Book History Essay Prize

The editors of Book History annually award a graduate student essay prize consisting of $500 and publication in the journal to the author of the best article submitted to the Book History journal on any aspect of the history of the book. The deadline for submission for each editorial year is 31 August.

2021 Book History Essay Prize Winner

The 2021 graduate student essay award goes to Fan Wang, for her article “How late imperial Chinese literati read their books: inscribing, collating, excerpting”, published in volume 24(2) of¬†Book History.

Fan Wang received her PhD in comparative literature from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in May 2020. Her research focuses on the history of reading and private libraries in pre-modern China. In her award-winning article, she describes and analyzes the reading behaviors of Chinese literati of the late imperial period, arguing that reading is an active and transformative process of meaning-making. Drawing upon both archival sources and published materials, Fan explores how readers in late imperial China enriched, distorted, or corrupted the books they read, leaving behind inscriptions, marginal comments, and collation marks. They imposed their interpretive frameworks upon the text, manipulating it to suit their own purposes. Nor did they shy away from physically altering the book by cutting it up, combining it with other texts, pasting paper slips onto it, or interleaving it with blank pages for the purpose of note-taking.

The reviewers commended Fan for the conceptual sophistication of her article, and for her skill in places these readerly behaviors in their socio-cultural contexts within China, while comparing them to similar activities in Western book culture. The paper is accessible and interesting for anyone who studies reading.

A complete list of prize-winners is available online.