James D. Forbes Collecting Prize 2021 Winner Announced

Friday 20 August 2021

Following a one year postponement, due to the pandemic, the James D. Forbes Collecting Prize ran again this year. This prize is offered in honour of James David Forbes (1809-1868), an eminent scientist (especially in the field of glaciology), who was Principal of the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard at St Andrews from 1859. His library was presented to the University in 1929 by his son, George Forbes (1849-1936).

Principal James David Forbes (1809-1868), ca. 1865. University of St Andrews, ms38081/6/1.


Two 19th century letterheads – an example of ‘ephemera’ which could be the basis of a collection. University of St Andrews, ms38977/6/1/8/6.

The prize, part of the Scottish Universities Book Collecting Prize Scheme, was founded in 2015, and endowed by Dr William Zachs, an avid collector. It aims to encourage students of the University to build their own coherent collection of written material – be it books, manuscripts, photographs, postcards, ephemera, or a combination of these.

Entry is open to students from both the undergraduate and postgraduate community. Student collectors have to submit a 2,500 word essay which explains the interest of their collection, and how and why it was assembled. This is also accompanied by an annotated bibliography of the items in their collection.

This year saw a strong field of applicants, with collections including autographed post-modern literature, small-format liturgical books, and annotated texts. Collections were judged on criteria such as cohesiveness, interest, and the ability to grow, and not on age, size, or monetary value.

The 2021 James D. Forbes Collecting Prize was awarded to postgraduate Paul Thompson, for his collection of books of ‘lesbian pulp’. His prize essay, ‘From Salt to Satan: An introduction to a collection of “lesbian pulp” as cultural items’ focused upon the artwork and paratext featured on the covers of his lesbian-themed fiction from 1950s and early 1960s America. As winner, he receives £500 to spend on items to enhance his own collection, and £250 to purchase an item (or items) for our Special Collections, in collaboration with the curators.

Three of the books from Paul’s collection: Ann Bannon’s Odd Girl Out (Gold Medal, 1957), Vin Packer’s Spring Fire (Gold Medal, 1952), and R. V. Cassill’s Dormitory Women (Signet, 1959).


We also had a runner up this year. Undergraduate Chloe Chuck will receive £150 to enhance her collection of 20th century handwritten postcards (which include lines such as ‘my sister’s baby is to be buried in the afternoon’ to ‘I thought you would like this little cat’), as well as £75 to purchase something for Special Collections.

The formal awards ceremony will take place in November, and after this date we hope that Paul will share with you more about his collection.

Briony Harding
Assistant Rare Books Librarian

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