Document Type

Open Access Article

Author Biography

Helen Williams is an associate professor of English Literature at Northumbria University and the author of Laurence Sterne and the Eighteenth-Century Book (2021). In collaboration with the Worshipful Company of Stationers, she holds a British Academy Innovation Fellowship titled “Communicating Women’s Work in the Historical Archive,” exploring the history of eighteenth-century women in the book trades.


Edith Southey, Edith May Southey, and Sara Coleridge Jr. covered Robert Southey’s books in vibrantly printed dress fabrics, creating a collection that came to be called “the Cottonian Library.” This article is a manifesto for Cottonian bookbinding to be studied as feminist literary activism. It argues for the importance of looking beyond the book trades to the domestic and unremunerated ways in which women contributed to Romantic period book design, suggesting that the new feminist Craftivism can prompt us to historicize and to acknowledge the significance of Cottonian bookbinding as a practice that cannot be omitted from any history of women and the book.

(In the issue section "Uncovering Labor")