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Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize: Interview with Emma Treleaven (2023 winner)

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 19 April 2024

Emma Treleaven, PhD candidate at the London College of Fashion, won the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize in 2023 with her collection My Own Two Hands: Books and Ephemera About Making Dress and Textiles Before 1975. She also won the Antequarian Booksellers Association’s National Book Collecting Prize in 2023 with the same collection. She spoke to Special Collections about her experience book collecting and applying for the prize.

Photo of a woman smiling directly into the camera

Emma Treleaven, 2023 Anthony Davis Student Book Collecting Prize winner

Tell us a bit about yourself and your collection!

I’m a PhD student at London College of Fashion, but I’m also a museum curator and a maker. I collect books and ephemera about how people made clothing and textiles in a domestic setting in the past, primarily before 1975. I use my collection to learn how to make things, to inspire me, and to preserve knowledge and skills I think are important.

 

How did your collection begin? Has it changed over time?

My collection began when I was learning how to sew in secondary school. I wanted to sew dresses from 1950s patterns, and my teacher gave me a book about dressmaking from the 50s which totally changed my perspective on making and social history. When I moved to the UK to study Fashion History and Theory at Central Saint Martins, I started to collect books about how clothing and textiles were made in the past more seriously, and this evolved into my collection today. My focus has shifted a little bit a few times, but overall it’s stuck to materials women (for the most part) used to learn how to make dress and textiles before 1975. Within that, it depends on what I want to learn to make at the time. For example, my PhD is about shoemakers and shoemaking, so I am collecting more about that at the minute.

 

What was your process for discovering and choosing the theme and what to add to your collection?

I think the ’theme’ of my collection really chose me. There was no where else to learn the techniques used to make dress and textiles from the past, which is what I’m passionate about, in a wide ranging, affordable way, except in the materials I started collecting. As these materials tended to be in danger of being lost because they are generally printed on cheap paper and used until they are in poor condition, I also started collecting to preserve the books, and the knowledge in them, from being lost.

 

My collection is a working one, so I actually use the books and ephemera to learn how to make historic dress and textiles. What I add to my collection is centred around this. If I want to learn about bobbin lace making or leather glove making that month, I will search out more materials to do with those subjects. But that preservation aspect also comes into it, if someone offers me something that I am not necessarily interested in making right now, say, 19th century tatting, then I might acquire it if I’m worried about the technique or physical publication disappearing.

 

Books with colourful covers spread out across a table with a lace tablecloth

A portion of Emma’s collection

Did anything surprise you in the process of collecting?

What some people value others really don’t. I can get so excited about a book or a pattern or a piece of ephemera, and it’s strange to think that the dealer or another collector won’t see the beauty or importance of it like I do. What I collect tends to be of little interest to other collectors, which I think makes it all the more important to preserve, but it also means that I can generally get what I am looking for at an affordable price as few others are interested. So that lack of interest helps my student budget of farther, which is great, but I still find it surprising when others don’t see the beauty of these materials.

 

What made you want to apply for the book collecting prize?

I think I just really appreciated that something like this exists. I really love books, so it’s wonderful that a prize to support students with book collections of any topic is out there. I also couldn’t pass up such a lovely prize, adding to UCL’s collection and my own was too good an opportunity to pass up!

 

Did you encounter any challenges during your application process? How did you overcome them?

Pulling my collection together so I could write my bibliography was an unexpected challenge! My collection was stored all over my home, and a lot of the publications are quite small, so finding it all when I was writing my application was surprisingly tricky.

 

A lace dress on a dressmarker's dummy. Pattern books are spread across a table, propped open.

Emma’s collection on display at a 2023 Rare Books Club session

 

What was your favourite part of the application process?

Doing the application made me look at my collection in a different way, which was nice. I suppose I had known I was ‘collecting’ before then, but having to pull everything out, evaluate it, list it, and really define what I am a collector of was really fun! It’s made me think about why I collect, how I use my collection, and how to be more strategic about it in future.

 

 

What advice would you give someone hoping to get into book collecting? 

Whatever you are interested in, there will be a book about it out there for you, even on a student budget. I find book fairs to be a really friendly and fun way to browse and learn about the book world, and because there are so many dealers with very diverse stock all in one place you are bound to find something that catches your interest!

 

Thank you to Emma for talking about her experiences applying to the Anthony Davis Student Book Collecting Prize! You can read more about her collection at:

There’s still time to apply for the Anthony Davis Student Book Collecting Prize yourself! Visit the prize webpage to read about the application processes. Applications are open to any student enrolled at a London-based university.

Applications for the 2024 Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize are now open!

By Ching Laam Mok, on 26 March 2024

Applications of the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize open from 25 March to 5 May 2024.

The Anthony Davis Book Prize is open to any student studying at a London-based university who has a coherent collection of printed and/or manuscript material. The winner will receive £600 as well as an allowance of £300 to purchase an item for UCL Special Collections. The prize will also include the opportunity to give a talk on your collection as part of the UCL Special Collections events programme.

Items from the last year winner Emma Treleaven’s collection on making dress and textiles before 1975.

