My name is Zoey Mills, and I am a senior at West Chester University. I am an English major, following the Writings track. I also minor in "British Studies" (basically everything British). After graduation I plan on continuing onto graduate school, hopefully receiving a Masters abroad at either Trinity College of Dublin or a university in England. I then hope to return to America and earn my PhD in English Literature.
For the Summer Undergraduate Research Institute (SURI) of 2014 I conducted a preliminary study on the George Morris Philips Autograph Library. In conjunction with brief research on Philips' biography, I also heavily researched autographs, inscriptions or even the refusal of inscriptions within the 2,000 book collection. Between 1881 and 1920 Philips collected roughly 51% of European authors (focused mostly in England and Ireland) and about 49% of American authors. Intrigued by this statistic I researched and discovered contributing factors to his collecting habits. My discovery has led further insight into book collecting, inscriptions within books and even the influence of copyright laws.
My project is important to my field because book history and the study of manuscripts, inscriptions and book collecting is up and coming. More specifically, very little scholarship has been done on inscriptions, and no scholarly research has been conducted on Philips' personal collection and library. My project has already drawn attention to the collection and resulted in two book scholars visiting it. Hopefully, my project will add to the growing study of inscriptions and author-reader relationships within the English discipline.
Dr. Shevlin is a professor of English and founder/director of the Center for Book History at West Chester University. Besides teaching a variety of courses, she especially enjoys working one-on-one with students on their research projects. Recently she has set up a partnership with Penn State to provide opportunities for undergraduates to work on the Literary and Cultural Heritage Map of Pennsylvania. Her recent publications include "Legal Discourse and Novelistic Form" in The Cambridge History of the English Novel (2012) and The History of the Book in the West: 1700-1800 (2010). With Anna Battegilli, Prof. Shevlin co-authors the Early Modern Online Bibliography blog; in 2012 they co-edited a "Special Forum on Electronic Resources and the Future of Eighteenth-Century Studies" for the Age of Johnson. Being a part of SURI and guiding Zoey as she worked on her fascinating project were highly gratifying experiences for her.
I gained much experience out of SURI 2014. While successfully drafting a potential writing sample for my graduate school application(s), I also experienced a small tidbit of what graduate school is expected to be like. SURI offered much more freedom from what I experienced during my undergraduate courses. But while there is much more freedom, there is also an equal, if not much more substantial, sense of responsibility. Everything was conducted on my terms, my time and at my discretion, but my mentor was there to help when I desired aid or had questions. I am extremely thankful for this opportunity and I hope to take it with me when I move on after West Chester. I also hope to use my experience to help cope with the unpredictability of graduate school.
My research project was a little hard to get underway because it was the summer and a majority of the librarians I needed to speak with were enjoying their summer vacation (rightfully so!). Partly my fault for not setting up contacts before the beginning of the institute, I stumbled around a little bit in the beginning, unsure of where to begin. But once I grasped a slight idea of what to focus on, my project almost snowballed from there. It became rather fun when I began to focus on something I care very deeply about: British and Irish Literature. I also felt very privileged to learn more about George Morris Philips. I encourage every West Chester student to learn more about Philips and his intense dedication to West Chester University while he was president of the Normal College.