Category Archives: Adler Book Collecting Competition

Adler Prize Winners 2014

adler winners 2014

Jacob Scheer ‘2015 and Rory Fitzpatrick ‘2016 at the Friends of the Princeton University Library’s 2014 winter dinner.

The winners of the 2014 Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize were announced at the Friends of the Princeton University Library’s winter dinner on January 26, 2014. The committee awarded first and second prize as well as two third prizes.

THIRD PRIZE was awarded to Jacob Scheer, class of 2015, for his essay “Stopping Climate Change: One Book at a Time.” In his essay, Jacob talks about book collecting as an environmental activist. Jacob likes to give hard-won volumes books from his collection away to young environmentalists in the interest both of sustainability and to inspire new readers. As he explains,

“I believe that this ‘revolving door’ book collection of mine could serve as a model for other social activist-book collectors… the best gift one can give is the gift of knowledge and I have never felt that as strongly as I do now that I have this powerful tool for creating social change.”

Jacob received a check for $1000 and the book The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future by Richard B. Alley.

THIRD PRIZE was also awarded to Noah Fishman, class of 2016, for his essay “Collecting Tunes: My Musical Passport.” Noah collects volumes of folk tunes from all over the world in order to learn, perform, and experiment with the music. In his words,

“My collection of tune books is my musical passport. It gives me license, resources, the inspiration to dive into melodies from different cultures, and no matter how often I flip open a book of tunes, there’s always something new for me to discover in my collection.”

Noah received a check for $1000 and the book The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Era, 1924-1950: A Study in Musical Design by Allen Forte.

SECOND PRIZE went to Kamna Gupta, class of 2014, for her essay “Pour aimer comme l’on doit aimer: a musical autobiography.” Kamna, who is herself a conductor and composer, collects sheet music. In her essay, she quotes a French choral piece to capture the essence of his collection (Kamna’s translation): “And to love / The way you’re supposed to love / When you really love, / Even in a hundred years, / I will not have the time, I will not have the time.” She explains that “This song never was about the limit of time, but rather about the abundance of wonderful things in the world, so much so that even in one hundred years we cannot truly appreciate all of them.”

Kamna received a check for $1500 and the book Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century by Carolyn Abbate.

FIRST PRIZE was awarded to Rory Fitzpatrick, class of 2016, for her essay “The search for the shape of the universe, one book at a time.” Rory has accumulated a 200 titles-strong collection of science-themed books ranging from fiction to biography. It is complemented by a small collection of scientific instruments that includes an abacus, various slide rules, a compass, a scale, and a sextant. In her essay, Rory says what drew her to the topic is that

“there’s character development as we define principles and axioms, then the plot rises as you start to make calculations…. Sometimes, you begin to see where the plot is headed…but other times, the result can sneak up on you… and suddenly, your picture of the world is a little more complete.”

Rory received a check for $2000 and the book The Mathematical Career of Pierre de Fermat, 1601-1665 by Michael Sean Mahoney (updated 2nd edition, which covers the solution to Fermat’s Last Theorem).

Congratulations to all our winners.
Regine Heberlein, Administrator of the Adler Prize and Processing Archivist, Rare Books & Special Collections Department

Save the Date: Info Session for Adler Book Collecting Prize, November 12, 2013

An informational session introducing the Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 12, 2013 in Firestone Library. John Delaney, Curator of Historic Maps, will showcase select treasures from the Historic Maps Collection and discuss the meaning of collecting. The Historic Maps Collection features rare items from the 16th-century through World War I, including the first printed example of Saint Isidore of Seville’s T and O map of 1472; the first printed map to name the Pacific Ocean, by Sebastian Muenster 1540; the first known linguistic map, by Gottfried Hensel 1741; and Lewis Carroll’s Ocean Chart, from The Hunting of the Snark, 1876. It is also especially rich in New Jersey road and fire insurance maps. The info session will be held in Firestone Classroom 1-8-H (the new classroom next to the main elevators). Regine Heberlein, RBSC archivist, will be on hand to answer questions about the Adler Prize.


