Marketing Literature in the 1920s: investigating the Chatto & Windus Advertisement Books

This project will involve research in the Chatto & Windus archive held in the University’s Special Collections. The student will examine the company’s advertisement books, assessing the different advertising methods applied to individual publications, and contributing to the enhancement of the archive catalogue.

Department: English Literature

Supervised by: Dr Andrew Nash

The Placement Project

The archive of the publishing firm Chatto & Windus contains a series of scrapbooks dating from 1914 containing cuttings of advertisements the firm placed in newspapers and periodicals of all of the titles it published. Not previously examined by scholars, this material has only been catalogued by date of volume. Focusing on the 1920s, this placement will work at the intersection between literary studies and publishing history and foster skills of archival research. Combining data-gathering with interpretation, the project involves two distinct steps in the research process: the student will contribute to the enhancement of the archive catalogue by compiling records of the authors and publications that appear in each volume. S/he will also critically examine the different ways in which selected books were advertised, paying close attention to the number and location of advertisements placed, and the different layout and styles of marketing. In which newspapers/periodicals were individual authors and titles advertised? Were certain books advertised individually or as part of a block announcement? How did the publisher make use of blurbs, endorsements and quotations from reviews? These research questions are crucial for determining how the publisher targeted a particular audience and for uncovering aspects of the reception of literary texts. The project builds on my previous research on the archive and on literary publishing in the inter-war period, and contributes to the University’s aim of fostering research around its sector-leading collections. The research will lead to a jointly-authored journal article in addition to enhancement of the catalogue.


Supported by the Random House archivist employed by UMASCS, the student will undertake archival and IT training (10%) before commencing work on the cataloguing component of the project (30%). The student will also become familiar with relevant aspects of the history of Chatto & Windus and of literary publishing in the 1920s (10%), and with the advice of the supervisor will identify one or more authors whose advertising history will be traced in particular detail (30%). The findings of this part of the project will feed into research for a co-authored journal article (20%).

Skills, knowledge and experience required

Essential: knowledge of and interest in literature and literary history; basic IT skills, including proficiency in use of MS Excel; close attention to detail and accuracy in transcription; ability to work in a team. Desirable: knowledge of and interest in publishing history; interest or experience in cataloguing; previous experience of archival research.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

Through working with materials in special collections, the student will gain hands-on experience of archival research and enhance awareness of, and develop skills around, the cataloguing, conservation and use of archival resources. These transferable skills can be applied in a libraries and museums context as well as in academic research. Through cataloguing and interpreting data, the student will develop both quantitative and qualitative research skills and enhance existing skills in IT. Working as part of a team, the student will also develop communication and collaboration skills. In subject-specific terms, the student will learn more about the different ways in which literary texts are published and marketed, and how publishing and commercial contexts contribute to the formation of literary taste. Through collaboration with the supervisor on a journal article, the student will also learn about how to research, prepare, write and revise a published essay.

Place of Work

University of Reading Archives and Special Collections services

Hours of Work


Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 06 July 2015 - Friday 14 August 2015

How to Apply

CV and covering letter to Dr Nash by 20th March

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