Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
Dear ASECS Travel Grant Committee:
As the 2014 recipient of the Aubrey L. Williams Research Travel Fellowship, I would like to express my gratitude for the support that ASECS has provided to me as I complete my PhD dissertation in English at the University of Delaware. “Book Abridgment in Eighteenth-Century England,” addresses a significant gap in bibliographical and textual scholarship by recovering the cultural and print history of abridgment. Ever since Daniel Defoe labeled abridgment “the first sort of press piracy” in Essay on the Regulation of the Press (1704), authors and critics alike have regarded the practice with suspicion and the material artifacts as historical curiosities. In effect, histories and bibliographies segregate “legitimate” literary productions from “illegitimate” derivatives. My project demonstrates that these histories were not only interconnected, but that abridgments substantively affected the circulation, popularization, and reception of major literary works.
I stated in my initial proposal that I intended to use the travel fellowship to finance a research trip to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University in New Haven, CT. I arrived in New Haven by Amtrak on 29 March and conducted research throughout the following week. The purpose of my research was to examine many rare and as-yet-undigitized abridgments from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. During my time in New Haven, I examined several dozen abridgments of Robinson Crusoe and established a definitive eighteenth-century publication history for that text. After a careful comparison of the many abridgments of that work, and how those abridgments compare to the original, I intend to argue in my dissertation that early abridgments of the novel corrected many of the generic features that modern scholars most frequently ascribe to the emergent novel form. In a sense, then, abridgments constituted a nascent challenge to the novel, as abridgers attempted to revise those works into something more readily recognizable to reading audiences. While researching the Robinson Crusoe abridgments, I also captured approximately 8,000 images of those works, which I intend to publish in an online bibliography, in which I will acknowledge support from ASECS, which has been crucial to pursuing this research.
On a related note, the trip to New Haven toward which funds from the travel fellowship were applied was, in fact, my third trip in an eight-month period. Shortly after being awarded the Aubrey L. Williams Research Travel Fellowship, I was also awarded a joint eight-week fellowship to the Lewis Walpole Library and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Between these two fellowships, the combined amount of time spent working with collections at Yale University has nearly exhausted its research potential for my project. It is for this reason that I ask the ASECS Travel Grant Committee to allow me to utilize about $550 in remaining funds to pursue some promising leads at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., as well as at the New York Public Library. These research trips will occur during the first two weeks of June 2015. At the current rate of $22.00 to travel roundtrip on a local commuter train from Perryville, MD to Washington, D.C., I can conduct a week of research at the Folger for a little over $100. The remainder of the funds will contribute toward travel and lodging in New York City. Please take this amendment to my original proposal into consideration.
Once again, I would like to express my gratitude for the amazing support that ASECS has invested in my research. Because of your help, I will not only finish the dissertation on time, May 2016, but I have also examined a number of resources that will feature prominently in two articles and one bibliographical note. I will keep ASECS informed as I submit these articles for review.