The collection should be based around a common theme which has been deliberately assembled and that the collector intends to continue growing. The items in your collection do not have to be typically seen as valuable or historically important. If you collect printed or manuscript materials, which can include anything from comic books and postcards to modern publications, then you are welcome to apply!

Items from the collection of 2022 winner Hannah Swan.

The prize is intended to encourage students to collect books, printed items, and manuscript material, by recognising a collection formed by a London student at an early stage in their collecting career. All current undergraduates and postgraduates studying for a degree at a London-based University, both part-time and full-time, are eligible to enter for the prize.

Books from Daniel Haynes’ collection, the 2021 winner.

This year, we have changed the application process. We are no longer asking applicants to email us – instead, please apply by filling out our online form here.

The application period will end at 23:59 on Sunday 5th May 2024. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to present their collections to a panel with representatives from UCL Special Collections, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association, and the Bibliographical Society. This will take place on 5th June 2024, between 10am and 1pm.

We look forward to seeing your book collection!

Books from Alexandra Plane’s 2020 winning collection.

More information:

To apply or to learn more about the eligibility criteria:

For advice on what a collection can look like:

Conversations with previous winners and finalists:

Announcements of previous winners:

Keep an eye out on the blog for an interview with last year’s winner!

Winners of the 2023 Anthony Davis Student Book Collecting Prize

By Erika Delbecque, on 4 July 2023

We are delighted to announce the winners of this year’s Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize, which is open to students from any London universities. The prize is intended to encourage students who collect  books, printed and manuscript materials. We received over thirty submissions from a total of nine institutions, with collections ranging from manuals on insect collecting, Penguin editions and books on the Tudors to 1890’s London and theatre programmes.

Results

Because of the high standard of the finalists’ presentations and collections, the panel decided to split the award between the two top-scoring candidates. Emma Treleaven, a PhD candidate at the London College of Fashion, is this year’s winner. Her collection, entitled My Own Two Hands: Books and Ephemera About Making Dress and Textiles Before 1975, focuses on learning materials on making clothes and textiles in domestic settings. Her collection is a way of preserving skills that are at risk of being lost, and she uses her collection to teach herself to make clothing in ways that aren’t taught anywhere outside of these historical printed materials. As the winner of this year’s competition, Emma will represent London at the ABA National Book Collecting Prize 2023.

Items from the collection of Emma Treleaven

Items from Emma’s collection on making dress and textiles before 1975

Items from the collection of Ben Baker

Items from Ben’s collection on the artistic and literary networks of Fitzrovia between 1920-1948

The runner-up candidate is Ben Baker, whose collection Artistic and Literary Networks of Fitzrovia: 1920-1948 impressed the panel with its ambition and clear focus. His collection explores the eclectic concentration of the so-called bohemian authors and artists who lived and worked in the region surrounding Fitzroy Square in London in the interwar period. Benjamin is studying for a BA Classics at UCL.

Items from the collection of Ben Baker

Items from Ben’s collection on the artistic and literary networks of Fitzrovia between 1920-1948

Tessa Roynon, a MA Library and Information Studies student at UCL, received a special mention for her collection The Formations of Toni Morrison, 1955-1980, which focuses on the pre-celebrity work of the African American Nobel Laureate.

The other finalists were:

  • Grant, Jenny – ‘Read this – and tell others’: Inscriptions and the gifting of Polish books to British friends by the Polish Armed Forces, 1939-45
  • Gray, Victoria – Prized Possessions: a collection of 19th- and 20th-century school prize books
  • Mitra, Sudipto – Barefoot Ballers: Books on Football in India
  • Shanker, Louis – My library, after David

Meet the finalists and see their collections

All seven candidates will be presenting their collections to the public in our UCL Rare-Books Club series over the next few weeks.

On Wednesday 5 July, Victoria, Jenny and Ben will present their collections in person at the UCL Bloomsbury campus. Book your place on Eventbrite and drop in any time between 12.30pm and 2pm.

On Wednesday 16th August, Sudipto, Emma, Tessa and Louis will present their collections. This is likely to be a hybrid event, which you can either join in person at the UCL Bloomsbury campus or online on Zoom. Book your place on Eventbrite and drop in any time between 12.30pm and 2pm.

In addition, Anthony Davis, the benefactor of the award, will be presenting his collection of fine bindings on Wednesday 19th July. He will talk about how he started collecting and show a selection of his book bindings, alongside bindings from UCL. This event is taking place in person at the UCL Bloomsbury campus. Book your place on Eventbrite and drop in any time between 12.30pm and 2pm.

We would like to thank all the applicants and wish them good luck and many years of joy in their future collecting. Our thanks also go to the judges for generously giving their time and, most of all, to the benefactor of the award, Anthony Davis, for helping nurture the collectors of the future with his encouragement, expertise and enthusiasm.

Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize: Interview with LSE Library

By Ching Laam Mok, on 24 May 2023

At UCL Special Collections, we look after collections that, as a whole, tell a larger story about our shared history and culture. Some items may have a high monetary value, but many like the 1970s workbooks preserved in our Baines Archive, collectively help us understand the history of education 

Open book showing an abstract illustration of a back bone and a child's description of the illustration. Child's handwriting is very difficult to read.

‘Book of Bones’ from our Baines Archive.

