Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014...9:30 am

2014 Philip Hofer Prize for Collecting Books or Art

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On March 25, 2014, winners of the Philip Hofer Prize for Collecting Books or Art were announced in a ceremony at Houghton Library. The Hofer Prize is awarded each year to a student or students whose collections of books or works of art best reflect the traditions of breadth, coherence, and imagination exemplified in the collections given to Harvard by Philip Hofer, A.B. ’21, L.H.D. ’67, founder and first Curator of the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts in Houghton Library and Secretary of the Fogg Art Museum. All Harvard students are eligible to compete for the prize, and collections are judged on the purpose, consistency, and quality of the collection, not on cost, rarity, or size. The prize was established by Melvin R. Seiden, A.B. ’52, L.L.B. ’55, to encourage student interest in collecting. The 2013-2014 Hofer Prize competition attracted a strong field, with three particularly outstanding submissions. As a result, the judges decided to award a first prize of $3,000, and two second prizes of $1,500 each.

Benjamin Lee's collection "“A History of the 1933 Goudey Baseball Card Set"

First prize was awarded to Benjamin Lee, College Class of 2017, for his collection, “A History of the 1933 Goudey Baseball Card Set: From Artwork to Copyright Registration.” This set of cards, one of the first to be distributed with gum, rather than with tobacco products, is considered by collectors to be one of the “big three” of baseball card sets. The judges commended Lee’s achievement in these terms: Philip Hofer didn’t collect baseball cards, but he certainly would have appreciated the acumen, imagination, and perseverance behind this year’s first-place winner. What distinguishes Lee’s collection from the thousands of other baseball card and gum card collections is not only the number of cards he has assembled – he owns 230 of the 242 cards published in his series of choice. Rather, it is the original, disciplined research he has undertaken to explore how the cards were produced and to bring to light the careers of the illustrators who worked on the vivid, colorful Goudey graphics. In the process of doing this research, Lee was able to add to his holdings of original cards rich documentary sources, including original copyright registration cards for the Goudey sets, original photographs of players on which the Goudey graphics were based, and transcripts of his own enlightening, entertaining interviews with surviving family members of the artists. Taken all in all, his research and documentation track, in an unprecedented way, the 1933 set of Goudey Baseball cards through its various stages of production. The collection thus documents in new ways the production of card sets that brought pictures of favorite baseball players into the hands of young Depression-era fans, while also exploring the careers of illustrators and graphic artists whose work captures some of the most iconic images now associated with the American national pastime.

Items from Alexander Ioffreda's collection “Deeds of the People: Soviet Military and Civilian Medals and Documents, 1917-1991.”

One of the two second prizes went to Alexander Ioffreda, College Class of 2015, for “Deeds of the People: Soviet Military and Civilian Medals and Documents, 1917-1991.” Mr. Ioffreda’s collection consists of medals and other decorations awarded to citizens of the Soviet Union for outstanding military or civilian service, and also includes documentation pertaining to these awards. His essay described the social and cultural function of decorations in Soviet society, while placing the practice of awarding them within a larger historical context. By engaging in archival research, he was also able to link many individual items in his collection with information about the achievements of those to whom the awards were initially given.

An item from Manuel Lopez Segura's collection “Books That Built Democracy.”

The other second prize was won by Manuel Lopez Segura, holder of a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Design and now a Ph.D. student in Architecture and Urban Planning. His collection, “Books That Built Democracy,” consists of carefully selected and closely interrelated works on architecture, urban planning, and more broadly, modern art, that document one aspect of the first fervor of participatory democracy and public debate that took place in Valencia, Spain, during the 1980s – that is, the first years after the end of Franco’s dictatorship. The unusual focus of the collection reflects in a striking way the effects of the new sense of freedom on the fabric of the city, in itself and in relation to its long history as well as new social priorities.

[Thanks to Hope Mayo and Dennis Marnon for contributing this post.]

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