Bibliographical Society

Minutes of the 2023 Annual Meeting

March 24, 2023

President John T. Casteen III called the meeting to order at 4:00 p.m. in the Harrison/Small Auditorium of the University of Virginia Special Collections Library. He welcomed everyone to this program of the Virginia Festival of the Book and urged them to support the Festival by visiting the website.

Mr. Casteen briefly reviewed the Society’s activities over the last year. G. Thomas Tanselle’s memoir Books in My Life was published in June and has received excellent reviews. Critic William Butts calls Books in My Life a book “that you want to savor like a fine cappuccino, to mull over like a Henry James novel, to contemplate up close like a Vermeer painting.” Work continues on Paul Needham’s collection of essays on the study of early paper and on the Gutenberg Bible. The Society hopes to publish vol.  61 of Studies in Bibliography this year. During the year, the BSUVA donated $15,000 to continue BSUVA scholarships at Rare Book School and $5,000 to the UVa Special Collection Library’s collection of books on bibliographical history.

Mr. Casteen expressed special thanks to Vice President David Vander Meulen and his assistant Elizabeth Lynch for their outstanding work on the Society’s publications. He also thanked the other BSUVA Council members, Terry Belanger, Karen Parshall, David Seaman, John Unsworth, and David Whitesell for their loyal support and thanked Anne Ribble for her work as Secretary-Treasurer.

Copies of the minutes from the last annual meeting were available. The minutes will be considered approved, Mr. Casteen said, subject to any changes provided after the meeting.

Mr. Casteen announced that the officers of the Society had been re-elected at the Council meeting earlier in the afternoon: John T. Casteen III, President; David Vander Meulen, Vice President; Anne Ribble, Secretary-Treasurer.

An amendment to the Society’s By-laws was proposed at the Council meeting, to change the number of Councilors from seven to “up to and including nine.” Mr. Casteen asked for a vote of approval from the membership. The proposal was accepted without opposition.

Council member John Unsworth, whose term ends with this meeting, has agreed to stand for re-election to another term. Mr. Unsworth is Dean of Libraries at UVa and Professor of English. His wise advice on an array of issues facing the Council and his steadfast support over the last seven years have been invaluable. He has been nominated and the nomination seconded.  Mr. Casteen called for a vote of the membership. The vote was unanimous in approval.

Secretary-Treasurer Anne Ribble reported on the Society’s funds and membership. Cash on hand $20,155 in the Alumni Association account, and $37,225 in the UVa account, for a total of $57,380; investments total $177,853; endowment, $205,745. Current membership stands at 224. She noted that the Society welcomes new members, including student members, and called attention to the BSUVA flyers at the back of the room.

 This is the 11th year in which the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia has awarded summer Fellowships of $3,500 to UVa graduate students for research in UVa libraries. The students commit to working for two months of the summer on a project involving books and documents in any field, with a focus on the physical object (in whatever form) as historical evidence. The Fellowships are named in honor of Martin Battestin, former Professor of English at UVa, and his wife Ruthe, a literary scholar and longtime member of the Society’s Council. The judges for the competition were Michael Suarez, G. Thomas Tanselle, and David Whitesell. Mr. Casteen announced the winners and their projects for this year:

  • Kaitlyn Airy Johnson, “A Leap in Memory: Mapping the Manuscripts of Ruth Stone” 
  • Isabel Rose Bielat, “Romantic Nationalism, Transnational Celebrity, and the Politics of Nineteenth-Century British Print” 
  • Heather Alison Moody, “A Digital Edition of Ratna Lingpa’s Works, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2” 
  • Anne Laura Persons, “Picturing the Underground Railroad: Engraving and Extraction in the 1879 Revised Edition of William Still’s The Underground Railroad Records
  • Jared Willden, “Political and Religious Framings of Catherine de Medici in the Discours Merveilleux: A Bibliographic Approach”  
  • Sophia Sonam Zaklikowski, “Seeing Story & Selfhood in Commonplace Books” 

Mr. Casteen announced the launch of The Modern Library Bibliography: 1925-1959, by Gordon B. Neavill, a project many years in the making. This new digital publication, a joint project of the BSUVA and the University of Virginia Library, chronicles the history of the most important American reprint series of significant works of literature and thought published in the twentieth century. It includes an exhaustive bibliography of first printings and major bibliographical variants of each title published in the series during its most prolific and profitable period. Mr. Casteen called attention to an extensive display at the back of the auditorium of Modern Library titles from Special Collections curated by David Whitesell and invited the audience to peruse them after the meeting. Mr. Casteen then read a message from the author of the bibliography, Gordon B. Neavill, who was not able to be at the meeting. Click here to read the message.

Next, John Unsworth, Dean of University Libraries, spoke about the Library’s role providing the IT support to create the digital database. He particularly cited two members of the library staff, Mike Durbin and Doug Chestnut, for their remarkable work in creating a site that will be sustainable over the long term.

Then Elizabeth Lynch, Assistant to the Editor of Studies in Bibliography, provided a brief guided tour of the features of the Modern Library website. The titles are organized by year, and each year entry begins with a thorough history of events at the Modern Library for that year, a discussion of features such as format, title pages, binding, endpapers and jackets, and a list of new and discontinued titles. This is followed by a complete entry for each title published that year. Each book entry includes title page transcriptions, clickable images of the torch bearer icons, collation formulas, and jacket text as well as a clickable image of each jacket and a narrative of the publication history. Other useful features of the bibliography, Ms. Lynch pointed out, include a chronology of the publishing house, an index to authors and editors, an index of publishing house personnel, and a search function.

Mr. Casteen introduced David Vander Meulen, Society Vice President, for the meeting program, a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Handsome, Durable, and Inexpensive: The Modern Library, 1925-1959.”  To illustrate the scope and detail of the bibliography, Mr. Vander Meulen used a metaphor, comparing tracing Meadow Creek, a nearby waterway that appears here and there throughout the city, to tracing the many Modern Library editions of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones through the bibliography. 

The meeting was adjourned at 5:45.

Respectfully submitted,

Anne Ribble