Bibliographical Society

Annual Letter 2017

February 17, 2017

Dear Fellow Members,

The Society’s seventieth annual meeting will be held on Friday, March 24, 2017, at 4:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Harrison Institute / Small Special Collections Library. Following a brief business meeting, there will be a talk, and this year we are honored to have John Casteen as our speaker. He is a former president of UVA, a University Professor, a member of the English department, and a good friend of this Society. His talk is entitled “Some of What We Learned While Seeking Our New Dean of Libraries; or, Things Are Not Always as They Seem, but Sometimes They Are.” Following the program, there will be a reception in the rooms of Rare Book School on the first floor of Alderman Library.

In the business part of the meeting, preceding the talk, the winners of the Battestin Fellowships for this year will be announced. The Battestin Fellowships are named in honor of the late Martin Battestin, professor of English at UVA, and his widow, Ruthe, a literary scholar and long-time member of the Society’s Council, 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 me.

Also in the business part of the meeting, we will vote on the election of two Councilors. First, we need to fill an open position, with a term ending in 2023, and for this slot we propose John Unsworth, the University Librarian at UVA, who is also Dean of Libraries and Professor of English. Before his appointment last year, he was the University Librarian at Brandeis; but he was already well known locally because he received his Ph.D. in the English department at UVA and has been a professor here. His presence will continue a long tradition of having the current University Librarian on our Council.

Second, David Whitesell’s term on the Council expires with this meeting. He is a curator in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at UVA, and he is willing to stand for re-election. It is important for the Society to have him continue because he plays a vital role in our book-collecting contest and our fellowship program–in addition to providing us with informed advice. We propose that he be re-elected for a term ending in 2024.

Our meeting, as usual, is part of the Virginia Festival of the Book. This year’s Festival, the twenty-third, runs from March 22 through 26, and its roster of programs can be seen on its website, at We hope that many of our out-of-town members will find more reasons to come to Charlottesville at that time because there will be many events to attract them.

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Since our last annual meeting, work has proceeded on several future publications. One of them will come out soon after the annual meeting: a reprinting of Gordon N. Ray’s Books as a Way of Life. Originally published by the Grolier Club and the Morgan Library in 1988, it has long been out of print–and in demand, for the essays in it include basic and famous surveys of the rarebook world and thoughtful considerations of book collecting. (It joins another book of Ray’s on our list, The Art Deco Book in France, 2005.) Other forthcoming publications are a collection of essays on type and paper by John Bidwell, two volumes of Paul Needham’s collected essays, a volume of my essays on descriptive bibliography, and the sixtieth volume of Studies in Bibliography. In addition, substantial progress has been made on what will be a major addition to our electronic publication program, Gordon B. Neavill’s bibliography of the Modern Library. This extraordinary production is sure to become a landmark in publishing history and a model for further work. Each new volume of Studies is distributd 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 (

Another of the Society’s activities 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, and David Whitesell’s learned searching has again added to the library’s holdings. Our book-collecting contest is biennial, and the next one will take place in 2018.

We owe a profound debt to our vice president and editor, David Vander Meulen, and his assistant, Elizabeth Lynch, for the high standards and dedicated effort they bring to the editing and production of the Society’s publications; the tradition represented by the Society’s extensive and distinguished list of publications is in good hands. We are also grateful to Anne Ribble, our Secretary-Treasurer, for her faithful, effective, and congenial handling of the Society’s day-to-day operations (including the fellowship competition). And it gives me great pleasure to thank all the members of the Council as a group for their loyal service to the Society: Ruthe Battestin, Terry Belanger, David Seaman, David Vander Meulen, and David Whitesell.

On behalf of the Council, I thank all of you for your support. I look forward to seeing many of you at the annual meeting, and I send best wishes to you all.

Yours sincerely,

G. Thomas Tanselle