The Colin Franklin Book Collecting Prize

The Rawlinson Room in the Old Bodleian Library, c. 1939
The Rawlinson Room in the Old Bodleian Library, c. 1939

The Centre for the Study of the Book offers a prize to an under-graduate or post-graduate student of the University of Oxford for a collection of books or other printed materials. The prize will be of two parts: a payment of £500 to the winner, and an allowance of £250 for a book to be purchased for the Bodleian Library’s collections, selected by the winner in co-operation with the Bodleian’s Curator of Rare Books.

The prize is offered in honour of Colin Franklin, the distinguished author, book collector and bookseller who has over many decades encouraged numerous young book collectors at the University. It is funded by Anthony Davis.

The prize follows the tradition of similar prizes awarded at Cambridge and London and at universities in the United States and Canada. Collections which have won these prizes include a collection of books representing changes in the popular cannon and a collection of Oscar Wilde books used for teaching in an inner city school; Japanese popular books; books on Wales or Kurdistan; books on ornithology and canvassing books, among many examples. Further information on some of the other prizes – and the kind of collections that have won them - can be found at the following links: The Rose Book Collecting Prize, Cambridge University Library, the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize, London University, The Adrian Van Sinderen Book Collecting Prize, Yale University Philip Hofer Prize for Collecting Books or Art, Houghton Library, Harvard The Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize, Princeton University

Application process:
To qualify, entries for the Colin Franklin Prize must include:
(1) An essay describing how the collection illustrates a particular theme or type of material, and how the items were acquired. The essay should explain the significance of the collection to the student and may indicate how the process of collecting has developed the student's own ideas of the theme. The essay should include a section describing five items that the student would like to add to the collection.
(2) A bibliography detailing at least 10 items in the collection.
(3) An entry form, downloadable here

Please note that the process will include a presentation to the judges about the collection, in Oxford.  This should normally include some of the books from the collection.

The 2016-17 contest rules are published here.Entries should be sent by email to: For more information, e-mail:

Entries for the Colin Franklin Prize must be submitted to the Centre for Study of the Book, Bodleian Library, Oxford OX1 3BG or by e-mail to not later than 5 pm on 27 January 2017.   

The prize is intended to encourage book collecting by under-graduates and graduate students of the University by recognising a collection formed by a student at the university. Judges will take into consideration the interest, originality, thoughtfulness, promise and creativity of the collection and persistence of the collector. Age, size and monetary value of the collection will not be relevant criteria. It is possible and even encouraged to enter the prize more than once if you are still at the university and still qualify.

There is no minimum size of the collection but as a guideline it should normally consist of not less than 10 items, comprising printed books or manuscripts and/or printed ephemera and/or other printed materials with a common theme. For example, a thoughtful and interesting collection of pamphlets or paperbacks might qualify. So might books on a particular historical, geographical, linguistic or literary theme, or with common bibliographic or literary qualities, interesting printing or unusual bindings.

The first winner, in 2013-14, was Sophie Ridley (St Hugh's). Her essay, describing her  collection of books on 'Crafts and changing attitudes to their value in schools (1870s-1960s)', is linked here

2013-14 Winner: Sophie Ridley (Third year Archaeology and Anthropology, St Hugh's College)
Crafts and changing attitudes to their value in schools (1870s-1960s)
This collection currently follows two closely related strands. The first is the collecting of advice and expertise in lost craft skills. The other is the social history of a radical change in attitude towards the crafts, spurred by the Arts and Crafts Movement in the later nineteenth century.

Sophie Ridley writes that she began collecting books aged 16, interested in getting a feel of how the world was in 'the past'.  It was her deep interest in rural and textile crafts which led to her current studies in archaeology and anthropology. The crafts pages in the girls' annuals and books that she could find for sale in charity shops began to catch her eye, especially the skills required and the high standard of the expected outcome. The book collection itself has taken on its own character and, she remarks, now seems to be leading her along new, more philosophical and theoretical directions featuring a number of key thinkers from the late nineteenth century.  William Morris and John Ruskin, with a host of educational reformers, championed traditional rural skills and the teaching of these skills, to help liberate the school curriculum from 'the three R's' to one which was more suitable to the needs, not only of young pupils but also of society. These ideas about the value of crafts have emerged again in our digital age, when children are increasingly replacing time doing and making with screen-time. Meanwhile, many adults increasingly see crafts almost as therapy - as a relief from the stresses of modern living, something that requires a different and slower pace. This all emphasises the relevance of Sophie Ridley's collection today.

Items from the collection of Sophie Ridley:
Blyton, E. (ed.) 1929. Modern Teaching in the Junior School : Art, Handwork. London: The Home Library Book Company (George Newnes Ltd) 1929
Francis, G., 1842. The Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Manufactures. London: W. Brittain
1911. The Girl's Own Annual. Vol 32. London: William Clowes and Sons Ltd. & other editions, with pages on handwork
Grahame, K. 1895. (1st Edition). The Golden Age London: John Lane
Holman, H. (ed.) 1913. The Book of School Handwork. Volume 1. Caxton Publishing Company Ltd.
Ruskin, J. 1905. Sesame and Lilies. London: George Allen.
Wymer, N. 1946. English Country Crafts. London: Batsford
(unknown). 1841. Knight's Store of Knowledge. London: Charles Knight & Co.
(unknown). 1873. Enquire Within upon Everything. London: Houlston & Sons

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