The Library Company of Philadelphia First Book Award

The Library Company of Philadelphia’s First Book Award recognizes an extraordinary contribution to American studies by an author whose first published book relies upon significant research conducted in the Library Company’s collections.

The Library Company of Philadelphia’s First Book Award is made possible with the generous support of Maria and Radclyffe Thompson.

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Recipient of the 2022 Library Company of Philadelphia First Book Award

Crystal Lynn Webster. Beyond the Boundaries of Childhood: African American Children in the Antebellum North (University of North Carolina Press, 2021)

The Library Company recognizes Crystal Lynn Webster’s important work to illuminate the social and affective worlds of Black children living in the northern United States during the period of gradual emancipation. In her words, these children “operated between and around historical, conceptual, geographic, and racialized boundaries of childhood and are therefore assumed to have disappeared from the historical record.” Refusing to accept the assumption of historical invisibility, Dr. Webster mines understudied primary resources and keeps her focus squarely on the lives and agency of African American children, recovering their historical presence and honoring them as powerful individual actors.

Crystal Lynn Webster was a 2016–17 Mellon Scholars Dissertation Fellow in the Library Company’s Program in African American History. She is Assistant Professor of History at the University of British Columbia.

2022 Honorable Mention

Susan H. Brandt. Women Healers: Gender, Authority, and Medicine in Early Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022)

The Library Company also recognizes Susan H. Brandt’s remarkable study of the medical practices, labor, networks, and innovations of Black, white, and Native women healers (broadly defined) in the greater Philadelphia area in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As we honor books published during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially fitting that we acknowledge the scholarship of Dr. Brandt, whose previous career as a nurse practitioner has informed her study of the historic contributions of early Philadelphia-era women medical practitioners.

Susan H. Brandt was a 2011–12 William H. Helfand Fellow in American Medicine, Science, and Society at the Library Company. She is a Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Recipient of the 2020 Library Company of Philadelphia First Book Award

Lindsay DiCuirci’s Colonial Revivals: The Nineteenth-Century Lives of Early American Books (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019) examines the rise of American antiquarianism and historical reprinting in antebellum America. Not merely vehicles for preserving the past, reprinted colonial books testified to the inveterate regional, racial, doctrinal, and political fault lines in the American historical landscape.

Lindsay DiCuirci is Associate Professor of English at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She was a Reese Fellow in American Bibliography at the Library Company in 2010–11.

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2020 Honorable Mention

Nora Doyle’s Maternal Bodies: Redefining Motherhood in Early America (University of North Carolina Press, 2018) explores the ways in which ideas about the body were central to defining motherhood, both as a lived experience and as a cultural symbol.

Nora Doyle was an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Library Company in 2010–11.

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Recipient of the 2018 Library Company of Philadelphia First Book Award

Zara Anishanslin’s Portrait of a Woman in Silk: Hidden Histories of the British Atlantic World (Yale University Press, 2016) takes a portrait of a woman in a silk dress as a point of departure to examine the worlds of four identifiable people who produced, wore, and represented this object: a London weaver, one of early modern Britain’s few women silk designers, a Philadelphia merchant’s wife, and a New England painter.

Zara Anishanslin is Associate Professor of History and Art History at the University of Delaware. She was a American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Fellow at the Library Company in 2012–13.