University of London Awards the Inaugural Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize

The first Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize at the University of London has been awarded to Hazel Wilkinson, a PhD student in English Literature at University College London, for her collection ‘The everyday canon from Tonson to Penguin’. A runner’s up prize was also awarded to Kayleigh Betterton, an MA student at Birkbeck, for a collection of Oscar Wilde material.

The Prize is funded by Anthony Davis, an alumnus of Birkbeck. It is intended to encourage students of the University in the early stages of developing a coherent and interesting book collection. The Prize is supported by Senate House Library (SHL), the Institute of English Studies (IES), and the Antiquarian Booksellers Association. It consists of £500 for the student personally, and £250 for the purchase of a book which the winner chooses for Senate House Library.

The judges, Anthony Davis, Professor Simon Eliot (IES), Christine Wise (SHL) and Brian Lake and Justin Croft of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association, said they were delighted with the number and quality of all the submissions they received, and with the presentations given by the shortlisted candidates.

Hazel’s winning collection comprises editions of works by major English poets from Spenser to Tennyson published between 1758 and 1957, put together to tell a social history of the reading of these canonical authors.

‘I've enjoyed buying attractive or unusual second-hand books for several years,’ said Hazel. ‘But it was entering this competition that inspired me to actually consider myself a book collector, and to think about the themes and ideas that unite my collection. I am looking forward to developing my book collection further with the help of the prize money, and would like to thank the judges for providing me with this exciting opportunity.’ 

Kayleigh also impressed the judges with her collection of editions of works by Oscar Wilde, and was awarded a runner’s-up prize for the creative and original way she uses the collection to teach students at Christ the King: Aquinas College, Lewisham. Kayleigh commented: ‘I am over-the-moon to have been awarded the runner-up prize. I think that the award in itself is a fantastic idea. The fact that this prize is aimed at younger people means that it is helping to preserve book collecting as a pastime and secure its longevity for the future. I am hoping to put the prize money towards a first edition of Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, as my A-level classes will be studying the play next year!’

They will be presented with their prizes at the Chelsea Book Fair on the 7 November 2014. As the winner, Hazel will also have the opportunity to talk about her collection at an Institute of English Studies seminar, to exhibit some of her books at Senate House Library, and to present the item she will choose for Senate House Library’s special collections.

‘It was very exciting to meet young book collectors and share their enthusiasm for their collections,’ said Anthony Davis. ‘Hazel and Kayleigh impressed us enormously but really, any of the shortlist would have been an impressive winner. We look forward to seeing who the winner will be next year. Book collecting has given me a lot of pleasure in my lifetime and I hope that this prize will encourage all the entrants to continue their interest in the knowledge that there are others out there who share their interest. I would also like to thank all the judges and the staff of Senate House Library for their support.’

Enthusiastic collectors studying at the University of London should look out for next year’s Prize which will be advertised soon.

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