Creative Arts

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27 Nov 2018

Fellowship will shed light on work by one of the world’s most influential female writers

Elaine Hobby, Professor of 17th-Century Studies, has been awarded a prestigious Fellowship by the National Library of Australia (NLA) to study rare first editions of Aphra Behn’s work from the library’s holdings.

The Fellowship, which will run from January to March 2019, will give Professor Hobby the opportunity to determine how Behn’s books reached Australia and to examine the texts’ margins for evidence of early readers’ comments. Towards the end of the Fellowship, Professor Hobby will give talks to the public and NLA staff about what she has discovered about ‘Aphra Behn in Australia’.

Aphra Behn (1640-89) is a renowned English Restoration writer and, as noted by the Editing Aphra Behn in the Digital Age Project (E-ABIDA), is quoted by Virginia Woolf as being the first Englishwoman to earn a living through writing.

The NLA Fellowship builds on funded research at universities and libraries across the USA that Professor Hobby and her colleague, Dr Claire Bowditch, also from the School of the Arts, English and Drama, undertook during a full year in the USA in 2015-16, when they travelled from Fellowship to Fellowship. Their research evidences not only the distribution and reception of Behn’s writings, but also stop-press corrections made during their printing, some of which suggest that the author herself was involved. The results will appear in The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Aphra Behn, publication of which will begin in 2020. That wider project received a large grant for ‘Editing Aphra Behn in the Digital Age’, awarded by the AHRC in 2016.

At the end of her Fellowship, Professor Hobby will travel to Sydney and Melbourne in Australia and Wellington in New Zealand to investigate Behn copies held in five other libraries.

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The Rover: a copy of the rare 1677 edition of Behn’s most famous play, The Rover. At the bottom of the page an early owner has written 05. Perhaps this indicates that the play was bought secondhand for five pence (when new, it would have cost a shilling (12 pence)).

From a private collection.