SRS Book Prize 2016: Winner Announced

October 6, 2016
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The 2016 SRS book prize was awarded to Kate van Orden for her Materialities: Books, Readers and the Chanson in Sixteenth Century Europe (OUP, 2015). One further book was highly commended, Helmer HelmersThe Royalist Republic: Literature, Politics and Religion in the Anglo-Dutch Public Sphere (CUP, 2015).

As ever, the judges were impressed by the high standard of the books entered for the prize and choosing a winner was extremely difficult. The judges are very grateful to all the publishers who sent in their books to the committee.

Dr Helmers’s book was singled out by all three judges because of its consideration of mid-seventeenth century Anglo-Dutch politics. Helmer Helmers studies how the continent responded to the Civil War in England and what made the Dutch Republic sympathetic to the royalist cause. This is an unusal an illuminating approach and Helmers offersn insightful analysis through a meticulous attention to a variety of Dutch sources, ranging from engravings, songs, ballads, estate poetry, revenge tragedies todemonology tracts. The breadth and orginiality of the study meant it was worthy of commendation.  

Professor van Orden’s book was, however, the unanimous winner. All the judges commented with admiration on its interdisciplinary approach to the study of sixteenth century songbooks. The book argues that the bibliographical features of French part songbooks show the sociability at the centre of early modern singing. The chanson culture was a carrier of relationships. Singing part songs at home helped family and friends learn to read texts, music, and at the same time, places in society. Here are printed and manuscript part-books, catechisms, civility handbooks and musicology treatises to let us hear the soundscape of the home. But this is not only a history of relationships, it is also a chance to share the singers’ delight in the world of music. We always read books but we don’t often hear them; the originality of van Orden’s text lies in making us realize that. It is a significant book because it brings together book history and the physical and mental activities of reading music and words. Its argument is supple, its approach scholarly, and its style incisive., showing us how performance shares out the creative process between singers, players and the texts in front of them.

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