Current Awards

The Willison Foundation Charitable Trust announces the eight winners in its inaugural (2018) competition for research funding in the History of the Book. A total of £19,410 has been awarded.

Dr Catherine Delano Smith (Hon. Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Historical Research, University of London; Funding: £2,400)

Richard Gough’s British Topography (1780): The first reproduction of the medieval map of Britain (the Gough Map). The first reproduction of the medieval map of Britain, the full significance of which is only now coming to light, was published in Richard Gough’s British Topography (1780) as a reduced engraving. The manuscript, already in poor condition, worsened subsequently. This transcription of all c. 800 inscriptions on the engraver’s drawing, corrections to the printed proofs, and the rendering of the place-names on later facsimiles is directed at recovering more of the original text as well as at shedding light on the production of facsimile maps for books in the eighteenth century.


Dr Peyvand Firouzeh,  (Max Planck Post-Doctoral Fellow, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence; Funding: £4,000)

The Willison Foundation’s award allows me to research several fifteenth-century illustrated manuscripts written in Persian at the Chester Beatty Library (Dublin), The British Library (London), and the Bodleian Library (Oxford). My research into the history, provenance, and transmission of these manuscripts will address questions of history writing and reinterpretation of distant times and places in my new book-length project, tentatively titled ‘Legitimacy along Sea Routes: things and ideas between fifteenth-century Iran and Deccan India.’


Dr Marci Freedman (Teaching and Research Assistant, University of Manchester; Funding: £3,000)

Jewish Learning and Censorship in Spain, c.1550 – c.1790s. I will use the Indices of Prohibited and Expurgated Books, alongside the National Archives in Spain, to determine what information was censured, and thereby prohibited. I will offer an important contribution to our knowledge of the place of Hebrew learning in Spain, and Spanish universities in particular, and how Spanish scholars navigated the Inquisition’s control of knowledge. This study will be the first to offer a comprehensive exploration of the transmission of Jewish knowledge and its lasting influence in early modern Spain.


Dr Donald Kerr, (Special Collections Librarian, University of Otago, New Zealand; Funding: £3,310)

The Rev. William Arderne Shoults, a 19th century clergyman book-collector. The Rev. William Arderne Shoults (1839-1887) was a scholarly curate who in his short life amassed 4,200 printed books and manuscripts, now housed at Special Collections, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Research will be undertaken to examine Shoults’s life and activities as a book collector in England. This will include his student life at St John’s College, Cambridge, his parish work in London, his intellectual pursuits in areas such as hymnology, and the gradual formation of his private library. Particular fields of collecting such as early bibliographies and classical texts will be revealed, as will provenance details. Importantly, Shoults and his activities as a collector will be contextualized within the traditions of book collecting of the mid-nineteenth century.


Ms Jennifer Murray (Doctoral student, University of the Arts, London; Funding: £500)

Manuscript Waste Fragments: Identifying the Bindings from which they were removed. This research focuses on manuscript fragments which were used to make elements of bookbindings but were at some point removed from those bindings. This resulted in the fragments being separated from a localisable context (the binding) and the bindings losing key structural elements (such as endleaves, spine linings, etc.). The aim of the project is to determine whether it is possible to identify the bindings from which these manuscript fragments were removed and in so doing, reinstate the link between the two. The Willison Foundation Charitable Trust is supporting visits to the libraries of Lanhydrock House, Cornwall, Merton College, Oxford, Clare College, Cambridge and other associated libraries.


Dr Vaibhav Singh (Post-doctoral, Early Career Researcher and former Teaching Fellow, the University of Reading, UK; Funding: £3,200)

This project examines the material production of books at the Nirnaya Sagar Press and its typefoundry in Bombay (now Mumbai). It aims to situate Nirnaya Sagar’s printing and publishing activity in the context of a consequential shift in the materiality of the nineteenth-century book in India – a shift, that is, from the lithographic to the typographic mode of production. It extends the argument that Nirnaya Sagar’s typographic endeavours constituted an important juncture in the legitimisation of local innovation and technical skill in Devanagari printing, and played a critical role in the cultural validation of the typographic book in the region. The project will also aim to establish a database of the press’s output and consolidate its bibliography.


Ms Lauren Weiss (PhD Candidate; Universities of Stirling and Strathclyde;
Funding: £ 2,000)

A two-fold project of Archival research in the State Libraries of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia (which have important collections of mutual improvement society manuscript magazines), to investigate the extent to which ‘improving’ group reading and writing practices were similar (or not) to societies studied in Britain and Canada; and Travel to Sydney to attend the SHARP conference, ‘From First to Last Texts, Creators, Readers, Agents’. She expects to present on two newly-funded interlinked, open-access bibliographic websites, Glasgow’s Literary Bonds<>, and Literary Bonds<>, resources highlighting the nature and extent of the mutual improvement movement and group magazine production in Glasgow, and in Scotland and England more broadly.


Professor Christine Woody  (Lecturer, University of Pennsylvania; Instructor, Rutgers University; Funding: £1,000)

Printing the Quarterly Review under William Gifford’s editorship, 1809-1824 investigates the complicated process that underpins the production of the middle-class periodical as a homogeneous bibliographic object. Focusing in particular on the geographical separation between editor and contributors–as well as editor Gifford’s own frequent health-related absence from the printing location of London–this project probes how the problems of time and distance influence the kind of book reviewing practiced by the periodical. The Quarterly Review‘s particular brand of polemical, essayistic review-article will be traced back to these pressures of production. This investigation is part of a larger project that considers the relevance of illness and disability to forms of expression in Romantic periodical culture.