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

Opening Up the Archives – The Museum of Childhood Book Collection

On the 15th of February the Centre for the History of the Book welcomed Lyn Stevens, curator at Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood, to talk about the museum’s nationally-recognised collection of children’s books. The collection encompasses over 15,000 items, ranging from a Latin grammar book from 1579 to a book about Hammy the Wonder Hamster from 2006. Not only does the museum actively collect contemporary children’s literature, but its staff are also still uncovering treasures from the donations they’ve already acquired.

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Biologies and Ethnologies of the Book: a one-day interdisciplinary workshop on Deciphering the Indigenous Artifact Language of the Edinburgh Indian Primer.

This interdisciplinary seminar, hosted by the Centre for the History of the Book brings together experts in literary studies, book history, chemistry, archaeology, and biology to create dialogue between disciplines and further understand approaches to early and Native American material and print culture.

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Enlightenment readers in the Scottish Universities – Matthew Sangster

Dr Matthew Sangster delivered an enlightening and engaging seminar on his recent work concerning the rather understudied area of the history of readers. Dr Sangster is an English Literature Lecturer at the University of Glasgow, where he focuses on eighteenth-century and romantic literature, as well as book history – in particular on the history of publishing and libraries. Though he has a focus on the author, his recent work focuses on the history of the reader, with the intention of understanding reading patterns, curriculum changes, and the sharing of works amongst readers.

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