The Archives Fine Book Collecting Prize

“Books don’t just furnish a room,” Michael Dirda writes in Browsings. “A personal library is a reflection of who you are and who you want to be, of what you value and what you desire, of how much you know and how much more you’d like to know. . . . Digital texts are all well and good, but books on shelves are a presence in your life. As such, they become a part of your day-to-day existence, reminding you, chastising you, calling to you. Plus, book collecting is, hands down, the greatest pastime in the world.”

 – Matthew Budman, Book Collecting Now: The Value of Print in the Digital Age. Seattle: Chatwin Books, 2019, p.20.


What is it?

Archives Fine Books is pleased to announce the launch of Australia’s first book collecting prize. From 2020 an annual prize to the combined  value of over $1000 will be awarded for an outstanding book collection conceived of and built by a young collector of the Greater Brisbane region up to the age of 35 years. Following in the tradition of similar book collecting competitions overseas, the prize aims to cultivate an appreciation for books and other ephemeral items as important documents in understanding developments in social history, the canon of literature, the sciences, art & design and the book arts.

The aim of the prize is to acknowledge young Brisbane collectors and encourage them in their pursuits. We expect applicants’ collections to be embryonic, therefore size, age and value are irrelevant. What matters is the enthusiasm and commitment of the collector, the interest of the theme and the vision for how the collection will continue to be developed.


Definition of a collection for our purposes:

A collection consists of books and works on paper that have been assembled for their own purpose by someone who is interested in them as objects as well as for their content. The collection will have been assembled as much for pleasure as utility and have some kind of overarching curatorial logic, that is, the items in the collection will thematically relate to each other in some way.


Why a book collecting prize and why Brisbane?

Since becoming antiquarian booksellers we have repeatedly encountered a perception that there are no real collectors in Queensland. While it is true that the gravity for book collecting lies further south in cooler and drier climes, we wish to debunk the myth and at the same time actively encourage the next generation of collectors to take themselves and their quiet obsessions seriously. We want them to understand that collectors have the potential to fill important gaps in social history. We live in a time where libraries are sadly being defunded and encouraged to disperse their physical collections. This makes it a good time for young collectors to grow their collections. More importantly, the role of the collector is critical at this time to ensure valuable physical documents are not physically lost to us forever. Things which seem common and unimportant to one generation can assume enormous significance over time and within a curated context. This is what we aim to ensure for the future.


The Annual Prize will consist of the following:

  • Cash and An ANZAAB Book Voucher (combined value of $500);
  • A return flight to the ANZAAB Melbourne Rare Book Fair 2020;
  • A year-long membership to Bibliographic Society of Australia and New Zealand, registration for the 2020 BSANZ Conference and an invitation to contribute a paper about their collection to the BSANZ newsletter;
  • A year-long membership to Book Collectors’ Society of Australia.



The Competition will open on January 1, 2020 and the submission deadline for the Prize will be February 29, 2020. The winner will be announced in early May 2020.

The contest is open to young book collectors in the Greater Brisbane area, aged 35 or younger as of January 1, 2020. Unlike many similar competitions run overseas, contestants do not need to be enrolled in a degree program, nor do they require a sponsor.

The winning collection must have been started by the contestant, and all items in the collection must be owned by them. A collection may include books, manuscripts, and ephemera; it may be organized by theme, author, illustrator, printing technique, binding style, or another clearly articulated principle. Collections will not be judged on their size or their market value, but on their originality and their success in illuminating their chosen subjects. The prize rewards creativity, coherence, and bibliographic rigor.


Contestants should submit the following by the deadline of 5pm February 28, 2020:

  • Personal information: your name, date of birth, mailing address, telephone number, and email address.
  • An essay of no more than 1500 words describing the purpose, history, and ultimate ambition of the collection. What inspired you to begin collecting? How has your focus developed over time? What are the most interesting or surprising books in the collection to date? Which were you most excited to find?
  • A bibliography of at least 10, but no more than 30, items in the collection arranged by author, date, or another principle of your choice. Each entry should include, at minimum, the following information: author, title, place of publication, publisher, date, and a brief description.
  • A wish list of the three books you would most like to add to the collection, explaining your reasoning.

Photographs of your collection are welcome, but not required, and will not serve as a substitute for careful bibliographic description.

Entries should be submitted by email, with “Archives Fine Book Collecting Prize” in the subject field, to The winner will be announced in May 2020.



We would like to thank our partners in establishing the Prize:

The Bibliographic Society of Australia and New Zealand                                                 The Book Collectors Society of Australia


Suggested resources (this list is in its infancy and will be added to over time):

CARTER, John. ABC For Book Collectors.  London: Hart-Davis, MacGibbon or New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books (any edition you can find).

GASKELL, Philip. New Introduction to Bibliography. Oxford University Press, 1972 (frequently revised).

CURREY, L.W. Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors: a bibliography of first printings of their fiction and selected non-fiction. Olathe, KS: RB Publishing 2002.

GASCOIGNE, Bamber. How to identify prints. London: Thames and Hudson, 2004.

LOKER, Chris. One hundred books famous in children's literature. NY: The Grolier Club, 2014.

MUIR, Marcie. A Bibliography of Australian Children's Books. London: Andre Deutsch, 1970 (first edition) or Melbourne University Press, 1992 (3 volumes).

FERGUSON, John A. Bibliography of Australia (7 volumes). Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1941.

WANTRUP, Jonathan.  Australian Rare Books. Sydney: Hordern House, 1987.


Suggested online resources: have a number of great articles on collecting. If you are new to collecting you might want to start with these three:

Another great article on by Jim Finck can be found on the Vialibri website:


Terms and Conditions

  • Applicants must be 35 years or younger at January 1, 2020;
  • Applicants must reside within the Greater Brisbane Area: Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan, Moreton Bay, Redland City
  • The winning applicant must be available to travel to the Melbourne Rare Book Fair in July 2020 (dates will be announced soon);
  • The winner agrees to be profiled together with the winning essay on the Archives Fine Books website and Social Media; to participate in three promotional events during their tenure; and to publicly acknowledge Archives Fine Books in any other promotional activities undertaken as the prize recipient.