The 2002 Philip Hofer Prize for Book and Art Collecting

Katharine Olson

The title page of Chwedlau Gwerin Cymru, Wedi Eu Dethol A’u Haddasu, gan William Rowlands, M.A., Ysgol Ramadeg
An illustration of a mermaid in an old Welsh tale, from Chwedlau Gwerin Cymru, a book of Welsh folk legends. Image by Katharine Olson, reprinted from HLB New Series 14.1 (Spring 2003), p. 12.

The Philip Hofer Prize for Collecting Books or Art was established by Harvard alumnus Melvin R. Seiden in honor of Philip Hofer, also a Harvard graduate, and founder of the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts at Houghton Library and secretary of the Fogg Art Museum. During his lifetime, Hofer collected a staggering number of books, a passion he developed as a freshman in 1917. Today, the prize is awarded annually to Harvard undergraduate and graduate students whose collections reflect breadth, coherence, and imagination—qualities exemplified by Hofer.

In 2002, the winner of the Philip Hofer Prize for Book and Art Collecting (as it was known) was Katharine Olson, a Harvard Ph.D. student in Celtic Languages and Literature. A chance encounter with a young adult novel set in Wales led to her fascination with “that seemingly insignificant region to the west of England” (12), and eventually to her graduate studies in medieval Welsh history. Her essay on her collection of over 300 publications relating to Wales and its history, language, and literature was published in HLB New Series 14.1 (Spring 2003).

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