Last year, Heather O’Donnell and Rebecca Romney, the booksellers of Honey & Wax, announced a brand new prize honoring the work of young female book collectors. Now, for the second time, submissions to the Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize, which awards $1000 to an outstanding book collection built by a woman under 30, are open. Collections will be judged on originality as opposed to market value, as well as “their success in illuminating their chosen subjects. The prize rewards creativity, coherence, and bibliographic rigor.”
It’s also important to O’Donnell and Romney that this prize remains focused on young women. At The New Antiquarian, they pointed out that “popular image of the book collector in the United States is still, even now, monotonously male. (Run a Google image search for “book collector,” and scroll.) We want to see more women openly identifying as book collectors, and this prize provides a direct financial incentive for them to do that, as well as a way to celebrate the collections they’re building. “I already feel more like a real collector just by applying for this prize,” one contestant wrote, and that transformation is one we want to encourage widely among young women with the potential to build original collections.”
“The Honey & Wax Prize has shifted how I think of my collection within the greater antiquarian book community,” last year’s prize winner Jessica Kahan told Literary Hub in an email. “It is really heartening to know that there is a supportive community of women within the rare book world, and that I am considered part of it. Over the years, my collection has put me in touch with some amazing people, and this past year, the Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize has accelerated that tenfold.”
In fact, for Kahan, entering the prize was its own reward. “It was like I was suddenly five years younger and in school again, only my perspective and collection had evolved and matured over the past several years,” she said. “Even before I heard that I had won the contest, I was really happy with the outcome of my updated bibliography.” Of course, the prize money is great too, and Kahan is using it to help fund her next rare book adventure this spring.
For those thinking of submitting their collections (or simply honing them for next year), O’Donnell has some advice: “One thing we noticed in last year’s submissions was that, as a general rule, the collections of the youngest contestants had the most sweeping themes: “Greek mythology,” “China,” “children’s books,” etc.,” she told Lit Hub. “And it’s genuinely impressive for a high school junior to own 30 books on China! But as collectors discover what aspects of a subject or genre most interest them, their focus inevitably grows sharper, and their questions more pointed. In some of last year’s essays, we could pinpoint the moment of recognition, when a contestant suddenly saw the personal direction her collecting was taking her. A general interest is the starting point of a great collection, not the end.”
Submit by June 1, 2018. Click here for full details, and good luck.