Book History Essay Prize

The editors of Book History annually award a graduate student essay prize consisting of $400 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.

2019 Book History Essay Prize Winner

Amy Sopcak-Joseph, “Reconstructing and Gendering the Distribution Networks of Godey’s Lady’s Book in the Nineteenth Century.

Philadelphia publisher Louis A. Godey used an array of methods to disseminate his magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book, from its founding in 1830 through the Civil War. This article argues that the history of the distribution of the magazine also shaped the gendered messages it conveyed. Initially Godey depended on male agents – whether periodical hawkers or postmasters – to connect subscribers to the magazine. He had to navigate the challenges posed by the logistics of collecting payments from far-flung subscribers and the work of shameless fraudsters who posed as agents through the early 1850s. When the 1852 Postal Act lowered postage rates for magazines and personal correspondence, Godey retooled his marketing and distribution strategies. Highlighting the bulk purchasing power of “subscription clubs,” he recast borrowing a neighbor’s copy as immoral, while depicting women who created clubs in their communities as smart consumers. He attempted to capitalize on women’s social networks to create a salesforce of white, middle-class women. Ultimately, this suggests that the intersection of the domestic and the commercial underlies the magazine’s phenomenal success in the 1850s. 

A complete list of prize-winners is available online.