‘The Genre World of Australian Crime Fiction’: Dr Beth Driscoll

On the 11th of October the Centre for the History of the Book was delighted to welcome Dr Beth Driscoll from Melbourne University to discuss her ongoing work with genre fictions. Driscoll helpfully delineated the definition of a genre world and how it was inspired by the art world model that Howard S. Becker devised in 1982. This model worked well for popular fiction genres and was adopted by scholars as an exciting new way to analyse and investigate these types of literature. Driscoll emphasised how the research into these genre worlds provides great insight into the cultural importance of the genres, and how they interact with the different layers of society. Continue reading

“Aproche aproche”: Christopher de Hamel on the Duc de Berry’s Collecting

Above the portrait of the Duc de Berry in the January miniature of his Très Riches Heures the golden words “aproche aproche” hang – he is welcoming guests to his New Year’s feast where he is being lavished with riches. “Aproche” means “approach” and is as much an invitation as it is a welcome. The richness of the image does much to draw the viewer in; plates of food and bowls of wine, small dogs and colourful stockings are rendered in bright blues, reds, greens and golds. Continue reading

Janet Coats Black – The Woman who founded Scotland’s longest running book prizes (1919-2019)

In celebration of the centennial of the James Tait Black Memorial Book Prizes the Centre for the History of the Book welcomed Lucinda Byatt on March 29th as she presented her research on the woman who made these prizes possible, Janet Coats Black. The James Tait Black Memorial Book Prizes are a collection of literary awards which are structured as three individual prizes each year in the categories of drama, fiction, and biography. Claiming the title of the longest-running prizes for literature offered in Scotland, the James Tait Black Memorial Book Prizes began in 1919 with Janet Coats Black, the wife of the man for whom the prize is named. Over the last century, however, the woman behind the prize has existed as a fringe historical figure with little more than rudimentary credit given when the prize is discussed. Continue reading

The Legend of St. Christopher and the Fascinating World of Woodblocks

I’ve spent the past ten weeks on placement with the National Museum of Scotland, working to organise a section of their W. & R. Chambers Collection of wood-engraving blocks, stereotypes, and electrotypes.[1] The Chambers Collection has been housed in the museum’s collections centre in Granton (Figure 1) since its donation by the W. & R. Chambers, the Edinburgh-based publisher in 1982, when they moved from their offices on the high street. Continue reading