We are delighted to announce that the 2023 ABA National Book Collecting Prize has been awarded to Emma Treleaven, the winner of the Anthony Davis Student Book Collecting Prize at University College London, with her entry My Own Two Hands: Books and Ephemera about Making Dress and Textiles Before 1975. The prize is in two parts: £500 for the winner to spend with an ABA dealer and £500 towards a rare book purchase for their Institutional library, also from an ABA member.
The quality of all of the entrants was once again high, but this year the decision was unanimous. Emma, a fashion historian, curator and maker, collects books and ephemera about how people have historically made clothing and textiles in a domestic setting. Very much a working collection as well as a passion, she uses them to help her with her own projects, and to preserve knowledge and skills. As Emma notes her collection is "a series of magical texts that lets me look into the history of making and craftswomen in a very personal and practical way. I use it to teach myself to make clothing and textiles in ways that aren’t taught anywhere outside of these historical printed materials … It’s an endless well of inspiration, skill, sustainability, creative expression and connection to the past, all accessible through the ability of my own two hands and these beautiful printed materials".
The panel got a strong sense that Emma is a discerning and enthusiastic collector, who captured well the inspiration that drives all collectors. A true book hunter, Emma has been able to find treasures from a variety of sources, and books that as she acknowledged herself, are often overlooked by others for perhaps not being ‘high-brow’ enough. The panel got a real sense of Emma’s connection to the past, and her passion to use her collection to revive skills that are in danger of being lost was impressive and shone through. In building her collection she is creating a rich resource in terms of social, domestic and economic history, recognizing as it does the central role women have played in all spheres. Congratulations from us all!
As ever, the panel was impressed with the diverse nature of collections on display, and were introduced to a number of new authors and genres unfamiliar to us! Other entries received came from students at Aberdeen on Comic Books featuring marginalised groups, specifically women of colour and queer women; Cambridge on the Writing of the polymathic Japanese author Hirano Imao; Edinburgh, a Manga collection focusing upon The Sparkling World of the Year 24 Group ; and from Oxford on Women’s Literary Lives in the Twentieth Century: first editions by female authors, 1900-2000. All the entries displayed great enthusiasm, erudition, and passion, with an appreciation of the various angles from which the books and collections can be viewed and enjoyed, be it textually, physically, politically, or visually. As ever it was very inspiring to see the upcoming generation of young collectors creating unusual collections with limited means, yet revelling from the thrill of finding hidden treasures.
An award ceremony is planned for Firsts London in May, 2024. The Judges are: Lisa Baskin, (collector), Deborah Coltham, Brian Lake, Clare Marshall (booksellers) and Ed Potten (independent researcher formerly of Cambridge University Library). Thanks once again to Laura Massey for her organisational role, and who will be re-joining the judging panel for 2024.