From left to right: Lauren VanZandt-Escobar, Emily Dunlay, Maria Shpolberg, and Ruthie Nachmany
The winners of the 2010 Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize were announced at the Friends of the Princeton University Library’s winter dinner on March 28, 2010. The $2,000 first prize went to Emily Dunlay, class of 2011, for her essay, “The Real Belles-Lettres: On Collecting Beautiful Books.” In it, she poses the question, “Can our great works of fiction lead a dual life as both literary and visual art?” and goes on to answer, “I certainly believe so—I have spent the past five years in pursuit of beautifully and meaningfully designed editions of the classics of English literature.”
This year, the $1,500 second place prize was a tie. Lauren VanZandt-Escobar, class of 2012, was awarded the honor for her essay “The Lives, Letters, and Diaries of Great Female Artists.” She wrote, “As an artist myself, it is a privilege to have access to the writings of these artists … . Reading facsimiles of their diaries and letters, and their biographies … provides a unique perspective on the creative process behind the works produced. I collect these books because they are a means of interacting with these people whose ambitions I share, and from each one I learn something valuable.”
Maria Shpolberg, class of 2010, was also given a second place award for her essay, “In Favor of Interpretation: The Marriage of Theory and Fiction or, From Formalism to Form.” Shpolberg’s essay is a response to Susan Sontag’s 1966 ground-breaking work “Against Interpretation” and she notes that when she first read Sontag’s declaration, “In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art,” she felt her hands quiver. This encounter with one author’s work led her to collect other authors’ critical writings and fiction focusing on “influences and consequences, responses and rejections.”
The judges awarded an honorable mention and a check for $500 to Ruthie Nachmany, class of 2012, for the essay, “Next Year in Jerusalem: Imaginations and Images of Israel.” Nachmany collects visual works depicting Israel, “through which we can shed light upon our culture’s fixation with ‘the promised land’.”
Each of the winners also received a certificate from the Dean of the College and a new book, chosen to complement her collection, from Princeton University Press. Our thanks to Peter J. Dougherty, director of the Press for his continuing support of this competition. Dunlay’s first prize essay will represent Princeton University in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Competition, which is now sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America.
My sincere thanks to this year’s judges: Fernando Acosta-Rodriguez, Librarian for Latin American Studies; Volker Schroder, Associate Professor of French and Italian; Laura M. Giles, Curator, Prints and Drawings, Princeton University Art Museum; and Dallas Piotrowski, Independent artist and Friend of the Princeton University Library. They faced a particularly difficult selection this year, given the wide variety of topics and high scholarship of the papers submitted. Congratulations to all our winners.