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Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize: Home

Submit an essay to win the Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize!

Are you an avid collector of books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, recordings, coins, or other materials - the types that can be found in library collections? If so, consider submitting an essay about your collection for a chance to win the Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize!

Endowed from the estate of Elmer Adler (1884-1962), who for many years encouraged the collecting of books by Princeton undergraduates, this prize is awarded annually to undergraduate students who, in the opinion of a committee of judges, have shown the most thought and ingenuity in assembling a thematically coherent collection of books, manuscripts, or other material normally collected by libraries. This includes a vast array of formats and potential subject areas. For examples, see the various collections that are housed in Special Collections at Princeton University Library. Past winning essays include those that described collections of books, comic books, miniature books, poetry, photographs, maps, sheet music, vinyl records, Blu-ray movies, to name some examples.

Essay criteria

The rarity or monetary value of a collection is 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 should reflect an actively-curated collection rather than merely describe the contents of the student's library. It should articulate 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 his or her particular collection means to the student personally. The history of the collection, including collecting goals, acquisition methods, and milestones, is of particular interest, as are a critical look at how collecting goals may have evolved over time and an outlook on the future development of the collection. Essays are judged in equal measure on the strength of the collection and the quality of the writing.

Prize amounts

First prize: $2000

Second prize: $1500

Third prize: $1000

Winners will receive their prizes at the annual spring meeting of the Friends of the Princeton University Library, which they are expected to attend.

Winners' essays will be entered into the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, organized by the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA). Please note that per the ABAA's contest rules, the winning essays will be entered exactly as submitted to the Adler Prize contest, without possibility of revision. In addition, the first-prize winner will have the opportunity to have his or her essay featured in a Library-affiliated publication.

How to participate

The 2020-2021 Adler Prize essay contest has concluded. Please stay tuned for next year’s submission date.

Essay format

  • Length: 9-10 pages long, 12pt, double-spaced, with a 1-inch margin
  • Cover sheet: A separate cover sheet lists the contestant’s name, class year, email address, and phone number
  • Bibliography: In addition to the essay, a selected bibliography of no more than 3 pages details the items in the collection.

Please note that essays submitted after the deadline, or in file formats other than Microsoft Word, or without a cover sheet or bibliography, will not be forwarded to the judges. For inquiries, please contact Emma M. Sarconi.