2023 Wreden Prize celebrates student book collecting

May 30, 2023Kathleen Smith

The prize winners standing with Bo Wreden.
The 2023 Wreden Prize winners (left to right, Nicholas Rosenbaum, Bo Wreden, Nicole Nomura, and Em Horst)

This year’s Byra J. and William P. Wreden Prize for Collecting Books and Related Materials showcases the creative and passionate love of book collecting by undergraduate and graduate students at Stanford. Participating students each submit a bibliography of items in their collection, along with an essay detailing the history and significance of their collection. The 2023 Wreden Prize winners were celebrated with an in-person reception on May 25, featuring a panel discussion with each of this year’s prize winners. Each prize winner also received a one-year membership to the Book Club of California, courtesy of Bo Wreden, the son of Byra and William Wreden. 

First place: Nichole Nomura (Ph.D. student, English Department), "Classroom Editions of Twain's Huckleberry Finn" 

Nicole’s thought-provoking collection explores how problematic elements are removed, substituted, or otherwise adapted to fit the changing curricular needs of US primary education, and the focus on collecting re-presentations of a single text as a study of broader societal interests was compelling and engaging.

Excerpt from Nichole's essay:
This collection is a window into a long tradition of the humanities in public school, happening at a scale hard to imagine. How many readings of Huck Finn exist in the minds of how many readers? How many classroom teachers have looked at what is available in the bookroom and made hard decisions about how to teach a text saturated with the n-word? Whether this collection captures something about a classic or the canon fades in importance, for me, in comparison to the way it captures something curricular—Huck Finn is a part of the educational course many of us in the United States run, and interventions on that text are attempts to improve that course.

Multiple editions of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn from the collection of Nicole Nomura


Second place: Em Horst (Ph.D. student, Chemistry), "Trans historicity and trans futurity" 

Em’s essay incorporates transgender history, theory, memoir, poetry and fiction, and the collection bibliography as a broad survey of trans literatures could serve as a reading list for many classes or the foundation for an annotated bibliography.

Excerpt from Em's essay:
The recently increased visibility and acceptance of trans people, academics, and authors has enabled a literary flourishing over the last decade. This collection unites two distinct bodies of work. The first half of the collection is non-fiction that asks what gender is and has been: through memoirs of individual lives, theoretical approaches, and historical narratives describing ensembles of lives. The second half comprises works of fiction or memoir that describe what could be: bildungsroman, autotheory, speculative fiction, and science fiction. The corpus includes primarily books, though it also contains several anthologies, zines, and graphic novels. All entries were written by trans or non-binary authors.

Third place: Nicholas Rosenbaum (undergraduate student, Comparative Literature), "My Nietzscean Reticularities" 

A meditation on gender and sexuality as seen through the filter of myth and archetype, Nicholas' collection began after reading Nietzche's The Birth of Tragedy and his essay draws the reader along on his personal journey.

Excerpt from Nicholas' essay:
A passage from The Birth of Tragedy […] haunted me with confusion, with its sort of staying-power of strangeness, ever since I first encountered it, […] from that first translation I ever read from between the characteristic shiny green covers of Cambridge University Press editions of canonical philosophy.

This year’s panel of judges were drawn from Stanford librarians and Bay Area collectors and antiquarian dealers, reflecting a breadth of experience in book history and the book arts: Mary Crawford (Grolier Club member and collector); Chris Loker (antiquarian bookseller and specialist in children’s literature); Benjamin Albritton (Rare Books Curator); Kathleen Smith (Curator of German and Medieval Studies); and Eitan Kensky (Curator of Judaica and Hebraica).

The Wreden Prize, which is open to all full-time Stanford students, was endowed in memory of William P. and Byra J. Wreden, two lifelong book collectors and supporters of Stanford Libraries. In addition to building two remarkable personal collections focused on bibliographical materials and witchcraft, folklore, and magic, William Wreden was a well-known Bay Area antiquarian bookseller. His wife, Byra Wreden, was also an avid collector, building a significant collection focused on children’s book illustrators, like Beatrix Potter and Kate Greenaway. For more information on the history of the Wreden Prize and to read the prize-winning essays, please visit the Wreden Prize website.