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Two Harvard Students Win Hofer Prize for Book Collecting

Helen Yang and Christopher Foster are the winners of the 2016 Philip Hofer Prize for Collecting Books or Art.


The 2016 Philip Hofer Prize for Collecting Books or Art has been awarded to two Harvard graduate students during a ceremony preceding the Philip and Frances Hofer Lecture.

First-place winner Helen Yang graduated from Harvard College in 2012 and will graduate this spring from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Her collection focuses on “The Lost Works of Dr. John H. Watson.” Her interest in Sherlock Holmes began as a child growing up in China, as a result of reading The Adventure of the Speckled Band first in Chinese and then again in English as a seventh-grade student in Michigan. This led to an interest in Sherlock Holmes pastiches and stories supposedly based on lost works of Dr. Watson. Ms.—soon to be Dr.—Yang won $3,000 for the continuance of her collection.

The second-place prize winner is Christopher Foster, a graduate student in East Asian Languages and Civilizations, for his collection: “Harry Potter Chinese Forgeries.” These are not pirated editions of stories by J.K. Rowling. Instead, they are original stories featuring Harry Potter as the central character, written in China and in Chinese. The judges were intrigued by Foster’s account of how he discovered these forgeries, his analysis of how they relate to genuine works in the Harry Potter series, and his descriptions of how ideas from other fantasy sources, such as The Hobbit, were sometimes woven in. Mr. Foster won $1,500 for the further development of his collection.

A selection of items from these two collections will be on exhibition in Lamont Library during Commencement Week and continuing through the next academic year.

The Philip Hofer Prize for Collecting Books or Art is named for the founder and first curator for the Department of Printing and Graphics at Houghton Library. It was endowed in 1987 by Melvin R. Seiden, Harvard College Class of 1952, who was much influenced by Hofer during his career as a student. Seiden’s intention was that the prize should encourage students to collect, in a spirit that would exemplify the breadth, coherence, and imagination represented in Hofer’s own collection—now the Printing and Graphic Arts Collection in Houghton Library. The judging committee consists of curators from Houghton Library and the Harvard Art Museums, as well as a private collector. 

Article written by Hope Mayo, Philip Hofer Curator of Printing and Graphic Arts, Houghton Library.

Article published on May 18, 2016.