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"It is among our goals to actively support the future of the printed book and the creation of beautiful printed objects"

ILAB spoke to Breslauer Prize Secretary, bookseller Fabrizio Govi about the upcoming Prize which will be awarded in 2022, the importance of bibliographical study and how to submit publications for this prestigious award.
Fabrizio Govi Headshot

The ILAB Breslauer Prize is the leading international award in the field of bibliography, book history and research. Why do the League and the Breslauer Foundation support this prize and who is allowed to submit publications?

The ILAB Prize for Bibliography, as it was originally called, started to be awarded every four years in the early days of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB, founded in 1947), as a recognition for the the author of the best work in the field of bibliographical studies (history of the book, history of the book trade, book design, book binding, typography, paper production and trade, watermarks, codicology, history of the miniature, etc.). In 2008, its name was changed into ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography to honour the first of two very generous gifts granted by the B.H. Breslauer Foundation, founded by the ILAB bookseller Dr. Bernard H. Breslauer (1918-2004) and now presided by Mr. Felix de Marez Oyens.

The upcoming prize, which will be awarded in 2022 during the ILAB Congress in Oxford, will be given to the three best publications among the over 50 works published and submitted in the last four years, awarding US$ 10,000 to the winner, US$ 5,000 to the second ranked and US$ 3,000 to the third ranked.

As the most prestigious and generous prize in this field, ILAB actively supports and promotes the ILAB Prize for Bibliography, which also constitutes a very important link between the book trade and the academic world.

Publishers, academics, scholars and members of the antiquarian book trade are asked to submit their publications, printed in the years 2018-2021, by 31 December 2021. Any aspect of bibliography and any language are admitted.

Since 2014 you have been the Secretary of the ILAB Breslauer for Bibliography. What does this role involve?

This is my second term as secretary of the prize. I was asked by the previous secretary Around Gerits to take on this position during the ILAB Paris Congress in 2014. Four years later I gladly accepted the invitation to go on for one more term after the success, both in terms of number and quality of publications submitted, of my first prize, awarded in London in 2018. My role as a secretary mostly involves contacting publishers and scholars, collecting as many submissions as possible, describing and photographing the volumes for the Prize website, organizing the jury meeting and, as final act, examining again in detail all the publications and voting together with the rest of the jury for the three most outstanding works.

Bibliographies are necessary and important tools for all rare booksellers. Can you explain the significance of this genre to a reader not so closely linked to the rare book trade?

Describing and fully evaluating a rare book without the aid of a reference library is basically impossible: to determine whether it is a first edition or a first issue, to fully grasp the historical importance of a text, to get information about the life and activity of the author, every bookseller and scholar require general and specific bibliographies.

Research in the field of bibliography is of great importance both for the book trade and the academic world. Many bibliographical studies are now available online, where it is easier to keep them updated. But the ILAB Breslauer Prize is not only about the content of the submitted volumes, it is also about the association of the text with the book as an object that carries that text. The quality of printing, the quality of the pictures and the overall physical aspect of the book play an important role in the final decision of the jury. That’s why the prize can be awarded only to published text. As booksellers, we acknowledge the importance of a widespread digitization and informatization of bibliographical studies and take advantage of it, but we also think that it is among our goals to actively support the future of the printed book and the creation of beautiful printed objects.

To view all submissions to date for the