Stillwell Prize

Margaret B. Stillwell Prize 2023

poster for book collecting prize*FOR UNDERGRADUATES*
Win CASH for building your book collection!

In 1983 the John Russell Bartlett Society established an annual prize competition open to undergraduates at any Rhode Island college or university in order to stimulate the interest of students in books as objects of craft or art, as well as a medium for esteemed texts.

The contest is named in memory of Margaret Bingham Stillwell, Brown University Class of 1909, the University’s first woman Professor of Bibliography and a renowned scholar of early printing.

More than an assemblage, a collection must have an organizing principle. This can be on any subject, theme, or particular emphasis—as in bibliographical features such as edition, conditions of manufacture, illustration, type, calligraphy, binding, etc. All types of physical books and pamphlets may be included, as long as their place in the collection can be justified.

View a list of Stillwell Prize winners through the years.


Before entering, contestants are strongly encouraged to contact the Stillwell Prize chair.

  1. The competition is open to all undergraduates currently enrolled in Rhode Island colleges and universities.
  2. A collection may focus on any subject or theme. All items must have been collected by the competitor.
  3. All students will receive a $10 gift card for submitting a completed application.
  4. There shall be no more than 6 finalists in a given year.
  5. JRBS will give monetary prizes, $600, $400 and $200 and gift cards to local antiquarian booksellers to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners.
  6. First prize winners are not eligible for future competitions, but 2nd and 3rd place winners may enter again if they present a new or substantially improved collection.
  7. The first prize winner will have the opportunity to compete in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest.
  8. There are two phases to the competition:

WRITTEN ENTRY: An essay of at least 750 words describing the theme of your collection, the history of its formation, and your future plans for it, AND an annotated bibliography of a representative selection of not more than 50 items. Please submit the essay and bibliography through the online Stillwell Prize Application Form.

ORAL PRESENTATION [VIRTUAL]: Each finalist will exhibit a sample of the collection (no more than 15 items) at the final judging and will give a 5-minute Powerpoint presentation on the items and future collecting goals with a minimum of 5 slides. Judges will be looking to see how well the display exemplifies the collection and how articulate the entrant is about the collecting theme.

Submit the essay and bibliography through the online Stillwell Prize Application Form.
Deadline for entries is Monday, April 10, 2023.

Final competition and judging will take place in person on Monday, April 24, 2023 at 6 PM at the Aldrich House (headquarters of the Rhode Island Historical Society).

Rick Ring, Stillwell Prize Chair, or