The Thomas Reid Collecting Prize 2020
The Thomas Reid Collecting Prize is part of the Scottish Universities Book Collecting Prize Scheme, intended to encourage the collection of the printed word in physical form among the students of Scotland’s ancient universities. The prize is named after Thomas Reid (d.1624), a great book collector who gave more than 1300 volumes to the University of Aberdeen.
The Thomas Reid Collecting Prize is open to all registered students of the University of Aberdeen. Applications may include the printed word in any physical form, from books to match tickets to film posters. The collection can be of any size, and does not have to be complete by the date of submission.
The winner will be awarded £500 to spend on an item or items for their own collection. They will also win the opportunity to work with professional Museums and Special Collections staff to identify items worth up to £250 which will enhance the University Special Collections.
This prize has been endowed by Dr William Zachs.
See links below for previous prize winners.
- 2019 Prize Winner
Jennifer is pursuing a PhD in Scandinavian Studies under the joint supervision of Dr Hannah Burrows and Prof Ralph O'Connor, focusing on weather magic in the Nordic Middle Ages. Her research is structured around textual, archaeological, legal, linguistic and folkloristic research, which will hopefully result in a trans-disciplinary understanding of weather magic during the Middle Ages.
- 2018 Prize Winner
Pursuit of Knowledge, 1790 - 1850
Sally is pursuing a PhD at Aberdeen under the joint supervision of Professors Hazel Hutchison and Ralph O'Connor on the Pursuit of Knowledge, 1790 - 1850. Taking as its starting point texts with which the Bronte family would have been familiar, Sally's research explores the use of various didactic works on natural history, botany, chemistry, mineralogy, geology and self-improvement.
- 2017 Prize Winner
Derek F Stewart
Victorian Theatre and the Popular mid-Nineteenth-Century Novel
The collection of material I have gathered relating to popular nineteenth-century British novelists may have been born out of the practical reason of aiding my doctoral research, but it has been through obtaining these books that I have gained an insight into the true significance of book collecting. As a literary scholar, I am, naturally perhaps, a bibliophile, and cannot go inside a second-hand book shop without taking at least a couple of volumes home. But since beginning my collection of nineteenth-century texts, I have learnt that any given book is more than a story.
My collection is a tangible link to nineteenth-century culture and its readerships – a period which witnessed a burst of mass-literacy and unprecedented circulation of the printed word. Each volume contains traces of the past: while on some we can see and feel the ragged edges where pages have been, presumably with much anticipation, frantically opened, the gatherings of others have been opened more neatly. Similarly, many of the books have the names of their original owners written in floral handwriting inside, as well as a host of other annotations.
What a marvel it is to see the books themselves as physical objects. The copious engravings that accompany each novel reward a viewing in their original context as opposed to looking at them through a glaring electronic screen, while the array of sizes, colours and different bindings of these books breaks the monotony of the black-spined modern editions that monopolise my bookcase. In addition to giving us a feel for history, then, these books are also works of art; they exist as physical sites where the efforts of artist and artisan are held in a kind of embrace. The term ‘collector’ places undue focus on ownership, but I believe that, as individuals in possession of such collections, we are custodians for subsequent generations of readers.
Themed around my chosen research topic about the theatricalisation of London in the mid-nineteenth-century novel, my collection offers a unique assemblage of urban texts by lesser-known Victorian popular writers. Books by the likes of Shirley Brooks, Augustus Mayhew and Charles Reade are often difficult to source. Despite its impressive collection of nineteenth-century popular fiction, including all the first editions of works by Charles Dickens, the University of Aberdeen’s collections only have a handful of texts by these particular authors. I am also interested, however, in the dramatic sensibilities of these novelists and, given that many textual examples of nineteenth-century drama have been lost, I endeavour to expand my collection with examples of acting editions of plays, such as those published by T.H. Lacy. Furthermore, transatlantic editions of works by these writers often differentiated in form and content from the original British versions, and I plan to purchase other volumes of works by popular mid-nineteenth-century British authors printed for New York-based publisher Harper and Brothers. For me, the most invigorating aspect of book collecting is that it is a constant source of inspiration pertaining to new directions for scholarly research.
- 2016 Prize Winner
David A. Rennie
American Writers and World War I
The Prize money generously granted by the Thomas Reid Prize for Book Collecting has not only enabled me to make many welcome additions to my personal research library, but also to make some donations to complement the already fascinating holdings that pertain to World War I in Special Collections at Aberdeen University.
My PhD thesis explores how American World War I writers held and represented complex, nuanced, and provisional reactions to World War I, which they expressed in a variety of written media, and not just the key texts they are remembered for. A central aspect of this project explores the ways in which publishing practices impacted on the availability, presentation, and textual format of American World War I writing. While some texts have not received a second printing, others have been reissued in a variety of guises. By adding new prefaces and cover images, removing illustrations or including new ones, selecting stories and passages to appear in anthologies, and even reordering the text, the actions of scholars and publishers have continually reconfigured the appearance and accessibility of American World War I writing.
My personal collection comprises, in addition to various volumes amassed through previous degrees and personal reading, a collection of first, or near-first, editions of American World War I novels, with a substantial volume of associated scholarship devoted to British and American World War I literature. I’ve been able to add considerably to this thanks to the Prize. I also donated five items to Special Collections, including a bound edition of Scribner’s Monthly issues from January to April 1934, in which F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night was first published. For the first printing of the novel (of which I purchased a facsimile copy for Special Collections), Fitzgerald changed various scenes and even the name of a central character, Tommy Barban. Ever since their publication in novel form, works like Tender Is the Night have been altered by publishing practices. A notable example of this was the 1948 edition of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, which was issued with illustrations by Daniel Rassmusson and accompanied by a new introduction by the author – a copy of which I also donated to the collections at Aberdeen.
Most of the edits and supplementary additions to American World War I texts have occurred in reprints issued in relatively recent years. However, the most significant example of how developments in dissemination have influenced literary texts is the advent of digitisation, which has made thousands of American World War I texts widely and freely available. Even so, in many cases print versions are still the sole means of accessing these works, and I am grateful for the opportunity to purchase a first edition of Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings’s Three American Plays (1926) and Stallings’s The First World War – A Photographic History (1933) for Special Collections at Aberdeen. Collecting books is not only a means to accessing texts, however. Acquiring physical works allows us to map the textual history of literary work, and to highlight the important point that the actions of publishers and academics often extend and redefine that narrative.