Call for entries: the 2019-2020 Adler Book Collecting Prize! Deadline: Nov. 30, 2019

Adler Prize poster

Are you a collector?
Submit an essay to win the 2019-2020 Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize!

Deadline: Saturday, November 30, 2019

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 2019-2020 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.

Please note that 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.

Winners will receive their prizes at the annual spring dinner of the Friends of the Princeton University Library, which they are expected to attend. 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 (ABAA). 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. In addition, the first-prize winner will have the opportunity to have his or her essay featured in a Library-affiliated publication.

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

The deadline for submission is 11:59pm Saturday, November 30, 2019. Essays should be submitted via e-mail, in a Microsoft Word attachment, to Minjie Chen at They should be 9-10 pages long, 12pt, double-spaced, with a 1-inch margin, and include a separate cover sheet listing the contestant’s name, class year, residential address, email address, and phone number. In addition to the essay, each entry should include a selected bibliography of no more than 3 pages detailing the items in the collection.

Download the submission template at

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 Minjie Chen.

Previous Adler Prize Winning Essays

Annabel Barry '19. “The Emigrant’s Dilemma: Collecting Books About Ireland.”
Bruno Mikanowski '04. "To the Kingdom of Gog: A Map Collection."
Lindsey Breuer '11. "If Only I Could Apparate, My Harry Potter Collection Would Truly Appreciate." PULC 72:3 (spring)
Mary Thierry '12. "Mirror, Mirror: American Daguerrean Portraits." PULC 73:3 (spring)
Nandita Rao '17. "Of Relationships: Recording Ties through My LP Collection."
Samantha Flitter '16. "The Sand and the Sea: An Age of Sail in Rural New Mexico." Recipient of the 2016 National Collegiate Book Collection Contest Essay Award.


Special Collections, Princeton University Library
The National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest
Winners of the 94th annual Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize, April 2019
Winners of the 93rd annual Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize, April 2018