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Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize

Visiting Committee Prize for Undergraduate Book Collecting

About the Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize

Statement of intent due December 18, 2020.

The annual Visiting Committee Prize for Undergraduate Book Collecting competition is open to all currently enrolled undergraduates at Harvard. The prize recognizes the efforts of students who collect books, as well as encourages others to start collecting. Winners will be awarded cash prizes and are invited to exhibit their collections in the library.

Eligible collections may be of any kind — author, subject, illustrators, etc. — and three prizes are given: the first prize is $3,000, the second $1,500, and the third $750.

The Visiting Committee Prize for Undergraduate Book Collecting was established in 1977 to recognize and encourage book collecting by undergraduates at Harvard. It is sponsored by the members of the Board of Overseers’ Committee to Visit the Harvard Library.

Winners will be invited to lend representative books from their collections to an exhibition at the library. The first prize winner will be eligible to compete in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest.

four headshots of students
The 2020 winners, counterclockwise from upper left: Alan Tu ’23, Daniel Sherman ’21, Perry Arrasmith’20, and Pranati Parikh ’21


2020-2021 Entry Rules

The competition is open to undergraduates enrolled in Harvard College.

  • To enter, each contestant must first submit a written statement of intent to apply for the competition. The deadline for the statement is 11:59 p.m., Friday, December 18, 2020.
    • The statement should be sent via e-mail to lamadmin@fas.harvard.edu. It should include:
      • the name and class of the contestant
      • a brief description of the subject or scope of the collection in one to three sentences
      • the contestant's phone number, email address, and mailing address
  • The deadline for full contest submissions is 11:59 p.m., Friday, February 15, 2021.
    • Each contestant must submit the following via email to lamadmin@fas.harvard.edu:
      • an essay of approximately 2,500 words describing the scope, contents, and goal of the collection
      • an annotated list or bibliography of approximately 30 to 50 items in the collection, selected to illustrate its nature
  • The judges may ask to examine the collection, or a representative part of it, and/or wish to speak with contestants about their collection. For this reason, the custom of making prize submissions under pseudonyms is not observed for this contest.
  • To be eligible, collections must be personally owned and must have been formed by the contestant.
  • Collections may be of any kind, whether they deal with authors, subjects, kinds of books, bindings, illustrations, printing processes and technology, etc. Collections may or may not be allied to the student's career or educational interests.
  • The same collection cannot be submitted in the same year both to this competition and to the Philip Hofer Prize for Collecting Books or Art. However, different collections may be submitted for the two prizes in the same year, or the same collection may be entered for the other prize in a different year.
  • The first prize will be $3,000, the second $1,500, and the third $750. The judges reserve the right to divide the prize in other proportions if it seems appropriate, or to award no prizes if in their view no submissions warrant it.

Past Winners

2020 Winners

  • First place: Alan Tu ’23, Found in Translation: Contemporary World Fiction Revisited
  • Second place: Daniel Sherman ’21, Unweeded: Guides to Villainous Vegetation
  • Third place: Perry Arrasmith ’20, Paradise Sought and Collected: My Search for Hawai’i and Home
  • Third place: Pranati Parikh ’21, Learning a Life: Interacting with the Hindu Guru on the Shelf and in Practice


2019 Winners

  • First place ($3,000): Luke Kelly, PT-109: Courage Profiled and Collected
  • Second place ($1,500): Richard Yarrow, History, Humor, and Hope: Books to Consider Jewish Identity in the West after 1945
  • Third place ($750): Nick Colón, Prayer-Bees and Ethnographies: Books as a Ritual Symbol of the Liminal

2018 Winners

  • First place ($3,000): Hanaa Masalmeh, Far From the Eyes, Far From the Heart: My Life as a Syrian-American Muslim
  • Second place ($1,500): Alana Davitt, Lessons From “The School of Southern Degeneracy”: The Collection of a Student of Secrecy, Sentiment and the South
  • Third place ($750): Gavin Moulton, Parthenopean Odyssey: A Personal Journey Through the Miraculous and Mundane in Neapolitan Churches

2017 Winners

  • First place ($3,000): Xavier González, Books That Count: Books and DVDs Calculated to Inspire Children and Young Adults to Explore the Wonderful World of Mathematics
  • Second place ($1,500): Christopher Colby, A Collection of the Classics and More; Unweeded
  • Third place ($750): John Bourjaily, My Collection, or: How I Learned to Start Thinking and Fear the Bombers
  • Third place ($750): Corey Husic, Humans and the Environment: Works that Drew Me Closer to Nature
  • Third place ($750): Richard Yarrow, Observing the Fall of Democracy in the Twentieth Century

2016 Winners

  • First place ($3,000): Luke Kelly, A Collection of Eugene Walter, King of the Monkeys
  • Second place ($1,500): Meg Panetta, A Field Guide to Life: My Identity and the World of Plants
  • Third place ($750): Alexander Farrow, Warfare: History, Theory, and Counterterrorism
  • Third place ($750): Patrick Hogan, The Royal Road to Romance: A Journey Collecting Travel and Adventure Books

