Anthony Davis student book collecting award announces 2016 winners

Thursday 18 August 2016

The third Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize at the University of London has been awarded to Clara Tait, a part-time MSc Psychology student at Birkbeck, for her collection ‘These were the hours: Nancy Cunard and the Hours Press 1928-1931’. A runner’s up prize was awarded to Arendse Lund for a collection of Icelandic sagas in various languages.

The prize is funded by Anthony Davis, a retired lawyer and alumnus of Birkbeck. It is intended to encourage students of the university in the early stages of developing their collections of books and manuscripts. It’s a trend well established in the US and now building in the UK.

The scheme is also supported by Senate House Library (SHL), the Institute of English Studies (IES) at the university’s School of Advanced Study and the Antiquarian Booksellers Association. It consists of £500 for the student personally, and £250 for the purchase of a book which the winner chooses for Senate House Library.

Judges – Anthony Davis, Professor Simon Eliot (IES), Dr Karen Attar (SHL), and Brian Lake and Justin Croft of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – said the three years since the first prize have seen a succession of entries on widely differing collections and an increasing level of interest. There were some 15 submissions in 2016.

Clara’s winning collection around the English-American shipping heiress Nancy Cunard began with a chance discovery on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Paris. She aims to collect the 23 books published by the Hours Press, including works by authors such as Ezra Pound, Samuel Beckett and Laura Riding. And she will add important publications by Cunard and bring together biographical works and novels which include Nancy as a character.

‘Dazzling and defiant, Nancy Cunard placed herself firmly in the literary circles of Paris and London in the 1920s and 30s, and her experimental Hours Press offers a glimpse of the impassioned innovation of writers during the uncertainty of those interwar years,’ explains Clara.

Arendse says she loved reading Icelandic sagas and the history writers, such as Saxo Grammaticus. ‘To support my developing understanding of Old Norse I often used translations either into Danish or English. Some of these translations were new, some older, and since I have published translations myself, my interest was piqued how translations had functioned over time as the tool to transmit knowledge of the texts. I bought several translations into Danish and English of the same texts from various periods and compared them. I found the translations no less interesting than the originals.’ 

Clara Tait will have the opportunity to talk about her collection at an Institute of English Studies seminar. She also helped to select a new acquisition for Senate House Library’s special collections. Both winner and runner-up also exhibit some of their books at the Library.

'The level of entries for the prize this year was very high, both in numbers and in quality. It is marvellous that in this technological age so many students are interested in collecting old books,’ says Anthony Davis.

‘It was a hard decision to award the prize but the two winners are both very promising collectors with a real love of books. Leading on from the success of the prize there is also a proposal by several of those who have competed for the prize this year and in previous years to start a bibliophiles society based on the university, which is further encouragement to those who believe in the future of books and collecting.'

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Notes for Editors
1. For further information please contact Maureen McTaggart at the School of Advanced Study, University of London at / 020 7862 8653. Images available on request.

2. The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University is recognised globally as a world leader in Higher Education. It consists of 18 self-governing Colleges of outstanding reputation, together with a number of prestigious central academic bodies and activities. Learn more about the University of London at

3. The Institute of English Studies (IES), founded in 1999 out of the Centre for English Studies, is an internationally renowned research centre, dedicated to promoting advanced study and research in English studies in the wider national and international academic community. It provides a centre for excellence in English language, literature, palaeography and the history of the book. Its activities include facilitating academic discussion and the exchange of ideas through its comprehensive events programme, hosting major collaborative research projects, providing essential research training in book history and palaeography, and facilitating scholarly communities in all areas of English studies. The Institute of English Studies is a member institute of the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

4. Senate House Library (SHL) is one of the world’s most significant collections in the arts, humanities and social sciences. With its partner libraries of the Institutes of the School of Advanced Study, it provides services to readers from the School of Advanced Study, the Colleges of the federal University of London, and from London, regional, national and international research communities. All are welcome to join the Library through a membership programme for the University of London, other UK universities, overseas universities, or as a member of the public. The Library and its collections have been continuously developed since the 1870s. It now holds over two million printed books, thousands of printed and electronic journals, and the highest proportion of historic collections of any university library in the United Kingdom.  Modern materials in printed and electronic formats are collected at research level and in Western European languages to support cross- and inter-disciplinary research in subjects such as English Studies, history, philosophy, music, Romance and Germanic languages, palaeography, art history and area studies. Senate House Library also holds the University of London Archive – the historic record of the University – and is responsible for the University of London Artworks Collection. Acquisitions are also made to the Historic Collections, and notable collections include the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature, the Sterling Library and the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature.

5. The School of Advanced Study, University of London (SAS) is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. In 2014-15, SAS: welcomed 805 research fellows and associates; held 2,073 research dissemination events; received 23.1 million visits to its digital research resources and platforms; and received 213,456 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities: Being Human. Find out more at or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews.