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Celebrating outstanding works of bibliography and book history: Impressions of the ILAB Breslauer Prize Ceremony 2022

On 14 September 2022, the 18th ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography was awarded. We look back at a day in celebration of books and the achievements of the highly acclaimed authors and scholars.
ILAB Breslauer Prize by Ian Wallman 00596

This year’s winning titles

1st Prize:
Jack Baldwin, A Catalogue of Fifteenth-Century Printed Books in Glasgow Libraries and Museums, 2 vols (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2020).

2nd Prize:
Ernst Fischer; Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels – Historische Kommission, ed.: Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert

Band 3 Drittes Reich und Exil. Teil 3: Exilbuchhandel 1933–1945 / 1; Teil 3: Exilbuchhandel 1933–1945 / 2; Teil 3: Exilbuchhandel / Supplement, 3 vols (Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2020–21).

3rd Prize:
Renaud Adam, Vivre et imprimer dans les Pays- Bas Méridionaux (Des origines à la Réforme), 2 vols (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018).

Honourable Mention
Frank Romano (with Miranda Mitrano), History of Desktop Publishing (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2019).

Fabrizio Govi, ILAB Prize Secretary since 2014, summarised the work:

Serving as secretary to the ILAB Breslauer Prize for two terms has been a great opportunity for me to keep an eye on the development of bibliographical studies. By receiving and examining about 160 publications over a period of eight years from specialised publishing houses and private presses, I was able to accumulate a thorough sample of what is happening in the field and what the new trends are. Three major considerations come to mind.

First, English is slowly but inevitably becoming the dominant language in bibliographical studies as it is in all other scientific fields. This is happening even though the literary and humanistic aspects of bibliographical study, which comprise such a large part of them, make it especially difficult for certain nations with a strong literary tradition to give up their national language.

Secondly, there is apparently a trend towards more amateurish (in a noble sense), self-inspired studies, which are the results of the passionate work and research of independent scholars not linked or only marginally linked to an institution. They may be antiquarian book dealers, collectors or professionals with a strong interest in the history of their discipline, all of whom are likely either to eventually publish their works at their own expense or get them published by specialised presses. We are now witnessing a sort of liberalisation in the field, probably due to easier access to bibliographic information via the internet and digitisation, and to easier and cheaper opportunities offered today for publishing. This is in some ways a positive sign, but it may also mask an apparent decrease in interest in bibliographic studies at specialised institutions, especially in the US. If this is indeed the case, then it is something that should worry us.

Third, the most striking aspect of all these publications I received is their variety. There is really no limit to the range of subjects they deal with or of the perspectives through which such different topics are seen and studied. These developments are extremely exciting. Some will prove beneficial to the discipline, others may not. It is my successor who will be keeping you informed since after the 2022 award ceremony in Oxford I’m handing over to a new secretary. I am proud to leave behind a very healthy prize, endowed with substantial funds that will allow it to continue for many years to come as the leading prize in the field. My thanks, given most willingly, go to all the other members of the jury who have worked with me over these eight years: Bettina Wagner, Yann Sordet, Daniel de Simone, Winfried Kuhn and Justin Croft. I would also like to thank Felix de Marez Oyens, president of the Breslauer Foundation, whose role in financially and culturally enriching the prize has been immense.