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David Laing Prize

The Centre for Research Collections is offering a prize of £500 to the student with the best collection of printed books or other written materials.

David Laing Book Collecting Prize: For the most enthusiastic student collector

David Laing Book Collecting Prize Poster

The David Laing Book Collecting Prize aims to encourage collecting by recognising a collection formed by a student.   If you collect books, or any other written material and are a matriculated student, we invite you to submit an essay about your collection, to be in with a chance of winning £500.  The prize is offered in honour of David Laing (1793 -1878), the distinguished antiquarian, collector and librarian who bequeathed his important collection of manuscripts and other materials to the University of Edinburgh in 1878.

Applications for 2023-24 can be submitted from 15th January 2024.  The closing date is 9am Monday 25th March.  Judging and prizegiving will take place on Friday 5th April.  It is hoped to hold an information event about the prize during the week beginning 20th February: check Heritage Collections’ social media for more information.

Entry Guidelines

Your collection must consist of not less than ten items with a theme.  These may be printed or handwritten books, ephemera or any other written material.

The winner will be decided based on the interest, originality, thoughtfulness and creativity of the collection and vision, enthusiasm and persistence of the collector.  The age, size and monetary value of the collection are not relevant criteria.

To apply, we invite you to submit an essay of not more than 2,500 words which includes the following information:

  • An introduction to the collection in general terms, describing what is collected, the main theme of the content and the scope of the collection – what boundaries there are as to what is included and excluded.
  • An explanation of the inspiration behind the collection: how did it start?  Why is it personally important?  What is it that provides the enthusiasm to continue with it?
  • A description of any challenges which have been faced in assembling the collection, and what response has been made to them.
  • A list of five items which it is desired to add to the collection, with a brief explanation of how these would improve it.
  • Images of the collection may also be submitted in support of the application.


For the purposes of the prize, a collection must have at its core physical material with writing on it, in some form, and the text must be significant to the reason it has been collected.  The material may be printed, or handwritten, on any physical medium.  It may be supplemented with material in other formats.  Examples: books; printed ephemera; written manuscripts; objects which use text to convey a message, e.g. packaging, signs, games.  Excluded examples: art which consists solely of images; objects without text, or where it is incidental to the interest of the collection.

Full details of how to enter can be found on the Entry Guidelines and Entry Form documents below.


The prize consists of:

  • A payment of £500 to the winner.
  • An allowance of £250 to choose a book for the University of Edinburgh’s Special Collections, to be selected with Special Collections staff.
  • Membership of the Friends of Edinburgh University Library.
  • Entry to the national student book collecting prize, sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association.
  • The winner will also be given the opportunity to exhibit a selection of their collection in the Centre for Research Collections.


Previous Winners and Example Collections

David Laing Book Collecting Prize - Previous Winners and Example Collections

Poster Design Competition

David Laing Book Collecting Prize - Poster Design Competition