Preserving history doesn’t depend on past collectors. Student Book Collectors play an important role in capturing a snapshot of history. Collections like the 2020 winner “Books that Built a Zoo” allow us to understand the intersection between children’s literature and animal conservation. “Read my Genders: A Trans for Trans Collection” captures the voices of modern-day transgender writers and advocates.  

But you don’t just have to take our word for it. Chelsea Collison, Learning and Engagement Officer at LSE Library, has written about her favourite collection and how it helps her better understand history.  

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I’m the Learning and Engagement Officer at the London School of Economics Library where I work closely with the curators to tell the stories of the collections to a wider audience. I do this via workshops schools and public events for university students and beyond. I specialise in using learning outside of the classroom to increase public awareness, appreciation, and curiosity for heritage, history, and nature.

Outside of work, I enjoy exploring the outdoors whether in the urban parks within London or further afield during travels outside the city. Growing up in Florida, I spent my formative years playing in the waves on the eastern coast, hiking through swamps and tree canopies, or paddling around the crystal blue springs. These memories along with an early job as an educator at a natural history museum have developed a deep feeling of awe and wonder for nature in all its forms.

Woman standing between library shelves, looking at a book behind her.

Chelsea Collison, Learning and Engagement Officer at LSE Library is looking at collection items.

If you were applying for the Anthony Davis Book Collection, what would you submit?

If I were applying for the Anthony Davis Book Collection the theme would be women in natural history. In what has historically been a male dominated field, it’s important to learn about the women who have contributed to biodiversity sciences despite the many social and cultural barriers they were up against. Examples includes works by Mary Anning, Rachel Carson, and Maria Sibylla Merian (to name just a few!). I have a particular interest in scientific illustration as I’m always impressed by the level of observation skills and detail required for creating something that is scientifically accurate and not just pretty.  Of course, I also enjoy these works because they are also beautiful and serve as inspiration for my own artwork! Although natural history is not something that is a specialty for LSE, there are still some gems on this topic to be found within The Women’s Library collections! Some other examples can be found on the Biodiversity Heritage Library Flickr page

Stack of library books about women in natural history

Chelsea would submit a collection of women in natural history if she was applying for the book collecting prize.

How do you choose what to add to your collection?

I would want to build a collection that would represent a wide range of ecological biodiversity within the books and illustrations (botany, mycology, entomology, etc.) but also a diversity of the women represented. I would place special interest in books that highlight geographical areas that are special to me including Florida, and now England, which have both experienced high levels of environmental degradation meaning many of species represented in older books and illustrations may now be extinct.

Red book with a gold embossed flower on the cover

One of the items Chelsea picked.

What does this collection mean to you?

To me, this collection would tell two hidden stories, one of people and one of place. The story of people would highlight the often forgotten or unknown women of science and their important contributions to the field. The story of place would highlight impacts of environmental degradation and climate change by showcasing illustrations of species that no longer exist in these places we have come to call home.  

Thank you very much to Chelsea for talking to us! If you’d like to learn more about LSE’s Library collection, visit their website.

If you have a collection of books, postcards, leaflets or other print items that tells an important story to you or a subject your passionate about, consider applying for the Anthony Davis Book Prize! Details of how to apply, and more examples of other books collections, are available on our blog 

Applications for the 2023 Anthony Davis Book Prize are now open!

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 19 April 2023

 A graphic which reads 'An Invitation for All Students: Action required – The Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize is on 4TH JUNE. Don’t miss your chance to win £600! Search ‘UCL Special Collections Book Prize’ for more info.’ in a text bubble. In the background is a collage of postcards from around the world

The Anthony Davis Book Prize is open to any student studying at a London-based university who has a coherent collection of printed and/or manuscript material. The winner will receive £600 as well as an allowance of £300 to purchase an item for UCL Special Collections and the opportunity to give a talk on their collection as part of the UCL Special Collections events programme.  

collection of books & pamphlets

Items from the collection of 2022 winner Hannah Swan

The collection should be based around a common theme which has been deliberately assembled and that the collector intends to continue growing. However, the items in the collection do not have to be valuable or historically important – anyone who collects items from comic books, to postcards, to modern publications is welcome to apply!  

Books from Daniel Haynes’ collection, the 2021 winner

The prize is intended to encourage the collecting of books, printed and manuscript materials by students by recognising a collection formed by a London student at an early stage in their collecting career. All current undergraduates and postgraduates studying for a degree at a London-based University, both part-time and full-time, are eligible to enter for the prize. 

Photo of books in the collection 'Books that Built a Zoo'

Books from Alexandra Plane’s 2020 winning collection

For more information: 

To apply or to learn more about the eligibility criteria:

For advice on what a collection can look like: 

Conversations with previous winners and finalists: 

Announcements of previous winners: 

Keep an eye out for future blog posts on what book collecting can look like!  

We look forward to seeing your book collection! 

shelf of books

Items from 2022 finalist Jessie Maier’s collection ‘

Q&A with Erick Jackaman, 2021 Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize Runner Up

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 28 April 2022

Erick Jackaman very kindly talked to us about his experience applying for the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize and his fantastic collection ‘Read my Genders: A Trans for Trans Collection’. You can follow Erick on Instagram and Twitter @transingabout

Photo of Erick Jackaman standing outside

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m Erick Jackaman, a UCL alum. I was an MSc Digital Humanities student (2020/2021). I’m queer, trans, 23 and a Londoner. I’m passionate about trans representation and trans joy.

