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Lucy Cavendish Fellow, Dr Joe Sutliff Sanders, is raising funds for an exciting new collection at the College Library.

Joe Sutliff SandersI was reading comic books before I could read.

Before I knew how to recognise individual letters and string them together into words, I would spread comics out on the floor and make up stories out of the people and animals, boxes and colours, trying to infer a rising conflict and happy ending without reference to the little marks in the word bubbles. Today, I am a researcher and teacher at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow at Lucy Cavendish College, and I want to make Lucy the place to go for graphic novels at Cambridge.

We are launching a new project, and I am asking you to make it a success. At an 800-year-old institution, it is rare to find an area of academic interest that is still open for the taking, but that is the case with graphic novels: although the dozens of libraries in Cambridge hold an occasional graphic novel here or there or, in one rare instance, roughly a shelf’s worth of graphic novels, there is no library in Cambridge with significant holdings. Right at this moment, we have the opportunity to found a world-class collection of graphic novels in Lucy’s own library.

Cambridge is both the strangest and the ideal place to host this collection. As one of the oldest and most prestigious universities, Cambridge is an odd place for graphic novels, a format roughly a century old. Too, comics are often championed on the strength of their appeal to reluctant or marginal readers, and the students and staff at Cambridge are anything but that.

However, Cambridge is also exactly the right place for such a collection. With multiple new academic journals on comics and graphic novels launched in recent years, it’s a cutting-edge field, exactly the sort of subject for Cantabrigians. And although it is certainly true that reluctant readers like comics, geeks like them even more, and it is hard to imagine a geekier place than the proving grounds for the reflecting telescope, rules of football, and DNA. Cambridge is the perfect home for a world-class collection of graphic novels, and this is the perfect time to launch it.

Lucy Cavendish has an excellent library with its own long-held tradition of supporting writers through the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, famous for helping undiscovered female writers launch their literary careers, and the Children’s Literature Collection. It is also the most diverse College at Cambridge, and there is considerable enthusiasm for new ideas. It is a great College, but sadly not a wealthy one, so we need the help of philanthropists to meet the costs of launching this new collection.

I am reaching out to you, as a fan of graphic novels, for help in finding the remaining funds (£9,000) for this first phase of development. Would you be willing to support this new collection with a donation? As well as our sincere gratitude, each book purchased will bear the name of the donor. Donors will also be invited to the opening launch and future dinners, conferences and other events.

Donate towards our Graphic Novels initiative

I have personally designed this initial list of texts, specifically seeking books currently available in English that have emerged as cornerstones of the field but also, in keeping with Lucy’s unique history, seeing to it that great graphic novels by women and people of colour are included right from the foundation of the collection. We will continue to grow the collection in stages over the years and add to it annually, but this core collection will prove that there is a place for graphic novels at Cambridge.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to find out more. I would be delighted to have a conversation about how we can make this happen.

Dr Joe Sutliff Sanders, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge.

Neil Gaiman says, “We've come a long way! And it tells us all how far comics have come that an 800-year-old University wants to start a collection of Graphic Novels. To get it off the ground, Joe needs the support of people like us - the comics and Graphic Novels community, whether readers, writers, artists, scholars. It’s a unique opportunity, so I really hope you’ll show your support with a donation.”