Snyder Book Collecting Contest
History of the Snyder Book Collecting Contest
The origins of the Snyder Book Collecting Contest are found in correspondence between Elizabeth Morrison Snyder (then Elizabeth Taylor) of Kansas City and Robert Vosper, then Director of the KU Libraries. In late 1956, Vosper wrote to Mrs. Snyder about his idea for encouraging young people “to buy or collect their own books…and begin to learn something of the pleasure of having interesting private collections of books at home. No one will know better than you how much pleasure and excitement this can bring."
Mrs. Snyder replied that "your idea for developing a student's interest in books and book collecting is basically so sound and full of fruitful thought that I couldn't help but be interested," and immediately offered financial support for the contest.
The first contest in 1957 attracted twenty entrants. The $75 first prize was awarded to J. Knox Jones, a graduate student, for his collection on mammals of North America. The $25 second prize went to Bryan Burrage, a freshman, who entered a general natural history collection. Other great collections have been winners over the years. Laird Wilcox won in 1964 with a collection of over 8,000 pieces on radical political movements. This collection is now part of the Kansas Collection in the Spencer Research Library.
Although Mrs. Snyder claimed that she was "really not much of a collector," she built many remarkable collections, including one she started in high school on A.A. Milne, best known as the creator of Winnie‑the‑Pooh. Her H.L. Mencken collection includes inscribed first editions, letters written by Mencken, and periodicals Mencken edited. The Milne and Mencken collections are part of a series of generous donations that Mrs. Snyder made to the KU Libraries over the years. “To have what I have collected be used for research is what is important,” Mrs. Snyder said, “I feel it should be where it can be enjoyed by many.”
Mrs. Snyder later established an endowment through the KU Endowment Association to provide permanent funding for the competition. Until her death in 2004, Mrs. Snyder attended the awards ceremony to share her enthusiasm for book collecting.
The KU Libraries have sponsored the Snyder contest since 1957 with Jayhawk Ink, a division of the KU Bookstore in the Kansas Union, joining as a co-sponsor in 1974.