What collection did you submit?

I submitted my collection of transgender print materials, which I titled “Read My Genders: A Trans for Trans Collection”. At the time of submitting, it contained 69 items, ranging from fiction books to museum guides to event flyers to zines and more! In general, I prioritise self-published and limited edition print materials and I focus on work by trans people for a trans (and wider) audience.

Brightly coloured pink and yellow books on a white shelf

How did you start collecting?

When I purchased my first trans book in 2013, I wasn’t conscious of starting a “collection”. At the time, there weren’t many trans works of fiction and I was really gripped by a book called Refuse by Elliott DeLine. I read the ebook (twice!) and then decided to purchase a physical copy so I could have it forever and lend it to other people in my life (which I did). After that, I just started accumulating ephemera from trans events I went to, like film festivals and panel discussions, and buying international publications, like FTM Magazine, online.

Do you have a favourite item in your collection?

It’s so hard to choose a favourite, but I really love the Museum of Transology exhibition guide. I had come across this guide twice before I acquired it while visiting the Museum of Transology in London and then in Brighton, but the guide belonged in the exhibition itself and wasn’t available for purchase. On my third visit to the collection, the curator, E-J Scott, was running around right before closing time and handed me a copy of the exhibition guide to keep. It was such a special moment!

Front cover of the Museum of Transology exhibitions guide    Inside page of the Museum of Transology exhibitions guide

Why did you apply for the book prize?

While reading about the prize, the phrase “print materials” really stood out to me because that’s exactly what a lot of my items are (rather than books). I thought it sounded like a really cool opportunity to actually take stock of my collection and present it to a wider audience. I honestly didn’t think I would win, but I thought – why not?

How did you find the application process?

I really enjoyed the application process because it made me actually write a list of all the items in my collection, which I hadn’t done before. I also loved spending so much time with my collection and thinking about the ways in which it could grow. That said, the application did take me many hours (mainly because I have so many items!)

Did the application process help you learn more about collecting?

The interview I had as part of the application (second round) was one of the most valuable chats I’ve ever had. I felt so lucky to have the attention of so many “book collecting professionals” and I learnt so much about how to store and preserve my collection. I feel very grateful for that!

Close up of books from Erick's collection

How has your collection changed since applying?

Honestly, not much! I left the UK soon after applying and I am still travelling, so I haven’t been actively looking for new items. That said, I am currently in Singapore, which caused me to come across a beautiful and very meaningful book called Our Blood Runs Red Just Like Yours, which documents The T Project – “the first and only social service for the transgender community in Singapore”.

What advice would you give someone thinking about applying?

Go for it! If you already have that inkling that you have some sort of print material collection, do yourself the favour and spend time with your collection and submit an application! As for the application itself, even if you’re just starting out, demonstrate the clear “theme” of your collection and the direction you want it to grow – this part is important.

 

Thank you so much to Erick Jackaman for sharing about his collection and application! If you’d like to apply for the Anthony Davis Student Book Collecting Prize, you can learn more about the application on our website.

Applications are open to students at any London-based university who have a cohesive collection of print, manuscript, or ephemera items. The deadline for 2022 applications is May 3rd.

Announcing the winners of the 2021 Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize

By Erika Delbecque, on 28 June 2021

French translations of Beatrix Potter, English testimonies to the Holocaust and women of the South Asian Diaspora – these were just some of the collecting themes amongst the applications for this year’s Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize, which is open to all students at London-based universities. The prize, which is generously funded by Anthony Davis, aims to encourage collectors who are at an early stage of collecting books, printed materials or manuscripts.

Because the standard of applications was particularly high this year, the panel made the exceptional decision to award two prizes.

The winners

Books from Daniel Haynes’ winning collection

This year’s winner is Daniel Haynes for his collection ‘The money earned by herself’: women artists of the Roycroft Press. This printing house was founded by Elbert Hubbart in New York State in 1895. It became the most influential Arts and Crafts press in America and a commercial success. Following the trend to revive 15th-century printing techniques and skills started by William Morris’ Kelmscott Press, the Roycroft Press produced books that were hand-printed and illuminated. Daniel’s collection focuses on books that contain evidence of women illuminators, highlighting the contributions made by artists whose role has often been overlooked. Daniel, who is a studying for an MA in Library & Information Studies at UCL, will receive a cash prize and the opportunity to work with a member of staff to select a new item for UCL Special Collections. He will also be entered into the national book collecting competition that is organised by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association.

The runner-up winner is Erick Jackaman with their collection Read My Genders: A Trans for Trans Collection. They collect a wide range of contemporary material that is published by trans people for trans people, including self-published novels, zines and leaflets. Erick is currently studying for an MSc in Digital Humanities at UCL.

Pink spines on a book shelf

The pink spines in Erick’s collection

“The whole experience of applying for the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize has been such a joy for me”, they said. “When I started writing my application back in March, it didn’t occur to me how valuable the application process itself would be or how much I would learn throughout. Speaking [to the panel] filled me with a sense of wonder for the potential of my collection.” Erick will also receive a cash prize and the opportunity to select a new item for UCL Special Collections.

The other finalists were:

  • Humphrey Price for his collection of works by Clare Leighton
  • Howard Kordansky for his collection of books and pamphlets on the role of the German Jewry in the First World War
  • Jemma Stewart for her collection of floriography or the language of flowers

See the finalists present their collections online

Join us for special sessions of the 2021 UCL Rare Books Club Online to hear some of the finalists speak about their collections and show some of the items. These lunchtime sessions are free to attend and open to all.

 

From matzo balls to Christmas pudding: the Jewish Cookery Book (1895)

By Erika Delbecque, on 22 April 2021

Dishes you would expect to find in a book entitled Jewish Cookery Book probably do not include jam roly-poly, shepherd’s pie and Cornish pasties. Yet, these traditional British recipes are all listed in this curious cookery book, which was recently acquired for UCL Special Collections.

A cookery curriculum for Jewish school children in London

A picture of the cover of the book

M.A.S. Tattersall, Jewish Cookery Book, compiled for use in the cookery centres under the school board for London (London: Wertheimer, Leah & Co, 1895)

The Jewish Cookery Book, published in 1895, was written by Miss M.A.S. Tattersall, about whom little is known other than that she worked as the superintendent of cookery for the School Board for London. It was compiled for use in teaching cookery to Jewish pupils in schools across London. Miss Tattersall, who was presumably not Jewish herself, asked a “Jewish lady” to revise her draft to ensure that it met Jewish dietary requirements.

That lady is likely to have been Rachel Adler, who writes in a foreword to the work that she believes that the included recipes are “are in full accordance with the requirements of our dietary code”. She was the wife of rabbi Hermann Adler, chairman of the Jews’ College, which incidentally had links to what was then University College: at the time of Adler’s chairmanship, Jews’ College was located in Tavistock Square near University College, so that students could combine their religious studies with an academic degree course from the University of London (LSJS).

Kosher British cuisine

The Jewish Cookery Book presents a curriculum consisting of two courses, through which the student progressed by learning to cook increasingly complex dishes. Students move on from boiling eggs and making vegetable soup in the very first lesson to stewed veal with forcemeat balls by the end of the second course. The work includes standard British fare that has been adapted to meet the requirement for kosher food (the introductory section includes instructions on “koshering meat, poultry, etc.”), as well a small number of recipes for Passover dishes such as matzo balls and sassafras, a drink made of liquorice and aniseed.

A picture of two pages with recipes

Recipes including jam roly-poly and pea soup

As such, despite its title, the curriculum set out by this book essentially offered Jewish pupils in London an education in English cooking. It was part of a spate of cookery books in the late nineteenth century aimed at the rapidly increasing Jewish immigrant communities in London. The implicit aim of books such as Jewish Cookery Book was to “anglicise and integrate” these communities into British society, which explains the inclusion of, of all things, a recipe for a Christmas pudding in what purports to be a Jewish cookery book (Gerson, p. 303).

Selected by a student book collector

A picture of the section containing Passover recipes

Recipes for Passover dishes

The work joins several other cookery books in our Jewish and Hebrew collections, including a copy of the Jewish Manual, published in 1846, which is regarded as the first Anglo-Jewish cookery book. This new acquisition for our collections was selected by Alexandra Plane, the winner of last year’s Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize. It struck her as an “interesting as an example of assimilation of British and Jewish cultures”.

As well as the opportunity to work together with UCL Special Collection staff to select an item for the collections, the winner of the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize receives £600 and the opportunity to give an online talk on his or her collection as part of the UCL Special Collections events programme. We are accepting submissions for this year’s Prize until 30th April 2021. For further details, please visit our page for applicants.

The Jewish Cookery Book can be consulted in our reading room. If this blog post has inspired you to try some of Miss Tattersall’s recipes, a digitised copy from the University of Leeds Library is available here.

Further reading

David, Keren (2019). Miss Tattersall’s guide for the Jewish cooks of 1895, The Jewish Chronicle, https://www.thejc.com/lifestyle/food/a-%EF%AC%82avour-of-haimish-history-from-an-antique-cookery-book-1.493119 (accessed 22 April 2021)

Gerson, Jane (2010) From Bola d’Amour to the Ultimate Cheesecake: 150 Years of Anglo-Jewish Cookery Writing, Jewish Culture and History, 12:1-2, 297-316, DOI: 10.1080/1462169X.2010.10512156

LSJS (2018) About LSJS: A Brief History, https://www.lsjs.ac.uk/about-lsjs.php (accessed 22 April 2021)

Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize: Collecting with Intention

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 12 April 2021

The Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize is an opportunity to celebrate student collectors and the diverse collections they build and nurture. Last year we wrote about how you can be a student book collector without even realising it. But what is the difference between a book collector and someone who just owns a lot of books? For us, and the judges on the Book Collecting Prize panel, the difference is collecting with intention.

What is Collecting with Intention?

Collecting anything is about building a collection of material around a common theme for a specific purpose. You could be collecting because you really love the subject, author or artist. Or it might be about raising awareness or preserving a history you believe is important. But it becomes a ‘collection’ when it forms a cohesive whole. Think of books or items that if you would give away as a unit rather than one item at a time.

