The Sol. M. and Mary Ann O’Brian Malkin Lecture on 10 July 2019 saw Heather O'Donnell and Rebecca Romney of Honey & Wax Booksellers and Type Punch Matrix speaking on 'The Right and Wrong Ways to Collect'.
Together, Heather and Rebecca are responsible for the Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize, established in 2017, which awards $1,000 annually for an outstanding book collection built by a woman aged 30 or younger, anywhere in the United States. The prize encourages young women to collect books, and to identify as collectors, while drawing attention to the range of creative approaches the contestants are practicing.
In administering the prize, Heather and Rebecca found that a real deterrent for prospective contestants was the exclusivity that surrounds the very idea of book collecting. In the popular imagination, book collectors move through a mahogany-paneled lifestyle fantasy: private libraries of first editions and fine bindings, auction rooms buzzing with record-setting sales. But book collecting doesn’t have to be a trophy hunt. Many prize contestants have been working in spite of—or actively against—what they’ve been told are the “right” and “wrong” ways to collect books. Notably, many of their self-directed approaches align more with the current goals of institutional collections than with the pursuit of mainstream high spots: collecting as autobiography, as outreach, as documentary, as activism.
For this talk, Heather and Rebecca survey some of their favorite prize submissions, reflect on what they are learning from their contestants, and discuss ways to expand the popular perception of book collecting from an elite pursuit to a more democratic practice.