Application for 2016 Curran Fellowships now open

Applications for the Curran Fellowships for research to be undertaken in 2016 must be submitted in electronic form to no later than November 1, 2015. Applicants should send a current c.v., the names and contact information of two scholars who are familiar with the applicant and his or her research goals, and a description of the project to which these funds will be applied.  Any questions about these awards can be sent to

See our Awards Pages for further details on eligibility and how to apply

Midwest Victorian Studies Association CFP Victorian News: Print Culture and the Periodical Press

CFP:  Victorian News: Print Culture & The Periodical Press

Midwest Victorian Studies Association 2016   #MVSA 2016

April 8-10, University of Missouri, Columbia

Taking as its starting point the remarkable explosion in the periodical press and the availability of cheap print in the Victorian Era, the conference aims to attract papers that reflect fresh and current thinking about the topic. Proposals for papers of twenty minutes in length are sought from scholars working in art history, musicology, history, science, philosophy, theater, and literature. We particularly encourage presentations that will contribute to cross-disciplinary discussion, a special feature of MVSA conferences.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to: new perspectives on Victorian print culture; innovations in the periodical press; print technologies and “cheap print”; periodicals and the arts: fiction, poetry, art, music, and theater; the specialist press; publications for children, women, hobbyists, and the professions; science and the press; the serialization of novels; poems in periodicals; technologies of illustration; interplay of text and image; the press and popular culture; crime, sensationalism, and the press; viral news and literature; the press in the Colonies; politics and the press; gender and print culture; criticism and reviews; journalism as a profession; the economics of periodical publishing; newspaper and magazine advertising; the role of the press in the construction of taste; “neglected” publications; and newspapers as historical sources.

MVSA’s 2016 Jane Stedman Plenary Speaker will be Leanne Langley, Associate Fellow at the University of London’s Institute of Musical Research, social and cultural historian of music, and leading authority on music journalism in nineteenth-century Britain.

MVSA is an interdisciplinary organization welcoming scholars from all disciplines who share an interest in nineteenth-century British history, literature, and culture.

For individual papers or panels, send a 300-word abstract and 1-page vita (as MWord documents) by October 31, 2015, to if you do not submit a paper or seminar proposal, we hope you will plan to attend the conference.

For more information and a full CFP, please visit

MVSA Seminars:

For the third year, MVSA’s conference will feature three seminars open to faculty, graduate students, and independent scholars led by senior scholars on topics related to the conference theme.  Seminar participants pre-circulate 5-to-7 page papers; during the seminars, the seminar leader and participants will identify important points of intersection and divergence among the papers and identify future areas of inquiry and collaboration.  The seminar format allows a larger number of scholars to participate in MVSA and to seek financial support from their respective institutions to attend the conference and discuss a shared area of scholarly interest.  Seminars are limited to 12 participants.

All seminar proposals are due October 15, 2015 and are submitted directly to the seminar leader.  Seminar proposals that are not accepted may be submitted to the general pool of MVSA conference submissions, due October 31.

Detailed Seminar CFPs are available at the conference website:

MVSA 2016 Seminar Topics:

Print Culture and the Mass Public:  Dissemination and Democratization

Seminar Leader:  Julie Codell, School of Art, Arizona State University

Finding/Creating a Voice in the Periodical Press

Seminar Leader:  Leanne Langley, IMR Lifetime Fellow, University of London

The Transatlantic Periodical Press

Seminar Leader:  Jennifer Phegley, Department of English, University of Missouri – Kansas City

‘Piecing the Story Together’ by Lucy Warwick (Oxford Brookes University)


Lucy Warwick is a PhD candidate at the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies at Oxford Brookes University. Her thesis focuses on the representation of the British Empire in the works of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 1832-1845.

She can be contacted via Twitter @LxWarwick and at


Piecing the Story Together


They are probably the most dreaded and feared words for any researcher: ‘not in place’, or even worse, ‘missing’, ‘lost’. These words strike fear into my heart as a library invigilator as well as a researcher.

