St. Louis Mercantile Library Prize Winner Announced
January 16, 2020
On behalf of the St. Louis Mercantile Prize Committee, Chaired by John Neal Hoover, the Bibliographical Society of America is proud to announce the winners of the 2020 St. Louis Mercantile Library Prize. They are (in alphabetical order):
Dr. Lindsay DiCuirci, Colonial Revivals: The Nineteenth-Century Lives of Early American Books (University of Pennylvania Press, 2018)
Dr. Derrick R. Spires, The Practice of Citizenship: Black Politics and Print Culture in the Early United States (University of Pennylvania Press, 2019)
Dr. DiCuirci is an associate professor of English at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Specializing in early American literature and the history of the book, and her research examines the politics of collecting, preserving, and reprinting colonial books and manuscripts in the nineteenth-century U.S. Colonial Revivals traces the labors of a cultural network of antiquarians, bibliophiles, amateur historians, and writers as they dug through the nation’s attics and private libraries to assemble early American archives and reprint, or “revive,” their holdings. Reprinting old books, they thought, would shield them (and their ideas) from loss to wear, fire, flood, or the overwhelming tide of oblivion; their faith in print as an enduring vessel of preservation was, however, complicated by the state of decay in which they found many of their antiquarian treasures. The collections that this network built and the particular colonial stories they selected to tell and preserve reflect the inveterate regional, racial, doctrinal, and political fault lines in the American historical landscape. These materials are also our inheritance, as researchers of the book in America; this history of antiquarian collecting and reprinting, then, is instructive to our current bibliographic enterprises, especially those focused on decolonization, inclusivity, digital access, and sustainability.
Dr. Spires is associate professor of English at Cornell University, specializing in early African-American and American print culture, citizenship studies, and Black speculative fiction. The Practice of Citizenship examines the parallel development of U.S. citizenship and early black print culture through key understudied flashpoints (the 1793 Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic and outbreaks of antislavery violence in 1856), movements (black state conventions and vigilance committees), intellectuals (James McCune Smith and William J. Wilson), and forms (sketch, ballad, and convention minutes). Reading black print culture as a space where citizenship was both theorized and practiced, Spires reveals the degree to which concepts of black citizenship emerged through a highly creative and diverse community of letters, not easily reducible to representative figures or genres. From petitions to Congress to Frances Harper’s parlor fiction, black writers framed citizenship both explicitly and implicitly, the book demonstrates, not simply as a response to white supremacy but as a matter of course in the shaping of their own communities and in meeting their own political, social, and cultural needs. Please also read Cornell University’s article about the award and interview with Dr. Spires.
The prize selection committee was fortunate to receive a wide array of recent, bibliographical monographs, from definitive career compilations of essays, to a descriptive bibliography of American fine printing, to interdisciplinary histories of the American book on diversified and groundbreaking topics. The committee is also proud to make two honorable mentions. These are (in alphabetical order):
- Joseph M. Adelman, Revolutionary Networks: The Business and Politics of Printing the News, 1763-1789 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019)
- William S. Reese, Collectors, Booksellers, and Libraries: Essays on Americanists and the Rare Book Market (Overland Press, 2018)
We are grateful to all participants in the competition to whom we send our sincere thanks to all who participated. This year offered an exceptional group of nominees, and we hope that the excellence in American bibliographical study as represented by this group continues.