Harvard College Library

Visiting Committee Prize for Undergraduate Book Collecting Winners Announced

Visiting Committee book collecting prize winners, Kate Ward '05, Brian Distelberg '05, and Loren Bienvenu '07

April 18, 2005 - Harvard students Loren Bienvenu ’07 and Brian Distelberg ’05 have both been awarded first prize in this year’s Visiting Committee Prize for Undergraduate Book Collecting. Finding overwhelming merit in both Bienvenu’s entry, Shining Through the Ashes: A Collection of Beat Literature, and Distelberg’s entry, "An Interesting Trio of Writers": Books By and About Edward Everett Tanner III, the jury decided it was appropriate to grant two first place awards. Third prize went to Kate Ward ’05 for her entry Women’s Spaces and Social Safety: American Etiquette and Lifestyle Manuals, 1846 – Present. An exhibition featuring items from the students’ collections will be on display in Lamont Library by Commencement Day.

Each collection is unique and built heavily on used books. Bienvenu’s collection of Beat literature evolved organically, he says, beginning when he read first Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in high school. From there, he says, "I started reading more about the people [Kerouac] talks about in his books." Most of Bienvenu’s collection is used, much of it from his parents and their friends.

Distelberg’s collection started as an outgrowth of a paper he wrote during his junior year, leading in particular to an interest in books by Patrick Dennis. "At a certain point when I realized I’d be interested in getting as many as I could, I started going about collecting in an organized way," he says. He adds to his collection by shopping both in used bookstores and online.

Ward began her collection at age 12 when she received her first etiquette book as a gift. "I was incredibly drawn to it," she says. The turn of the 20th century text taught things not normally covered in history class. She searches used bookstores and eBay for books, but prefers the former. "I like the ones I find myself better."

Students were asked to submit an annotated bibliography and an essay that spoke to issues such as early collecting efforts, influence of mentors, the experience of searching for items, organization and care of items, and future direction of the collection. A total of 16 students declared their intention to enter the competition and eight tendered their work for consideration. The jury consisted of Heather Cole, Librarian of Hilles and Lamont Libraries, Michael Hemment, Research Librarian and Coordinator of Electronic Texts in the Humanities in Widener Library, and Dana Mastroianni, Science Reference Librarian in the Cabot Science Library.

The Visiting Committee Prize for Undergraduate Book Collecting was established in the spring of 1977 to recognize and encourage book collecting by undergraduates at Harvard. It is sponsored by the Members of the Board of Overseer's Committee to Visit the Harvard University Library. Cole, who has coordinated the competition since its inception, annually selects a jury with noted bibliographic expertise from among Harvard College Library staff.


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