Alex Koch (‘19) can’t exactly pinpoint the moment that his love for the written word evolved into book collecting — when avid reading evolved into bibliophilism — but it all came to a head when he took first place in this year’s National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest for his submission “The Breath and Breadth of the Maine Woods.” A true labor of love, the collection reflects years of picking through barn sales, bookstores and yard sales, with a wide reflection of written paraphernalia beyond books, including field guides, maps, advertisements, postcards, and even axe labels, with many dating back to the mid-19th to 20th century.

Contest judges considered “how collections may help preserve material that could otherwise be lost or forgotten” with evaluations made on entrants’ “understanding of their collections’ subjects… and their knowledge and appreciation of the items in their collections both for content and as objects of craft.”  The age, rarity and uniqueness of the items in each submitted collection were assessed independently of monetary value — which for Koch is good, because while he thinks “rarity is certainly important, the most important part to me is the words.”