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Senate House Library

Prize Collection

The Collection 

Subject: English literature; Book history 

This collection’s unifying theme is that the books in it were all given as prizes - whether for scholastic achievement, good behaviour, or (commonly) Sunday School attendance - and all have a bookplate or inscription recording this fact. 

The content comprises 82 volumes of English children’s books printed between 1865 to 1918, primarily with an evangelical bent. Several are publications of the Religious Tract Society or the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Most are by religious writers who were popular in their day such as Fredrika Bremer, Maria Cummins and Hesba Stretton. While some titles remain known at least from an historical viewpoint, such as Mrs Trimmer’s The Story of the Robins and Mrs O.F. Walton’s Christie’s Old Organ, others have disappeared from consciousness.  

Most of the works are fiction, although several titles are biographical and there is one geographical work, Adventures in the Far West: Canada’s Story. A couple are works of historical fiction. A few are for teenagers (Emma Jane Worboise, Elizabeth Wetherell).  

Most of the books are illustrated, and most are bound in unexceptional but attractive and typical pictorial Victorian cloth bindings. They indicate approved reading for children and the distribution of popular texts. Some provide evidence of female book ownership. Common in their day, several are now scarce in academic libraries. 

The books were brought together by John Henry Pyle Pafford (1900-1996), Librarian of the University of London 1945-1967 (see obituaries in the University of London archive, ULC/PC43/5) and an inveterate book-buyer. The recipient as a child of one volume in the collection, he acquired many of the books from charity shops, and donated them to the University in the late 1970s or early 1980s.


For an overview of the collection, do a mixed classmark search on [Prize]. The collection is held off-site and material requires 48 hours (excluding weekends) to be fetched.

Related materials

The Martin Collection (other children’s books)

Further reading

Entry 49 in Senate House Library, University of London, ed. by Christopher Pressler and Karen Attar (London: Scala, 2012)