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St. Louis Mercantile Library Prize: Previous Recipients

Dr. Lindsay DiCiurci & Dr. Derrick Spires, 2020

The Bibliographical Society of America awarded two St. Louis Mercantile Library Prizes in 2020. 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. SpiresThe 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 and The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education‘s articles 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):

Jerry Kelly & Misha Beletsky, and Elizabeth Moore Willingham, 2017

The Bibliographical Society of America awarded two St. Louis Mercantile Library Prizes in 2017. Jerry Kelly and Misha Beletsky received the prize for their book The Noblest Roman: A History of the Centaur Types of Bruce Rogers (David R. Godine, 2016), and Elizabeth Moore Willingham received the prize for her The Mythical Indies and Columbus’ Apocalyptic Letter (Sussex Academic, 2015).

Jerry Kelly is a calligrapher, book designer, and type designer. His work has been honored numerous times, and his book designs have been selected more than thirty times for the AIGA “Fifty Books of the Year.” In 2015 he was presented with the 28th Goudy Award from RIT.

Misha Beletsky is the President of The Typophiles and Art Director at Abbeville Press, a publisher of fine illustrated books in New York. He designs publications for a range of clients, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Harvey Miller, New York Public Library, Little, Brown, Pantheon Books, Princeton University Press, W.W. Norton, CBRE, Italian Trade Commission, and Longwood Gardens.

Elizabeth Moore Willingham is a medievalist, text scholar, and Romance linguist. She is series editor for the Old French Lancelot of Yale 229 for Brepols and has published critical work in Latin American fiction and film, including Laura Esquivel’s Mexican Fictions (Sussex 2010). She is Associate Professor in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages at Baylor University where she teaches Old Spanish, Romance Linguistics, and Hispanic literature and film.

Joseph J. Felcone, 2014

The Bibliographical Society of America awarded the 2014 St. Louis Mercantile Library Prize to Joseph J. Felcone for his book Printing in New Jersey 1754-1800: A Descriptive Bibliography (American Antiquarian Society, 2012).

Printing in New Jersey 1754-1800: A Descriptive Bibliography is a detailed catalogue of 1,265 books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, and broadsides – all of the known products of every eighteenth-century New Jersey press. About of quarter of the imprints described are recorded for the first time and the extensive annotations are full of new information gleaned from archival sources.  The book also includes items that may have been printed in New Jersey, works which had been incorrectly attributed to New Jersey presses, and rich back-matter including three appendixes, an extensive list of sources, and three indexes.

Joseph J. Felcone has spent a lifetime collecting, studying, and writing about New Jersey books and the early New Jersey book trade. To compile this comprehensive work, he visited and fully surveyed 115 libraries, from the major repositories in the United States and England to county and local historical societies in New Jersey, and physically examined and recorded every eighteenth-century New Jersey imprint. Printing in New Jersey was published in 2012 by the American Antiquarian Society and designed by Jerry Kelly.

Andrea Krupp, 2011

The Bibliographical Society of America awarded the 2011 St. Louis Mercantile Library Prize to Andrea Krupp for her book Bookcloth in England and America, 1823–50 (Oak Knoll Press and The British Library, 2008).

American Antiquarian Society, 2008

The Bibliographical Society of America awarded the first St. Louis Mercantile Library Prize in 2008 to the American Antiquarian Society in recognition of its work in preparing and publishing A History of the Book in America, volume 3: The Industrial Book: 1840–1880, ed. Scott Casper, Jeffrey Groves, Stephen W. Nissenbaum, and Michael Winship (The University of North Carolina Press, 2007).

The Industrial Book provides an extraordinary overview of how American ideas and words were created, shaped, and turned into physical objects. Broad in scope but nuanced and precise in its detailed exploration of important figures and trends, it challenges us all to think creatively and thoroughly about the book in American history.