Sometimes the archives just don’t exist, they’ve been ‘lost to the war’, or simply thrown away, but sometimes items have gone missing more recently. This is often a more frustrating situation, and has been a frequent occurrence on my mission to uncover the work of wood engraver and draftsman, Stephen Sly.

penny mag toucan pic

One of Sly’s most attractive woodcuts appeared in the ‘Penny Magazine’, 25 May 1833 (Issue 73)

My work on Stephen Sly is part of my PhD thesis at Oxford Brookes University which investigates how the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK) represented the British Empire in their publications. The Society was founded in 1826, with Henry Brougham as its chair, and several prominent men on its committee, including politicians, academics, men of science, and of religion. The SDUK aimed to ‘impart knowledge’ to those who had no access to schooling, or simply wished to learn alone. It began its publishing operations in 1827 with scientific treatises on subjects such as mechanics and optics, before moving on to subjects of a broader appeal, including several on wildlife- wild and domestic, plants- edible and ornamental, and travellers’ tales of foreign lands. However these were sold at 2s, or 4s 6d (bound in fancy cloth) and were therefore still fairly expensive. In March 1832, under the superintendence of publisher Charles Knight, the Society began its Penny Magazine, aiming to provide an alternative to the coarse language and provocative politics of the radical unstamped press. From the start, Knight, as editor of the Penny Magazine, wanted to provide his readership with high quality illustrations to aid the reading of otherwise complex articles.

The Penny Magazine is not unknown to us, but there is a distinct lack of information on those who created the illustrations the magazine is known for, and indeed, was bought for. This left a gaping hole in my research which I was determined to fill. In order to understand the magazine’s production I wanted to know the minds behind its biggest selling point. The illustrations in the magazine are nothing less than eclectic and encyclopaedic; they range from reproductions of great works of art, to views of British cities, to peoples and animals from far-flung corners of the globe. Who were the men that brought the world to the fingertips of the Great British reader?

Knight’s circle of draughtsmen brought together by the Penny Magazine included two prominent names: William Harvey, and John Jackson. As pupils of the ‘father of wooden graving’—Thomas Bewick—their names survive, but another part of Knight’s circle remained shrouded in mystery: Stephen Sly & Co.

As far as I am aware, Knight’s archive was largely thrown away by his wife, and any remains were destroyed in the Second World War, so my first port of call in researching the mysterious Stephen Sly was the SDUK archive. To my delight, Sly was listed twice in the SDUK correspondence index, for one personal folder of correspondence, and another addressed to the firm of Sly, Wilson and Evans. UCL, who hold the archive, allow six items to be pre-ordered two weeks in advance – you have to pick wisely! I chose the Sly correspondence and the corresponding out-letter books, as well as the boxes of papers on illustrations belonging to Charles Knight. This seemed to me like it would give me the whole picture of the relationship between Knight, the SDUK, and Sly.

In the two weeks leading to my archival visit, I did as much additional research on Sly as possible. I found entries for him in map engraving indexes, and several mentions in contemporary periodicals. These sources all gave me glimpses into his life, but most turned out to provide contradictory dates, and almost no insight into Sly’s work outside of the SDUK.

Arriving at the archive, I was incredibly excited to be treading new ground, revealing the life of a talented, but forgotten, engraver. I opened the box of ‘S’ correspondence and sifted through to find Sly’s folders. They weren’t there. I checked, and checked again. That dreaded word ‘missing’ came to mind.

One Hundred and Fifty Woodcuts Selected from the Penny Magazine- Worked by the Printing Machine, from the Original Blocks

Without archival records from Knight or Sly, analytical lists, found in ‘One Hundred and Fifty Woodcuts Selected from the Penny Magazine: Worked by the Printing Machine, from the Original Blocks’ (published by Knight in 1835) and copies of accounts forwarded by Knight to the SDUK, are the only method of discovering which woodcuts were Sly’s, and where they were used. The second image lists which woodcuts were designed, drawn, and engraved by the firm. (UCL, SDUK Papers, Bills and Receipts, Item 94).

Only a year into my doctoral research, I hadn’t experienced this before. What do you do when archival papers are missing? They’re the truest window into the past a researcher can find, and provide answers that no secondary source can replace. I continued to see if I could salvage details of Sly’s life and work anywhere. Charles Knight sent lists to the SDUK of every woodcut Sly made for their volumes, as well as information relating to how much they cost, but there was nothing lists which woodcuts were designed, drawn, and engraved by the firmon the Penny Magazine at all. There was, however, a circular in the box that listed Sly, Wilson and Evans as the proprietors and publishers of a scientific and literary journal, The Verulam. I located two copies of the journal, both in the British Library. I was elated! Sly’s work was within my reach. But when I arrived to the reading room, my order had been cancelled, and I met those words again: ‘lost in the war’. Sly continued to evade me.

My last hope was a copy of The Verulam in the British Library’s Newspaper Reading Room, which, against the odds, was there and in place! It revealed much about both Sly’s early work, and a little about his interactions with the SDUK.

verulam magazine

The masthead of ‘The Verulam’ reveals the importance the firm placed on illustration, and the journal includes several woodcuts throughout each issue. Interestingly, the imprint reads: ‘Printed, Published, and Engraved by the Proprietors, SLY, WILSON, & EVANS, Wood Engravers TO THE SOCIETY FOR THE DIFFUSION OF USEFUL KNOWLEDGE…’. This is just one indication that the firm were the main wood engravers to the Society despite their invisibility.

So I was left with fragments: snippets from Sly’s career with the SDUK, patchy information from engraving dictionaries, and some mentions in secondary sources. But what I considered the keystone—the correspondence—was missing. Nonetheless I was able to piece together what I had, to tell at least a partial story of Sly and Co. from their beginnings with The Verulam, to their work with the SDUK, and their feats in colour printing, including William Lee’s Classes of the Capital, Knight’s Old England, and advertisements for the London and Dover Railway. Despite his invisibility in our history books, one of Sly’s illustrations is well known: the view of the Thames on the masthead to the first issue of the Illustrated London News. It contains his name hidden in a boat in the corner of the woodcut.

london illustrated news masthead

Probably Sly’s most famous piece of work: the view over the Thames for the first issue of the ILN, 1842.

I have only scratched the surface of the mammoth undertakings of Sly and Co., and I will continue to research the firm to uncover the works of these brilliantly talented tradesmen. But for now, what I have found so far on Sly and Co. is indicative of what I’d like to convey in this post, that research is not always straightforward, and it is easy to consider your topic lost beyond hope when there are missing pieces. To uncover untold stories and bring to light the lives of those missing from our history books is not easy, and sometimes you have to piece together what you can, patching the holes that cannot be filled by archives. There is no ‘right way’ to deal with the problem of missing archives, but the years we spend researching help to train us to find innovative strategies to deal with these otherwise disappointing situations.

This correlates with my work in antiquarian book buying and the rehoming of editions abandoned by libraries. We often see pleas for help saving archives on book history mailing lists, and it is devastating to think of this primary material being lost. I blame this feeling for my SDUK-book buying habit and recent acquisition of 102 years of the history of science journal Isis that was being disposed of by a university library in favour of digital editions.

But, in the words of Tristram Hunt MP, on missing files in the National Archives: ‘I’m hopeful it’s a temporary aberration…These things do get lost and come back to life.’

And that is our job as researchers, to bring history back to life.

PhD Studentships – Professions and the Press

If any colleagues have outstanding students about to complete their MA or BA and who might be interested in doing a PhD on any aspect of professions and the press (except medical) in the long nineteenth century, they should consider applying to the University of Greenwich, UK

Prospective candidates are also welcome to contact the Director of Studies informally:

Professor Andrew King:

2015 Ghent Conference Follow-up

Following an extremely successful conference in Ghent this summer a Storify link of Tweets from the event has now been set up.  With thanks to Shannon Smith for encouraging colleagues to Tweet throughout the event and Helena Goodwyn for bringing the collection together, herewith is the address where the full story can now be found: