August 2011 | Nate Pedersen

Canadian National Book Collecting Contest

A common complaint in the rare book trade is the lack of young collectors.  In America, we have the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest to draw some attention, and offer some support, to young collectors just starting off.  Our northern neighbors offer the Canadian National Book Collecting Contest for collectors under 30.

This year's winner was Justin Hanisch, a graduate student in ecology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.  Hanisch's impressive collection, A History of Fish, focuses on antiquarian volumes published before 1901.  Hanisch writes, rather beautifully, of his collection, "My books were printed centuries and continents apart and cover a diversity of topics within the general subject of "fish". I believe that books unified in a collection can play off one another to tell stories, each book like a key struck in a composition for piano. Just as a piano produces innumerable songs with the same keys, books in a collection combine and recombine to reveal many different narratives."

Hanisch won $1,000 for his collection and its accompanying essay. (Available here as a PDF).  But his good fortune did not end there.  The Bruce Peel Library at the University of Alberta approached Justin to guest curate a lovely online exhibition of his collection.  The exhibition features gorgeous illustrations from collection highlights and includes commentary from Justin on each individual item as well as his collecting method and ideology.

So congratulations to Justin for winning this year's contest.  The Bruce Peel Library should also be applauded for its innovative and forward-thinking exhibition.  By highlighting a young collector, and offering him a platform to exhibit and discuss his collection, Bruce Peel is setting an encouraging example to libraries everywhere.  Young collectors are out there; they just don't always have the money (and subsequent access) to be noticed by the rare book trade and its surrounding community.  Libraries can do much to redress this balance.

If you're one of our Canadian readers, the contest is now accepting applications for its third year.