1,000: Katherine Churchill, “Bowdoin before 1950”
  • Honorable Mention–$300: Hannah Barker, “Zen in the Art of Collecting: The Works of Ray Bradbury.”

Ms. Churchill will also receive a scholarship generously donated by Rare Book School, providing a tuition-free opportunity to take one of RBS’s renowned courses. In addition, she is eligible to participate in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. Selections from the winning collections will be on display in a case on the first floor of Special Collections until April 30. We are all indebted to Anne Ribble and David Whitesell, who have overseen the contest; to Barbara Heritage, Fred Ribble, and David Whitesell for serving as judges; to the local booksellers who have contributed prizes; and to Michael Suarez for the Rare Book School scholarship.

I need to ask for your assistance in conducting one essential item of business that would have been taken care of at our now-cancelled meeting.  David Vander Meulen’s current term on our Council ends with the meeting that we have had to cancel.  David is essential to our Society’s work, and he has agreed to continue serving for another term, ending in 2027.  With John Unsworth as our seconder, I nominate Mr. Vander Meulen, and ask Members of the Society to send your votes by return email to Anne Ribble at  By copy, I am asking Ms. Ribble to report the results of this vote at the close of polling at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 27.

Since our last annual meeting, the Society has published two volumes. The first, Paper and Type, is an important collection of essays by John Bidwell, a preeminent historian of paper and printing. The Society also issued volume 60 of Studies in Bibliography. With customary breadth, its articles range from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries. Among its contributors are a graduate student, a retired academic, a classicist, an architect, librarians, and an English professor. The coming months will see the publication of G. Thomas Tanselle’s collected essays on descriptive bibliography along with the pamphlet publication of his “A Sample Bibliographical Description.” Meanwhile work proceeds on volume 61 of Studies in Bibliography, on several volumes of essays by Paul Needham, and on what will be a major addition to our electronic publication program, Gordon B. Neavill’s landmark bibliography of the Modern Library. Each new volume of Studies is distributed by the University of Virginia Press, and the Society’s Secretary-Treasurer has a limited supply of most earlier volumes. All of the Society’s other available publications in printed form can be ordered, at a 10% discount, from Oak Knoll Books (

Among the Society’s most important recurring actions is the granting of funds to the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library for the purchase of significant works in the history of bibliography. Special Collections Curator David Whitesell’s learned searching has again added to the library’s holdings. Also during the year we have given $15,000 to Rare Book School to support scholarships (the fifth time we have done so).

In conclusion, let me give special thanks to our Vice President and editor, David Vander Meulen, and his assistant, Elizabeth Lynch, for their extraordinary work in editing and producing the Society’s publications; the Society’s great tradition of publishing Studies and important monographs is being splendidly maintained. Let me also express our enormous gratitude to Anne Ribble, our Secretary-Treasurer, for her thoughtful and efficient handling of the Society’s day-to-day business. And it gives me great pleasure to thank all the members of the Council as a group for their loyal service to the Society: Terry Belanger, David Seaman, John Unsworth, David Vander Meulen, and David Whitesell. On behalf of the Council, I thank all members of the Society for their support. Best wishes to you all.

Yours sincerely,

John T. Casteen