In the News

North America's First Public Drawing Collection Surveyed at Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Brunswick, Maine, April 2017—The Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) will present the first-ever... read more

Nation of Islam Archive, Elijah Muhammad Personal Items Offered at Heritage Auctions

DALLAS, Texas (April 25, 2017) - Three historically important lots from the dawn of... read more

"The Living Book: New Perspectives on Form and Function" Opens at the Library Company

Philadelphia, PA--April 24, 2017--The Library Company of Philadelphia is excited to announce the opening... read more

Sweeping Exhibition at the Huntington to Explore Images of Latin American Nature from the 1400s-1800s

SAN MARINO, Calif.— A sweeping international loan exhibition at The Huntington Library, Art Collections,... read more

Strong Showing for Edward S. Curtis Photographs at Swann Galleries

New York—On Thursday, April 20, Swann Galleries offered Images & Objects: Photographs & Photobooks,... read more

Dreweatts & Bloomsbury to Offer Antiques, Paintings, Books from Abbotswood

A selection of English and Asian antiques and fine paintings ranging from the 18th... read more

Theology, 16th-Century, Mystery, West at National Book Auctions

ITHACA, NY--National Book Auctions, located in Ithaca, NY, announces the launch of their next... read more

Complete Copy of "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" Leads Swann Galleries' May Literature Auction

New York—On Tuesday, May 16, Swann Galleries will hold an auction of 19th &... read more

Follow us on TwitterLike us on Facebook
Auction Guide
Advertise with Us
2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

The Next Generation of Collectors

Profiles of the winners of the Collegiate Book-Collecting Championship

Three years ago, this magazine launched the Collegiate Book-Collecting Championship, a sort of Olympics for young book collectors. After years of hearing people bemoan the lack of young collectors, Fine Books decided we should try and do something about it. Then we realized that several dozen colleges were already promoting book collecting by holding contests for their students. The tradition dates back eight decades, when a donor at Swarthmore College offered a prize for the best student library. A few years later, the book collector and writer A. Edward Newton endowed the Swarthmore competition and spurred other like-minded bibliophiles to start contests at other colleges. The idea spread across the country and, in recent years, to colleges in Canada and England. Given Swarthmore’s place of honor as the starting point for book-collecting contests, it seems fitting that a Swarthmore student is one of the winners of this year’s championship.

Jacob Brunkard, a recent Swarthmore graduate, won third place this year for his collection of Black Sparrow Press books. Black Sparrow, founded by John Martin, was the most successful American avant-garde publisher. Its most popular author, Charles Bukowski, is a perennial favorite among young readers and writers. In fact, the winner of this year’s competition—Rhae Lynn Barnes, of the University of California at Berkeley—cited Bukowski as one of her favorite writers.

Her collection, ironically, is not of the poetry she admires, it is of books she dislikes: racist black-face minstrel plays. The canned advice for collectors is “collect what you love.” Barnes has turned that idea on its head—she collects what she hates in order to shed light on an unhappy period in American history that most libraries and collectors have avoided.

Our remaining prize winner, Basie Bales Gitlin, is now just a junior at Yale. His second-place entry is a collection of canvassing books, or publisher’s dummies, which door-to-door booksellers used to attract orders for forthcoming titles. It is a sophisticated subject for a young collector, but Gitlin is no stranger to accolades for his collecting. He was featured as a child collecting prodigy on C-SPAN several years ago.

I look forward to meeting these three remarkable and accomplished young collectors in Seattle this fall. And you can meet them, too, at the awards dinner hosted by the Book Club of Washington. If you sometimes despair about the future of the book, read about our winners on the following pages, and join us on October 10 to meet the next generation of collectors in person.

Rhae Lynn Barnes

University of California, Berkeley
$2,500—First Place
for her collection of minstrel plays

Education
I’m a senior now at UC Berkeley.

Getting Started
I was enrolled in a history class with Leon Litwak, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. The class was about race relations in the twentieth century. I got very interested in minstrelsy, and I started looking for copies of the plays about two years ago.

Most Recent Acquisition
I have already almost doubled the number of books I had when I submitted my application to the book-collecting contest. Right now I’m in the process of purchasing a minstrel book called Down on the Levee. I’m interested in black labor and in levee imagery. In the last three years, I’ve been very involved in running fundraisers to rebuild the libraries after Katrina, so I’m interested in how the levees were viewed in minstrel plays in the 1930s.

More Books
I have a large poetry collection, too. I’m the editor-in-chief of the Berkeley Poetry Review. This year will be our fortieth anniversary.

On the Appeal of Books
As a historian, or at least as someone who is aspiring to be a professional historian, they are primary sources. They are also entertaining, and they are art pieces, too.

Holy Grail
Every single minstrel play I find is so shocking that I don’t think I can hope to find something worse. It is amazing to realize that school children performed them.

Current Reading
I’m always reading Charles Bukowski. I just read a book by Joy Harjo called She Had Some Horses. In history, I’m rereading Gay New York by George Chauncey.

On Winning
At the awards ceremony for the UC Berkeley contest, the head of the Bancroft Library came up to me and asked, “In a couple of years, when you don’t want this anymore, can we have it?” [After I won the national championship], somebody sent out a mass e-mail about it. So many people wrote to congratulate and encourage me. I was very shocked by the response. I thought it would be “Oh, that crazy book girl.” It was a great feeling to see that so many people cared.

comments powered by Disqus