September 2012 | Nate Pedersen

Canadian Young Book Collector's Contest: 2012 Edition

Fables-Aesop-Detmold.jpgEvery year Canada hosts an annual book collecting contest for anyone under 30.  Last year, the winner was Justin Hanisch, whose fish collection we profiled in a blog post.  This year's winner was Samuel Jang, an avid collector of Aesop's Fables.

To enter into the contest, participants are asked to submit a 1,500 to 2,000 word essay on their collection.  Jang's intelligent and well-written essay is posted in its entirety on Abebooks, who sponsors the contest.  If you have a few minutes, take the time to read his essay - it's well worth it and will encourage any optimism you have about the future of the book trade.

Jang began collecting Aesop's Fables at the age of eight, after a fortuitous Christmas gift from his parents of Russell Ash and Bernard Higton's illustrated edition.  A book collector was born that day: "The book's physical aspects enamoured me: The profuse illustration of The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse outlined in a blue border on the bright dust jacket, the smoothness of the thick pages as my tiny fingers opened the book and the spine made a cracking sound for the first time, and the irresistible "new book smell" of paper, ink and glue."

Jang, now in his late 20s, initially collected any children's book in English with Aesop in the title before graduating to older editions.  Jang also expanded his scope to include writers who popularized fables, such as La Fontaine and John Gay.  "Although I am a more knowledgeable collector today than I was at the age of eight, I still retain many of the same characteristics. I love Aesop's Fables just as much, if not more, because they are great stories that continue to stimulate my imagination and make me more aware of myself."  Jang continued, "My collection has value beyond its monetary worth; to me, it represents 18 years of personal growth as a collector, and the evolution of my long-held assumptions about what makes a "good book."

Fables-Aesop-Heighway.jpgJang also discussed his role as a book collector, "I see my role as that of a preservationist. I refuse to collect e-books and none of my books are ever for sale. In an age wherein digital technology is transforming our lives through social media, the internet and e-readers, the digitization of the book world has rendered books an evanescence of electron flows, limitless and searchable in seconds. Yet, an e-book can never capture the physical embodiment of a book, its smell, look, feel, and flaws - its beauty."

Read the entirety of Jang's essay here, accompanied by photos of selected books form his collection.

In addition to Abebooks, the Canadian book collecting contest is sponsored by the CBC and the National Post, and administered by the W. A. Deacon Literary Foundation, the Bibliographic Society of Canada, and the Alcuin Society.

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