The intention behind your collection can be academic or it can just be something that you are passionate about. Some of last year’s finalists collected in areas that overlapped with their studies, while the 2020 winner submitted a collection of books she had since her childhood. You can also submit material such as letters, postcards, and comic books.

It’s all well and good talking about this in the abstract, but what exactly does an intentional collection look like? Let’s look at some examples:

Vicky’s Collection of Music for the French Horn

Potential Collection Title: Milestones for a Music Student

Vicky, our Head of Outreach, has a collection of sheet music for the French horn. Her sheet music cover different milestones of a student’s journey to learning how to play the instrument. The music was primarily bought when she was learning the instrument herself as a child. None of the music in the collection are particularly rare, but some of them are now out of print.

Selected items from Vicky's music collection

Selection of sheet music from Vicky’s French Horn collection.

When Vicky started the collection, it was music that she needed to proceed to the next milestone of learning music. It wasn’t really a collection at the time – it was just the assigned sheet music for learning the French horn. However, over time she filled her books with annotations that documents her journey as a musician. This includes names of music teachers, recitals and more. They now serve as a history of her progress as a music student. Once she finished her studies, she kept the collection as a single unit. They have a certain amount of sentimental value – they represent the journey she took when learning the French Horn and remind her of the teachers and concerts that helped her along that journey. But it also represents what the musical journey of most French horn players – the music pieces that she has are very popular amongst people learning the French Horn and become more technically difficult over time. If she was to give the collection away, she’d give it to a music student at the beginning of their learning journey as, in theory, they then wouldn’t need to buy another piece of music until they finish their studies. But it’s also a collection that’s still in use. Vicky returns to old music to practice her skills and finds that the music she learned years ago is still challenging for different reasons. Why she isn’t actively adding to the collection, it serves as a physical representation of a learning journey.

Notations inside music book

Notations inside of one of Vicky’s music books.

What does this mean for you, a potential applicant to the Anthony Davis Book Prize? Books that you may have purchased over the course of learning something new, but then changed in significance to you overtime, may be a great thing to submit to the Book Prize. When looking at your collection, try asking yourself the following questions:

  • What does this collection represent to you?
  • What about it tells a story that I think is important?
  • What about my relationship to these items has changed that makes me think of them as a cohesive whole?

Sarah’s collection of modern science fiction and fantasy written by women

Potential Collection Title: Imagined Feminist Futures

I collect science fiction and fantasy novels written by women. These are primarily books published in the past five years, but I am also actively seeking earlier works. A few years ago I realised that despite the fact that I love the science fiction and fantasy genre, almost all of the authors I’ve read were men and the authors I had on my shelves were entirely men. So, I decided to change that by intentionally reading and buying science fiction and fantasy books authored by women. It started out as just a reading project – I read primarily library books or ebooks. But as I realised how many authors I had been ignoring, my purchasing patterns started changing as well. The moment I started seeing it as an intentional collection was when I bought a special edition of the collected Binti novellas – a series of novellas that had initially been published online but were re-issued in a physical format.

Selection of books from Sarah's collection

Selection of books from Sarah’s science fiction and fantasy collection.

As my collection has grown, it has become a reference library for myself and other people in my social circle. I also am more likely to buy a book by an author that I haven’t read if I believe it will fill a gap in my collection. While my collection is also dependant on the books I enjoy – part of it has been regifted to friends when I didn’t enjoy the story – there is a core set of books that I would be very reluctant to part with and serve as a representation of women’s contributions to the genre.

Book cover of Binit Collected Novellas

Binti: The Complete Trilogy. While tracking down this edition, I started to see my books as a collection.

If you, like me, started a collection to fill a knowledge gap or encourage better buying habits, these questions might help you think a bit more deeply about your own collection:

  • Why do you buy the books you buy (beyond them being required reading)?
  • Why do you buy particular editions?
  • What have you learned from building your collection?

Final Thoughts

Even though Vicky and I both collect printed material, your collection doesn’t have to be limited to printed books or sheet music. Instead, it can be a collection of letters or diaries, postcards or greeting cards. The items you collect do not have to be old or historically valuable – modern material is welcome. What we want to see in applications to the Anthony Davis Book Prize is intention and purpose. If you can tell us why these items serve as a cohesive whole and the story they tell, then you’ll be the ideal applicant to the Book Prize.

 

We are now accepting applications for the 2021 Anthony Davis Book Prize! The prize is open to all students at a London based university and applications close on 30 April 2021. For more information, visit our main page for the Anthony Davis Book Prize.

Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize: Books that built a zoo

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 16 March 2021

The 2020 winner of the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize, Alexandra Plane, has written about her book collection: ‘Books that built a zoo.’

The collection which I entered for the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize brings together various editions of books by the naturalist Gerald Durrell, printed from the 1950s to the 2000s. Durrell was a pioneer of animal conservation who believed that zoos should prioritise conservation and education rather than entertainment and profits. He needed money to realise his vision, and he raised it by writing. His books proved enormously popular—particularly his humorous accounts of his childhood in Corfu, which you might have seen adapted for TV as The Durrells. However, he did not actually enjoy writing; it was a means to an end. That end was the foundation of Jersey Zoo in the Channel Islands, which continues to be a leading organisation in animal conservation today.

Image of books from the collection 'books that built a zoo'

Selection of books from Plane’s book collection.

You might be thinking that this is an odd choice for a book collection—why collect mass-market books which aren’t particularly old or rare? Why collect books by a reluctant, lowbrow author rather than his brother, the celebrated novelist Lawrence Durrell? In truth, these questions did not trouble me when I first started buying Durrell’s works. This started out as an accidental collection. By the time I discovered Durrell’s writing, many of his books had gone out of print. I began buying them simply because I wanted to read them, not out of any lofty ambitions to be a collector.

It was only later that I began to comprehend the significance and interest books have as physical objects. For example, at the back of my early mass-market paperbacks, Durrell had placed requests for donations from readers to support the work of Jersey Zoo. The evolution of these advertisements over the years reveals how vital the publication of the books was to the foundation and success of the zoo, the first of its kind in the world. In the pre-internet era, these seemingly unimportant paperbacks were able to physically convey Durrell’s appeals for aid into the hands of readers across the globe.

Applying for the prize gave me an opportunity to look anew at my bookshelf. Most of my Durrell books only cost a few pounds, but I realised that this does not mean that they are unworthy of being described as a ‘collection’. Presenting my books to the panel (made up of Anthony Davis himself as well as representatives of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association, the Bibliographical Society, the Senate House Library, and UCL Special Collections) was a wonderful experience which enabled me to further expand my understanding of what it means to be a book collector.

I have since completed an MA dissertation on a nineteenth-century atlas collector, and I have just started a PhD on the library of King James VI and I. The reflective nature of the prize’s application process enabled me to tie together my own experiences of collecting with my academic work. Many of the questions I discussed with the interview panel continue to resonate in my research and book-buying, whether I’m rooting through an Oxfam bookshop or studying sixteenth-century royal libraries. If you are a student at a London university with a collection of books which you are passionate about, I would urge you to apply for this year’s prize. You might not identify with the label of ‘book collector’ now, but you may be surprised to discover that it does in fact apply to you, too!

Applications for the 2021 Anthony Davis Book Prize are open! The prize is open to all students at a London based university and applications close on 30 April 2021. For more information, visit our main page for the Anthony Davis Book Prize.

How to be a student book collector (and apply for the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize)

By Helen Biggs, on 17 April 2020

This year, UCL Special Collections is hosting the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize, to be awarded to a current student studying towards a degree at a London-based university. For many students, the label of ‘book collector’ is a grandiose one, and while the tiny space on their bed-side table may be crammed with text books and novels these don’t seem to match the image conjured up by the words ‘book collection’.

However, the Anthony Davis Prize does not require you to own first editions, or signed manuscripts, or books so old they are crumbling to dust. So if you’re interested in a £600 cash prize and a chance to talk about the books that you own and love, read on to learn how you can be a book collector – and then apply for the Prize.

You’re actually already a book collector

‘Collecting’ as a hobby is often seen as something for the rich, or the obsessed, or both. Whether it’s stamps or classic cars or Pokémon cards, the idea that a collection is prized for its rarity and monetary value above all else has become standard, as has the image of collectors as always collecting, always trying to one-up their rivals. This image is not untrue of every collector, but ignores the real reason many people collect: the love they have for their chosen collectable, and the joy they experience in finding something new to them, and sharing it with others. It ignores, too, that collections do not have to be rare and expensive to be enjoyed. It ignores that you probably, entirely unintentionally, already have a collection of your own.

A shelf full of books, shelved in no apparent grouping or order.

If you’re a lover of books then you probably have a good number of them. They may not have been amassed with any particular purpose beyond reading them, but the pile of unread paperbacks on the floor next to your bed, the childhood favourites stacked on top of your wardrobe, and the romance novels stuffed in shoe boxes that you can’t quite bring yourself to give away are a collection of books. That makes you a book collector.

The first question is: what books are you collecting?

Turning your collection of books into a book collection

For the Anthony Davis Prize, it is not enough to own books. We’re asking that your collection ‘consists of no fewer than 8 printed and/or manuscript items reflecting a common theme, which the collector has deliberately assembled as the start of a collection and intends to grow’. So you’ll need to find a common theme among your book collection, one which you’d like to expand on as you buy more books.

A good place to begin is looking at subject, genre, or author. If you have an interest in baking cakes, you may have amassed a good number of food magazines. You may have a good collection of graphic novels. You might have every book written by J. K. Rowling.

Some book collections have links that are less obvious but perhaps more intriguing, and it might help to remember why you bought the book or were given it in the first place. Do you own more than one Booker Prize winning novel? Were you drawn to some of your books because of the art on the front cover? Did you at some point decide that you were going to read every book on Wikipedia’s list of ‘novels considered the greatest of all time’, or that you were going to focus on reading sci-fi written by BAME authors?

