Eleanor Clark wins the Colin Franklin Prize for Book Collecting 2023

The 2023 Colin Franklin Prize for Book Collecting has been awarded to Eleanor Clark for her collection of first edition books by female authors 1900-2000, documenting women’s literary lives in the twentieth-century. Writing of her collection, which includes both fiction and non-fiction,  Eleanor describes how she pays attention to just to the text but also to material imperfections: “A male dominated market desires purity, but real life is more truly captured when high textural ideas and messy material reality incorporate each other.” Eleanor is in her second year, studying BA English Language and Literature at Merton College, Oxford University. You can read more about Eleanor’s collection in her blog article here.

On receiving the award, Eleanor said: “I’m delighted to have won the Colin Franklin Prize: over the last few weeks, my eyes have been opened to the world of rare books in Oxford, and I’ve been able to hold in my hands a near-pristine first edition of South Riding, the novel that started it all. I’m hugely grateful to everyone involved in the prize.”

Funder of the Colin Franklin Prize Anthony Davis said of the submissions 2023: “This was the ninth year of the Colin Franklin Book Collecting Prize and as always the standard of entrants was very high indeed making choosing a winner hard.  Apparently Oxford students collect subjects as diverse as books about happiness, children’s editions of Chaucer and Faber jacket designs; one entrant has 288 miniature books at the last count.  After difficult decisions we awarded the prize to Eleanor who collects books about Women’s Literary Lives and has found books to treasure even in charity shops. We were very impressed with the way Eleanor related to the books and what they represented not just to authors but to prior owners too.  The judges look for a sense of the physical materiality of the books and Eleanor showed a close connection with hers, writing  a perceptive essay about how the books as physical objects tell stories about their context and histories. Congratulations to Eleanor!”

Keeper Special Collections, Chris Fletcher, and one of the judges on the prize said of Eleanor’s essay: “I was impressed by the sensitive and quizzing consideration given to questions of value and their relationship to material form, rarity and personal passion.   An imperfect book can be the perfect book.”

The Colin Franklin Prize is awarded every year to an undergraduate or postgraduate student of the University of Oxford for a collection of books or other printed materials. You can find out more about the Prize on the Bodleian website.

In 2022, the joint-winners of the award were: Alexander Laar, DPhil Candidate at New College for his essay, Books with names: collecting previous owners; and Ashley Castelino, DPhil Candidate at Lincoln College for his essay, Translation: Medieval & Modern.