Justin G. Schiller Prize: Previous Recipients

Andrea Immel and Brian Alderson, 2016

The Justin G. Schiller Prize Committee unanimously agrees that Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song-Book: The First Collection of English Nursery Rhymes. A facsimile edition with a history and annotations by Andrea Immel and Brian Alderson (Cotsen Occasional Press, 2013) is its choice for the 2016 Justin G. Schiller Prize.

The three parts of this handsome publication together present an outstanding piece of bibliographical and historical scholarship, challenging longstanding assumptions about publishing for children in England in the 1740s. It is a valuable contribution to the ongoing revision of children’s book history. Andrea Immel, the Curator of the Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University, and Brian Alderson, children’s book historian, critic, author, editor, are leading authorities on eighteenth-century children’s book publishing.  In this work, consisting of not only the illustrated essay and annotations but also of three facsimile volumes, they not only contextualize Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song-Book within the histories of nursery rhymes, oral lore and earlier children’s books, they also locate publishing for children as a mainstream activity, challenging longstanding assumptions about who was publishing for children at this time. Reconstructing the social geography of London, they demonstrate links between Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song-Book and adult literature, antiquarianism, music, theatre, politics and numerous other aspects of mid-eighteenth century society. As Michael Joseph says in his review in the Children’s Literature Association Quarterly (Fall 2015), this study has demonstrably been “conceived in a library and mediated through continual wise and loving congress with rare historical materials.”

Kyle B. Roberts, 2013

Dr. Kyle B. Roberts, Assistant Professor of Public History and New Media in the History Department of Loyola University Chicago, has won the 2013 Justin G. Schiller Prize for his essay, “Rethinking The New-England Primer” published in the December 2010 issue of PBSA. A preliminary version was presented at the Society’s 2010 New Scholars Program.

Finding something new to say about The New-England Primer, one of the most famous American children’s books of all time, is a truly daunting prospect. “Rethinking the New-England Primer” was distinguished by the depth of the primary research (some five hundred editions were examined) and its mastery of the vast secondary literature the Primer has generated. Roberts’ use of evidence from illustrations is especially noteworthy, especially when taking into account the difficultly of analyzing pictures that are normally dismissed as too crude to be meaningful. Roberts did more than describe the changes he observed in the text and illustrations of The New-England Primer over time: he related those changes to shifts in cultural values, by showing how a text whose viability over the decades was correlated to the contents’ adaptability, was eventually “frozen” by editors like Ira Webster, which transformed the Primer into a cultural artifact at a time when Americans were anxious about losing a part of their history. In the committee’s view, Roberts’ essay is a model of how bibliographic data from children’s books can be used to make sense of changes in the wider culture.

Submissions this cycle included work by new PhDs, promising young scholars, and seasoned veterans in the field of bibliography. Projects included a significant number about national print cultures other than those of England and America, a development the committee hopes will continue in the future.

Jill Shefrin, 2010

Jill Shefrin, a rare book librarian, consultant and scholar in the fields of historical children’s books, printed pastimes, and the history of education, has won the 2010 Justin G. Schiller Prize for her bibliography, The Dartons: Publishers of Educational Aids, Pastimes & Juvenile Ephemera 1787-1876 (Los Angeles: Cotsen Occasional Press, 2009); she was the unanimous choice of the Schiller Prize committee. As Stuart Bennett noted in his review in the December 2009 Children’s Books History Society Newsletter, Shefrin’s study is “at once pioneering and definitive. Pioneering because…nobody has previously investigated the ephemeral educational tools offered by a single publisher…and definitive because it does the job in a masterly way.” It is the companion volume to the first winner of the Schiller Prize, Lawrence Darton’s The Dartons: An Annotated Check-list of Children’s Books Issued by the Two Publishing Houses 1787-1876 (2004).

The committee had an excellent pool of nominated works (articles, an exhibition catalogue, monographs and one web site) that included Byron S. Sewell and Clare Imholtz’s Annotated International Bibliography of Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno Books (2008), David Stoker’s three essays on Lady Ellenor Fenn, Linda Lapides’s essay “Children’s Books of By-gone Baltimore: An Essay and a Catalogue,” in The Baltimore Bibliophiles at Fifty 1954-2004 (2009), Jacqueline Reid-Walsh’s “Eighteenth-century Flap Books for Children: Allegorical Metamorphosis and Spectacular Transformation” (2007), and Ruh Bottigheimer’s web site, Bibliography of British Books for Children and Adolescents 1470-1800 https://dspace.sunyconnect.suny.edu/handle/1951/43009?show=full.

Lawrence Darton, 2007

Mr. Darton, an independent scholar, is the great-great-great-grandson of the first William Darton, founder of the publishing house of Darton, won the first Justin G. Schiller Prize for Bibliographical Work in Pre-20th Century Children’s Books for his bibliography, The Dartons: An Annotated Check-list of Children’s Books Issued by Two Publishing Houses 1787-1876 (London/New Castle, Delaware: British Library/Oak Knoll Press, 2004). It was selected from a very competitive group of candidates, which included monographs, articles, dissertations, exhibition catalogues, and web sites.

The award committee judged Mr. Darton’s bibliography a major scholarly milestone that surpassed previous standards in the field, which were set by Sydney Roscoe, Marjorie Moon, and Christina Duff Stewart. Over twenty-five years in the making, the illustrated 729-page monograph describes and indexes in scrupulous detail the output of two of the most influential children’s book publishing firms during a key period in the genre’s development. The Dartons thus builds upon and extends our knowledge about the origins of modern children’s book publishing in England during the long eighteenth century and well into the Victorian period. Children’s book historians, collectors, and historians of the book and of nineteenth-century print culture will find The Dartons an invaluable guide.