A collection of Giles annualsOnce you’ve got a broad theme for your book collection, you may need to narrow it further. Think about the books you have and what links them together, what really appeals to you, or makes them different from the books that your friends have. It could be that you have a really good collection of manga, but your particular interest is magical girls, and most of your collection has been translated from Japanese into Spanish. Or your cookbooks are all written by 21st century TV chefs and focus on Italian cuisine. Or the book covers you are most drawn to in second hand book shops were all designed in the 1970’s. Or maybe your collection is very narrow indeed, consisting simply of different editions of exactly the same book, showing the different ways it has been published, marketed and interpreted through the years.

And voilà! You have your book collection. You should be able to describe it in a sentence – “I collect autobiographies of women who grew up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles”. But for the Anthony Davis Prize, the sentence needs to be a little longer. “I collect children’s picture books on space exploration because…”

Why is your book collection interesting?

Part of your application for the Prize will include ‘an essay of not more than 500 words explaining the coherence and interest of your collection, and why and how it was assembled’. ‘Interest’ in this case means not just why it’s of interest to you, but why it may be of interest to other people. Don’t panic – there’s a good chance that what is interesting to you is of interest to other people. Children’s picture books on space exploration are of interest to you because they show how we, as a society, view space as scary/exciting/a potential utopia. Northern Irish women’s autobiographies interest you because their voices are often missing in films/novels/school curricula.

So far I’ve mostly described the content of books as the reason for collecting them, but it’s worth noting here that it may be the physicality of a book collection that makes it interesting. If you’re someone who buys your books second-hand or loves browsing used-book stores, then you may find that you’re drawn to books that have been made or bound in a particular way. The history of individual books can also be intriguing – you may find you are interested in collecting books that have bookplates from past owners, or inscriptions from past gift-givers. In these cases, you’ll need to be able to explain why these bindings, these book plates, or these inscriptions are interesting.

a collection of printed music for the French hornIt’s worth noting as well, that the Anthony Davis Prize is for ‘book collecting’ but isn’t only restricted to books – collections of sheet music, manuscripts, magazines, booklets and other ephemera are all admissible for the Prize. The selection of music here is from the collection of Vicky Price, Head of Outreach at UCL Special Collections, who has been collecting (and playing!) music for the French horn for over 20 years.

Adding to your book collection

I made the point at the start of this post that book collecting does not need to be an expensive hobby. Unfortunately, it is seldom a completely free hobby either. If you are going to grow your collection (and the Anthony Davis Prize asks you to list five items you could realistically add to it) then you are going to need to spend some money. It does not, however, have to be a lot.

A collection of 'Chalet School' hardbacks and paperbacks in various states of repairHere I’m speaking from experience. The adjacent image shows my own collection – books in the ‘Chalet School’ Series by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, originally published between 1925 and 1970. If you click to enlarge the photo, you’ll see these books have a variety of different histories. Some of them I bought new, as recently republished books. Some of them came from scouring second-hand book shops, or visiting sales at public libraries (a great source of pre-loved books!). More relevantly for this time of lockdown and self-isolation, some came from purchasing used books through sites like Amazon, eBay, and the more specialist AbeBooks.

If my focus had been just on collecting first editions, then I could easily have been spending hundreds of pounds at a time to build this collection. Instead, my focus has always been on ‘completing’ it – that is, owning every title in the series – which often meant spending only a couple of pounds on a cheaply made paperback. But it has also meant finding undervalued hardbacks, with or without the dustjackets, which has always given me a nerdy thrill. And it has meant connecting online with other people who collect the series, swapping titles that I’ve doubled up on with titles that they don’t need.

What happens next

Putting the Prize to one side for the moment, what happens next to your collection is up to you. If you are like me, then the size of your collection will be limited by the size of your bedroom, flat or house. My Chalet School collection still resides with my parents, as I have less living space as an adult than I did as a teen, and I have to have a strict one-in-one-out policy with new book purchases (well, strictish).

wooden shelves crammed full of books from Laurent Cruveillier's cookbook collectionBut you may also find that, as time goes on, you have fewer limits, and your hobby grows into a passion. In contrast to the smaller collections I’ve discussed above, here’s one from UCL Special Collections’ Project Conservator, Laurent Cruveillier. His intent was to create a collection of cookbooks signed by their authors, and over 25 years he has put together a collection of over 500 books, from the 19th century to today. His collection is vast enough to include a sub­-collection, of recipe booklets produced by American food and appliance companies.

Ultimately, you need to decide for yourself what it is about book collecting that you find fulfilling. Whether it’s the hunt for a title your collection is ‘missing’, the chance to connect with other people who share your interests, or simply owning books that you find special, book collecting should bring you joy.

Applying for the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize

If you’ve got this far, you’re excited about book collecting, and you’re a student studying for a degree at a London-based university, you should absolutely consider entering the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize. In brief:

  • Applications are due by May 25, 2020
  • The winner will receive £600, an allowance of £300 to purchase a book for UCL Special Collections (in collaboration with library staff), and the opportunity to give a talk on and/or display of their collection as part of the UCL Special Collections events programme.
  • Applicants must fill in the Application Cover Sheet, appending an essay of not more than 500 words on their collection, a list of items in their collection, and a list of five items to add to their collection. More details on the requirements are listed in the cover sheet.

For more information on the Prize, including more information on how to enter and who qualifies for entry, please visit our website.

Further Reading:

With thanks to Laurent Cruveillier, Vicky Price and my parents for providing images of their own collections!