The Pulitzer Prize is the most famous and sought-after literary award for American writers. For book collectors, a fine first edition winner in any of the six book categories (Fiction, Non-Fiction, Drama, Poetry, Biography, and History) is a prize.
From 1917 to 1947, the fiction award was referred to as the “Novel” category; after 1947 it was referred to as the “Fiction” category, which could include short stories. A complete list of past winners by category is available on the Pulitzer Prize website.
To qualify for the competition, writers must be American citizens in all categories with the one exception of History, where a writer may be a citizen of another country, but writing about a subject pertaining to American History.
In all, there are 21 Pulitzer categories including many for newspaper journalism, photography, reporting, editorial cartooning and writing. In 20 of those categories the winners receive a $10,000 cash award and a certificate. The winner in the Public Service category of the Journalism competition is awarded a gold medal designed by sculptor Daniel Chester French and his associate Henry Augustus Lukeman. The Public Service prize is always awarded to a newspaper, not an individual, although an individual may be named in the citation.
It was Joseph Pulitzer, an esteemed nineteenth century newspaper publisher, who launched the Pulitzer Prizes by providing for them in his 1904 will. He bestowed an endowment on Columbia of $2,000,000 for the establishment of a School of Journalism, one-fourth of which was to be “applied to prizes or scholarships for the encouragement of public service, public morals, American literature, and the advancement of education.” The first awards were presented in 1917.
Formal announcement of the prizes occurs in April of each year and are made by the President of Columbia University based on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize Board, with awards being presented at a luncheon held at Columbia University a month later.
There have been years where there is no award given in some categories. According to The Plan of Award “If in any year all the competitors in any category shall fail to gain a majority vote of the Pulitzer Prize Board, the prize or prizes may be withheld.”
For information on how the Pulitzer Prize competition is administered, click HERE.
Winning books are not chosen on the basis of their popularity, or because they made it onto best-seller lists. They are works that are carefully researched and beautifully written, and most are timeless in their relevancy. This is why they make a wonderful collection.
Here are some Pulitzer Prize winning books currently available at Old Scrolls Book Shop.