U.Va. Special Collections Curator to Be Honored with MLA Award

David Whitesell holding a big old book while talking to a group of people

Curator David Whitesell also teaches in Rare Book School.

The Modern Language Association of America has announced that David R. Whitesell,  curator in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia, and Roger E. Stoddard of Harvard University will be awarded the eighth Modern Language Association Prize for a Bibliography, Archive or Digital Project. 

They will receive the prize for “A Bibliographical Description of Books and Pamphlets of American Verse Printed from 1610 through 1820,” published by Penn State University Press in 2012 for the Bibliographical Society of America.

Awarded each even-numbered year, the prize is one of 16 awards that will be presented Jan. 10 during the association’s annual convention, to be held in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The award will also go to Thomas J. Hinnebusch, Arturo Díaz and Barbara Blankenship of the University of California, Los Angeles for their digital “UCLA Language Materials Project.”

The selection committee cited Stoddard and Whitesell’s book as “an exceptional achievement, covering a broad range of verse publications. The work of Roger E. Stoddard and David R. Whitesell makes apparent in new ways the richness and variety of poetic production in early America. ... In sum, the ‘Bibliographical Description’ will be vital for scholars in the field and will also open the way for future investigations and discoveries.”

The publisher describes the tome as the culmination of five decades of research, which contains entries for more than 1,300 editions and assembles by date of printing the body of poetry composed and printed in books and pamphlets.

Whitesell has been special collections curator at U.Va. since 2012, when he and co-curator Molly Schwartzburg joined U.Va. Previously, Whitesell was a curator of books at the American Antiquarian Society and rare book cataloger at Harvard University’s Houghton Library. He has been a faculty member at Rare Book School since 1998, where he teaches courses in pre-1800 printed books and descriptive bibliography.

Whitesell received his B.A. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and his master’s degree from Columbia University.

He has published extensively in journals such as Harvard Library Bulletin and Printing History; in edited volumes, such as the forthcoming “The Eighteenth Centuries: An Interdisciplinary Investigation”; and with catalogs, such as “In Pursuit of a Vision: Two Centuries of Collecting at the American Antiquarian Society.”

Stoddard worked for 42 years in the Harvard Library, retiring in 2004 as curator of rare books in the Harvard College Library, senior curator in the Houghton Library and senior lecturer on English.

The Modern Language Association of America has 30,000 members in 100 countries who work to strengthen the study and teaching of languages and literature.

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