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Jury Report by Arnoud Gerits, Prize Secretary, November 2009

The Jury of the Prize met on Thursday and Friday 1st and 2nd of October 2009 in the city of Amsterdam, just before the Vienna Presidents' Meeting.
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ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography Update

The Jury of the Prize met on Thursday and Friday 1st and 2nd of October 2009 in the city of Amsterdam, just before the Vienna Presidents’ Meeting. The jury was formed by Mr. Felix de Marez Oyens, consultant and collector of bibliography, Professor David Adams, of Manchester University and author of, among others, a 2-volume Diderot bibliography, Mr. Jean-Marc Chatelain, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Mr. Mitsuo Nitta, Mr. Poul Jan Poulsen, and myself. I want to thank the jury for their excellent work, their considerable time, devotion, intellectual input, honesty and above all, their very hard and conscientious work. The two days we devoted to the submitted books were exhausting but very rewarding.

Outstanding Quality

The number of books competing for the prize numbered 52 and the jury was of the opinion that they were of an outstanding quality. There was a great variety of subjects: bibliographies on individuals, on typefaces, on genres of books, on authors, on printing presses and printing houses, on wood engravers and illustrators, on maps, charts, geographic areas, on libraries, on bookbinding, on religion, on book and printing history, and there were excellent and very interesting studies on publishing histories, and many of these books were wonderfully produced and finely illustrated. We were very much pleased and very honoured to be able to see, study and discuss books submitted for the Prize from China, Japan and Russia, as far as we know a novelty. The Russian bibliographies were even submitted as CD-ROMs and for the first time a jury studied books on a laptop! The jury cannot stress enough what a great pleasure it was to be surrounded for 2 days with so many works executed with great quality, intellectually challenging and bibliographically very interesting. We have been amidst a group of books produced by people who have very often worked or collected for many, many years (and in some cases worked AND collected for many, many years), who have mastered their subject to the fullest extent and who devoted time, money, intellectual curiosity and a great love to their books and subject. It was an honour and a great pleasure to devote two full working days to discuss all these books and to experience how all of these books, due to their quality, were individually perfectly capable of presenting and defending their claim for the Prize!

You will have to forgive me that at this point we cannot disclose the outcome of our deliberations: I first need to inform the winners and thank all authors for having submitted their books, and I have not had the time to prepare any PR around this Prize. As soon as all of this has been planned, and an appropriate moment has been identified, we will disclose the winner and further details. The submitted books will all be exhibited at our Congress next year in Bologna, Italy. We will seek as much publicity around the announcement of the winner as we possibly can, also outside the world of our trade and trade magazines.

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Breslauer Foundation

Thanks to the generous donation of the Breslauer Foundation the Prize is not only very well funded, but it even allows us to consider second Prizes, and paid advertising to publicize the Prize and the winner as much as we can. The winner of the Prize will be invited to our Congress next year in Italy where the Prize will be handed out and the winner will be invited to give a lecture: after all, if ever there will be an interested audience, it must surely be at the time when many booksellers, the day-to-day users of so many of the books we discussed within the jury, are assembled in one place! ...

I would like to finish with the following remarks: it would give me great pleasure to serve again as the secretary for the next Prize. I have enjoyed the meetings and the books, I have learned from the other members of the jury, bibliography is one of the most vital aspects of our profession, and the pleasure of discussing these books is a temptation difficult to resist. But without my colleagues in our profession, without their support, without their promotion of this Prize, without them encouraging authors (or encouraging those who think about producing a bibliographical study), without them encouraging collectors and publishers to submit books for the Prize, there will be no Prize.

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Promote the Prize

This Prize, ultimately, does not depend on some volunteers willing to sit on a jury, on a Foundation willing to support the Prize with a generous donation: it depends on us and our capability to encourage people to produce bibliographies and to encourage them to submit books for the Prize. Whatever I say about the books and the members of the jury, without books all of this is pointless. And this is what I ask of you, Presidents, and what I ask you to do in your association: promote this Prize, encourage your membership to promote the Prize, help us in getting as much publicity as we can. Not by telling me what I can do: I have enough work as it is. Promote the Prize among your members. Do you know an interested journalist: get him to email me or another member of the jury. Do you know an author? Encourage him. Does a publisher think there is no interest in bibliography? Tell him about a prize of 10,000 US$. Money, ladies and gentlemen, talks!

Arnoud Gerits, Prize Secretary (ILAB Newsletter 62, November 2009)

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