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Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize: Home

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

Now Accepting Submissions for 2022! 

Do you collect books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, recordings, coins, clothing or other materials? Libraries and museums have their collections, but we want to hear about yours! Maybe everywhere you travel, you get a new charm for your charm bracelet; or you've spent years building a corpus of 1970s Swedish clog shoes; or you have an ever growing library of copies of Winnie the Pooh from across space and time? 

Sound familiar? 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 a few past examples.

Essay Content Considerations

When crafting your essay, here are some things to know: 

  • The collection doesn't have to be worth a lot of money, you just have to care about it -- 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. A collection in this instance is knowingly crafted, not just a group of similar items. 
  • Your essay should articulate the thematic or artifactual nature of the collection and discuss with some specificity the unifying characteristics of the items as a collection.
  • Your essay should also convey a strong sense of motivation for collecting and what your collection means to you personally.
  • Please make sure to describe 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 will be also be judged on the quality of the writing. Argument, grammar and style do matter!

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 2022 Adler Prize is accepting submissions through Friday March 18th! 

For consideration, please craft a 9-10 page essay describing 1) the scope of your collection (ie: what are you collecting?) 2) How you began to develop your collection 3) why the collection is important to you 4) why the collection is important in general. Winning entries will answer these questions, in a compelling, clear manner that demonstrates thoughtfulness, care and passion. 

Please see "Essay Contest Considerations" section for more details. 

(formatting requirements below)

Formatting Requirements

Formatting requirements (see template):  

  • 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. Please contact Emma M. Sarconi ( with any and all questions. 

Past Winners