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York Book Collecting Prize

2020/21 Book Collecting Prize update

After careful consideration and discussion we have taken the decision not to run the Book Collecting Prize this year.

The ongoing global pandemic has meant that our priority is making the Library & Archives as accessible as possible to as many students as possible. Unfortunately, this means we do not have the capacity to administer the prize this year.

We understand that many of you will be disappointed by this decision, which was not taken lightly, and we are sorry for any unfulfilled expectations this might cause.

Take care of yourselves, and we look forward to running the Book Collecting Prize again in 2022/23.

2018 prize winner Sky Duthie's book collection, 'Animals in Print c.1700-1900'

The Book Collecting Prize was launched in October 2017 and is a competition run annually. Open to all students at the University of York, it offers the opportunity to win a cash prize, and the winner will be automatically entered into the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA) National Book Collecting Prize, alongside the winners of similar competitions already established at other universities.

To enter, you'll write an essay about your book collection: the prize is intended to encourage book collecting among students, and we expect that your collection may well be embryonic at this stage.

About the prize

The Book Collecting Prize gives you the chance to win £500 by building your own collections and writing about them. The prize is intended to encourage students to collect books, printed and manuscript materials and will recognise a collection in its early stages.

Who is eligible?

All undergraduates and postgraduates of the University, both part-time and full-time, are encouraged to enter. If you have ten or more items, then you are already a collector, and should apply!

How to submit your entry

The deadline for submissions to the 2020 prize has now passed.

Your entry will take the form of an essay, describing how your collection illustrates a particular theme or type of material, and how the items were acquired. The essay should explain the significance that the collection has for you, and may indicate how the process of collecting has developed your own ideas of the theme. The essay should include a section describing five items that you would like to add to the collection.

Your essay (no more than 500 words long) should be emailed with a completed cover sheet to Sarah Griffin (, Rare Books Librarian, no later than 5pm Friday 24 April.

You should also include a bibliographic list of the books in your collection, with brief annotations.

Your entry should be a maximum of 10 A4 sides in all, including the essay and bibliography, but not including the cover sheet. You are welcome to include images.

Judging will take place in May 2020: entrants will be contacted by email shortly after that, and then the result will be announced publicly.

Judging criteria

Judges will take into consideration the interest, originality, thoughtfulness, promise and creativity of the collection, and the persistence of the collector. We stress that the intention is to encourage collecting, and we expect that applicants' collections will be embryonic, so their size, age and value are irrelevant. What is much more important is the enthusiasm and commitment of the collector, the interest of the theme and the vision of how the collection will be developed.

Previous entrants who are still at the University and still qualify are welcome to enter again.

Previous winners

2020 - Rachel Garner

Rachel was awarded 2020's prize for her essay "Finding Robin Hood: a Public Story made Personal". She said:

"It's really encouraging to me that anyone else finds my collection interesting. It has been a rewarding constant in my life for awhile now. This prize is special to me as it will extend the time I can stay in the UK. I've wanted to live here for years, and a lot of that started with Robin when I was young. Every month here betters my chances of finding a job and getting a work visa so I can stay after my degree finishes. It's precious to me that one of my first connections to the culture here is now helping me on this journey."

2019 - Elizabeth Dunnett

Elizabeth won the prize with her essay "Head to Toe: Historical Costume from Antiquity to 1930", and will take part in the National Book Collecting Prize in September 2019. She said:

"I am thrilled to have won this prize, and am very proud of my collection! My collection represents many years of work and travel, slowly accumulating knowledge and learning how to apply it. To have it recognised in such a way feels extremely rewarding. Winning this prize has not only enabled me to continue building up my collection, but also given me confidence that my passions are worth pursuing. I aim to use this opportunity to share my interests with others and expand my own knowledge further. In the future I hope to build a career in historic fashion, and this experience has strengthened my will to reach that goal."

Elizabeth Dunnett, winner of the 2019 Fothergill Book Collecting Prize, receives her prize from the judging panel in front of a display of books from her collection. The three judges shown are Sarah Griffin, Beth Hume and Pete Biller.

Read more and see photos of Elizabeth's collection:

2018 - Sky Duthie

History PhD student Sky Duthie won the first Fothergill Prize. The theme of his collection is Animals in Print c.1700-1900. He went on to take part in the National Book Collecting Prize in September 2018. He had this to say about the experience of taking part:

"It was an absolute pleasure to be involved in the 2018 Fothergill Book Collecting Prize. Fun and encouraging throughout, it was a great way to engage and enthuse with others about a variety of topics as presented through books in their various roles as literary, intellectual, cultural, artistic, emotional and physical entities; offering a rare opportunity, and a friendly environment, in which to share my own collection and discuss the subjects it illustrates.

Both pre- and post-event, the competition has inspired me to think more widely and critically about the purpose and direction of my collection, making it ever more stimulating, and providing a useful space for reflection and development in preparation for the challenge of the upcoming National Book Collecting Prize in the autumn."

Sky has allowed us to reproduce an excerpt from his essay discussing the process of book collecting, and how this has developed for him:

"The process of collecting has become a preoccupation, and one of my greatest pleasures. I search everywhere possible to find new material, but bookshops and book fairs (York is, of course, a favourite) are the most common sources.

Colleagues have often been intrigued by my collection, and so what began as a largely private endeavour has since become something to share. It was certainly a joy to handle and discuss the books with others, and to see the interest generated, when I put on a small exhibition at an academic conference last year. Indeed, in many ways this perhaps surprisingly communal element has, for me, become the best part of collecting."

ABA National Book Collecting Prize

The winner of our Book Collecting Prize will automatically be entered in the Antiquarian Booksellers Association National Book Collecting Prize, along with winners of similar competitions at other universities. 

Submissions from the winning entry are made by the end of July, and judging takes place in the second week of September, with the winner announced shortly afterwards. The prize giving takes place in London, at the Chelsea Rare Book Fair, on the first Friday in November.

The National Winner receives £500, and £500 is also awarded to the winners' Library.