The Colby Book Prize was endowed in 2006 in memory of Robert Colby by his wife, Vineta Colby, distinguished scholars and long-time members of RSVP. In 2011, following Vineta’s death, the Board of Directors of RSVP unanimously voted to re-name the prize to honor both Robert and Vineta Colby for their many fine contributions to the study of Victorian periodicals and their long commitment to RSVP.
The Colby Prize is intended to honor original book-length scholarship about Victorian periodicals and newspapers, of the kind that Robert and Vineta Colby themselves produced during their careers. The annual prize is awarded to a book published during the preceding year that most advances our understanding of the nineteenth-century British press. The winner receives a monetary award of up to $2,000 and is invited to speak at the following year’s RSVP conference. Please note that the monetary award is paid out in U.S. dollars. See the list of previous awardees below the eligibility guidelines.
Nominations accepted from 15 November through 31 January.
See our awards calendar for all relevant deadlines. Please note that deadlines are subject to change and if needed, will be announced via our social media channels promptly.
Titles may be nominated by publishers or the reading public. Authors may not nominate their own book. In addition to being published within the previous calendar year, the nominated book should have any aspect of the nineteenth-century periodical press as either its central focus or as a substantial element in its scholarly discussion. Monographs, edited volumes of essays, reference books, bibliographies, and scholarly editions are eligible for consideration, as well as biographies or critical studies of people who edited, financed, contributed to, or illustrated periodicals.
Books authored or co-authored by directors and officers of RSVP are eligible to be nominated for the Colby Prize, but such persons will not receive any part of the monetary award.
Nominating a Book
To nominate a book, complete the Colby Book Prize form between Nov. 15 (of the book publication year) and Jan. 31 (of the awarding year). The nominator will need to provide contact information for themselves and the author as well as information about the book itself.
Our 2023 Colby Book Prize Winner
Congratulations to our 2023 Colby Book Prize winner, Jennie Batchelor (University of Kent), for her book, The Lady’s Magazine (1770-1832) and the Making of Literary History (Edinburgh University Press, 2022)!
Batchelor’s book is ‘compelling’, ‘bold’, ‘exciting’, and highly impactful for the discipline. The study is focused entirely on recovering the historical and literary importance of a major but understudied title. It displays considerable archival work, is meticulously researched, and offers a sophisticated argument that also manages to be powerfully and entertainingly written. Batchelor’s The Lady’s Magazine is a model of an extended case study that also makes an intervention in literary studies, with a reach that links communities of writers and readers from the end of the eighteenth century to well into the nineteenth century.
The committee would also like to give Honourable Mention to Matthew Wale’s Making Entomologists: How Periodicals Shaped Scientific Communities in Nineteenth-Century Britain (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2022). The committee praised Wale’s thorough and substantial study of natural history periodicals, pointing out the thoughtful way in which material is organised around four entomological modes of discourse. Archival work informs the strong narrative thread running through the book, and the whole greatly increases our understanding of the role of periodicals in the popular representation of science in the nineteenth century.
The committee also shortlisted Work and the Nineteenth-Century Press: Living Work for Living People (epub, Routledge, 2022), edited by Andrew King, commending its broad and deep importance for Victorian periodical studies, its innovative organisation, and its combination of weighty original research with some ambitious conceptual models.
Previous Colby Prize Winners
Our previous Colby Prize winners include:
- 2022 — Priti Joshi, Empire News: The Anglo-Indian Press Writes India (SUNY Press, 2021)
- Honorable mention: Alison Mould, Medical Identities and Print Culture, 1830s-1910s (Palgrave, 2021)
- 2021 — Two awards:
- Elizabeth Tilley, The Periodical Press in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (Palgrave, 2020)
- David Finkelstein, ed., The Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press: Volume 2, Expansion and Evolution, 1800-1900 (Edinburgh UP, 2020)
- 2020 — Thomas Smits, The European Illustrated Press and The Emergence of a Transnational Visual Culture of the News, 1842-1870 (Routledge, 2019)
- Honorable mentions: Iain Crawford, Contested Liberalisms: Martineau, Dickens and the Victorian Press (Edinburgh University Press, 2019); and Alexis Easley, Clare Gill, and Beth Rodgers, Women, Periodicals, and Print Culture in Britain, 1830s -1900s: The Victorian Period, part of The Edinburgh History of Women’s Periodical Culture in Britain (Edinburgh University Press, 2019)
- 2019 — Andrew Hobbs, A Fleet Street in Every Town: The Provincial Press in England, 1855-1900 (OpenBook, 2018)
- 2018 — Alexis Easley, Andrew King, and John Morton (eds.), Researching the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Press: Case Studies (Routledge, 2017)
- 2017 — Andrew King, Alexis Easley, and John Morton (eds.), The Routledge Handbook to Nineteenth-Century British Periodicals and Newspapers (Routledge, 2016)
- 2016 — Mary Shannon, Dickens, Reynolds, and Mayhew on Wellington Street: The Print Culture of a Victorian Street (Routledge, 2015)
- 2015 — Caroline Bressey, Empire, Race and the Politics of Anti-Caste (Bloomsbury, 2014)
- Honorable mention: Martin Hewitt, The Dawn of the Cheap Press in Victorian Britain: The End of the ‘Taxes on Knowledge,’ 1849-1869 (Bloomsbury, 2014)
- 2014 — Two awards:
- Fionnuala Dillane, Before George Eliot: Marian Evans and the Periodical Press (Cambridge University Press, 2013)
- David Latané, William Maginn and the British Press: A Critical Biography (Ashgate, 2013)
- 2013 — Two awards:
- Aileen Fyfe, Steam-Powered Knowledge: William Chambers and the Business of Publishing, 1820-1860 (Chicago University Press, 2012)
- Robert Patten, Charles Dickens and “Boz”: The Birth of the Industrial Age Author (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
- 2012 — Joel Wiener, The Americanization of the British Press, 1830s-1914 (Palgrave, 2011)
- 2011 — Patrick Leary, The Punch Brotherhood: Table Talk and Print Culture in Mid-Victorian London (British Library, 2010)
- 2010 — Two awards:
- Mark Schoenfield, British Periodicals and Romantic Identity (Macmillan, 2008)
- Laurel Brake and Marysa Demoor (eds.), The Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism (Academia and the British Library, 2009)
- 2009 — Catherine Waters, Commodity Culture in Dickens’s Household Words: The Social Life of Goods (Ashgate, 2008)
- 2008 — Kathryn Ledbetter, Tennyson and Victorian Periodicals: Commodities in Context (Ashgate, 2007)
- 2007 — David Finkelstein, Print Culture and the Blackwood Tradition, 1805-1930 (University of Toronto Press, 2005)
- 2006 — Two awards:
- Linda Hughes, Graham R.: Rosamund Mariott Watson, Woman of Letters (Ohio University Press, 2005)
- Peter Morton, The Busiest Man in London: Grant Allen and the Writing Trade, 1875-1900 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)