2013-2014 Adler Book Collecting Prize

Deadline for entries: Monday, December 2, 2013


(c) Jane and Louise Wilson, Oddments Room II (Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle), 2008. C-print, Edition of 4. Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York

The Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize is endowed from the estate of Elmer Adler, who for many years encouraged the collecting of books by Princeton undergraduates.

It is awarded annually to the undergraduate student or students who, in the opinion of the judges, have shown the most thought and ingenuity in assembling a thematically coherent collection of books, manuscripts, or other material normally collected by libraries. The rarity or monetary value of the student’s collection are not as important as the creativity and persistence shown in collecting and the fidelity of the collection to the goals described in a personal essay.

The personal essay is about a collection owned by the student. It should describe the thematic or artifactual nature of the collection and discuss with some specificity the unifying characteristics that have prompted the student to think of certain items as a collection. It should also convey a strong sense of the student’s motivations for collecting and what their particular collection means to them personally. The history of the collection, including collecting goals, acquisition methods, and milestones are of particular interest, as is a critical look at how the goals may have evolved over time and an outlook on the future development of the collection. Essays are judged in equal measures on the strength of the collection and the strength of the writing.

Essays should be submitted via e-mail, in a Microsoft Word attachment, to Regine: by Monday, December 2, 2013 and should be between 9-10 pages long, 12pt, double-spaced, with a 1-inch margin. In addition to the ten-page essay, each entry should include a selected bibliography of no more than 3 pages detailing the items in the collection. A separate cover sheet should include your name, class year, residential address, email address, and phone number. Please note that essays submitted in file formats other than Microsoft Word, submitted without cover sheet, or submitted without a bibliography will not be forwarded to the judges.

Winners will receive their prizes at the annual winter dinner of the Friends of the Princeton University Library, which they are expected to attend. The first-prize essay will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Princeton University Library Chronicle. In addition, the first-prize essay has the honor of representing Princeton University in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest organized by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America. Please note that per the ABAA’s contest rules, the winning essay will be entered exactly as submitted to the Adler Prize contest, without possibility of revision.

Deadline for entries: December 2, 2013

First prize: $2000
Second prize: $1500
Third prize: $1000

Suggested readings from Paul Needham, Scheide Librarian:
Michael Sadleir, preface to his XIX Century Fiction (1951). Firestone 3579.079
A.N.L. Munby, Essays and Papers (1977). Firestone Z992.M958
John Carter, Taste and Technique in Book Collecting (1970). Firestone 0511.241.2.1970
G. Thomas Tanselle “The Rationale of Collecting,” Studies in Bibliography. Online at





Congratulations to winners


(c) Jane and Louise Wilson, Oddments Room II, 2008. C-print, Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York

Since 1922, the Princeton University Library has held an annual book collecting contest for its undergraduates, organized originally by George Peck, the curator of special collections. It wasn’t until 1939 that financial prizes were awarded, which were $25 and $15 for the first and second place winners. Then, as it is today, the award is not about the money.

Many other colleges and universities around the country now give similar prizes to  their undergraduates in recognition of connoisseurship in book collecting and in 2005, a national collegiate book collecting contest was established to include the first prize winners from each of the university contests.


The winners of the 2013 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest are:

First Prize: Elias SernaUniversity of California Riverside, The Chicano Movement

Second Prize: Ashley Young, Duke University, New Orleans’ Nourishing Networks

Third Prize: Amanda Zecca, Johns Hopkins University, From Berkeley to Black Mountain

Congratulations to the winners! The awards ceremony will be held at the Library of Congress on October 18, 2013, at 5:30 p.m.

The National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest is administered by the ABAA, the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies (FABS), the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division (the Library of Congress), with major support from the Jay I. Kislak Foundation. For more information on the contest, please visit