Austin Benson, who won First Prize in the 2022 Book Collecting Contest sponsored by the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, was awarded Third Prize in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. His winning collection was entitled “The Little Office[s] of Our Lady, 1599–1966: Online Book Collecting during the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The Little Office of the B.V.M. developed in the tenth century out of a series of Marian prayers appended to the Divine Office, the daily routine of prayer practiced by monks and some secular priests. The first translation of the Office of the B.V.M. into English was published in the Netherlands in 1599. By this time, the Little Office had been incorporated into the Book of Hours and had become part of “the bedrock of lay and clerical spirituality in Western Catholicism from the Middle Ages to the mid-twentieth century, when their recitation was suppressed in favor of the Liturgy of the Hours.”
A unique feature of Mr. Benson’s collection is that it was formed entirely by digital means due to the restrictions to travel and in-person browsing resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Benson was competing against the winners of three dozen other collegiate book collecting contests held throughout the country. The National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest is sponsored jointly by the Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association of America (ABAA), the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies (FABS), the Grolier Club, and the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division (the Library of Congress).
Awards for the National Collegiate contest were presented at a special ceremony presented on Zoom by the Library of Congress on October 21st. Judges noted the combination of “specificity and range” in Mr. Benson’s collection, which includes books in sixteen languages.
Mr. Benson is a Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia in the Dept. of English. He was also the recipient of a Battestin Fellowship from the BSUVA in 2021.