2015 Winners

  • First place ($3,000): Eamon Corbett, Wilderness on the Page: My Field Guide Collection
  • Second place ($1,500): William R. Dingee, My Five Hearts: Collecting the Major Poets of My Life
  • Third place ($750): Anna Hagen, From the Stage to the Page

2014 Winners

  • First place ($3,000): Wilder Wohns, Blank on My Map: Unraveling Asia’s Mystique
  • Second place ($1,500): Debbie Onuoha, Novels, Poetry, Plays and Short Stories Written About Africa
  • Third place ($750): Gillian Manley, My Collection of Canadian Novels or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Country

2013 Winners

  • First place ($1,500): Catherine Katz, My Grandmother's Childhood Library: Collecting Early 20th Century
  • Second place ($1,000): Allison Gofman, Tangible Flights of Imagination: Works of Science Fiction and Fantasy as Physical Objects
  • Third place ($750): Victoria Baena, An Innocent Abroad: Tales of the Foreigner

2012 Winners

  • First place ($1,500): William White, Designing, Developing, and Drawing: Architecture, Planning, and the City.
  • Second place ($1,000): Caroline Weisman, Oscar Wilde: Down from a Pinnacle
  • Third place ($750): Joanna Behrman, Why I believe in Fairy Tales

2011 Winners

  • First place ($1,500): Peter Bernard, Flowers in a Mirror: Izumi Kyōka and his Contexts
  • Second place ($1,000): Alexander Konrad, Roots in Conflict: Family History and America’s Military Tradition
  • Third place ($750): Meghan Cleary, Woman and Her Body, Me and Mine and Samuel Milner, The Good Book Says, A Collection of Over Three Millennia of Jewish Culture, History and Thought

2010 Winners

  • First place ($1,500): Charles Santiago Palau, Remembering the Pathways of Immigrant Identity: From Catalunya, to Mexico, to Los Angeles
  • Second place ($1,000): Zoey Orol, Transatlantic Novels of the Long 19th Century

2009 Winners

  • First place ($1,500): John Sheffield, ¿Nunca Más? The Ideology of State Terrorism in Argentina
  • Second place ($1,000): Adam Singerman, The Modern Mayan Languages of Guatemala
  • Third place ($750): Marykate Jasper, Robin Hood Revisited: A Collection of New Takes on an Old Outlaw

2008 Winners

  • First place ($1,500): Gregory Scruggs, The Francophone Collection
  • Second place ($1,000): Trisha Pasricha, Finding P.G. Wodehouse: Catalytic Legacies of My Grandfather's India
  • Third place ($750): Ming Emily Vandenberg, Representative Works in Science and the History of Science

2007 Winner

  • First place ($1,000): Robin Worth Reinert, Songs that Never Die: Community Songbooks in America

    Reinert was also recognized in 2007 with an Honorable Mention in the international Fine Books & Collections Collegiate Book Collecting Championship for her entry American Songbooks.

2006 Winners

  • First place ($1,000): Harrison Greenbaum, A Uniquely Portable Magic: A Collection of Treasures from the Conjuring Arts
  • Second place ($750): Alexis Kusy, The Peculiar Collection
  • Third place ($500): Michael Sanchez, Collecting the French Avant-Garde

2005 Winners

  • First place ($1,000): Loren Bienvenu, Shining Through the Ashes: A Collection of Beat Literature
  • First place ($1,000): Brian Distelberg, “An Interesting Trio of Writers”: Books By and About Edward Everett Tanner III
  • Third place ($500): Kate Ward, Women’s Spaces and Social Safety: American Etiquette and Lifestyle Manuals, 1846 – Present

2004 Winners

  • First place ($1,000): Matthew Gibson, Learning to Read Russia
  • Second place ($750): Adrien Finlay, Untitled essay and bibliography exploring materials about opera
  • Third place ($500): Amy Lee, Zines as Feminist Ephemera

2003 Winners

  • First place ($1,000): Phoebe Kosman, ‘To Arlie’: An Intergenerational Collection of Early 20th Century Boys’ Books
  • First place ($1,000): Roland Lamb, A Personal Encounter with Philosophy
  • Third place ($500): Anna Harkey, Out of Thin Air: A Collection of Old Time Radio Books and Memorabilia

2002 Winners

  • First place ($1,000): David M. Orenstein, Untitled essay and bibliography on China
  • Second place ($750): Jura Pintar, Praxis Philosophy and Book Collecting Practi(s)e: From Marxians to Martians?
  • Third place ($500): Susan Long, Untitled essay and bibliography on family-owned books

2001 Winners

  • First place ($500): Max Hirsh, Untitled essay and bibliography on the Berlin transportation system
  • Honorable Mention: Hourng Kaing, Unusual Females

2000 Winners

  • First place ($500): David Timothy Horn, French Colonialism in the 1920s and 1930s
  • Second place ($400): David Mihalyfy, Autographed Books
  • Third place ($300): Shawn P. Saler, All I Needed to Know, I Learned from Comic Books: My Collection of Graphic Novels

A complete list of winners, 1997-2020