England’s Booker Prize Asks Public To Name Its Trophy

In News by Porter Anderson

The public is invited to propose names for the Booker’s Jan Pieńkowski-designed trophy, then vote on a shortlist.

The 1969 trophy designed by Jan Pieńkowski is to be brought back into service by the Booker Prize Foundation. Image: Booker Prize Foundation

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Deadline for Submissions: January 27
Roughly 15 inches tall, the Booker Prize for Fiction’s trophy is a statuette you could be forgiven for feeling you haven’t seen much. It resurfaced just last year in the organization’s panoply of signals and symbols.

The figure was designed in 1969 by Polish-British children’s author and illustrator Jan Pieńkowski (1936-2022). Last year’s Booker winner, Shehan Karunatilaka, was the first to receive an edition of the work, in honor of the late Pieńkowski, when Karunatilaka won for The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, published by the independent house Sort of Books.

The Pieńkowski figure had been out of use for years, although it seems that a 1973 10-inch edition by Patricia Turner was handed out. That was phased out in favor of leather-bound copies of the winners’ books, and then the Perspex acrylic piece seen in recent years.

The public is being asked now to put forward ideas for the statuette’s name. And even in naming a trophy, yes, there will then be a shortlist of six names. Chosen by a jury. This must be how even the daily lunch menu is decided in the offices of our myriad publishing and book awards.

That jury:

  • Author Shehan Karunatilaka
  • Margaret Busby, Britain’s first Black female publisher and chair of the Booker Prize’s 2022 panel of judges
  • Gabriel Schenk, PH Newby’s grandson
  • David Walser, partner and frequent collaborator of the late Pieńkowski
  • Gaby Wood, Director of the Booker Prize Foundation
The Name ‘Erté’ Is Taken

If you feel hovering nearby the spirit of Romain de Tirtoff (1892-1990)—known as Erté for the French pronunciation of his initials R and T—you’re not alone.

The Welsh author Bernice Rubens, the first woman to win a Booker Prize for Fiction, won in the award’s second year, 1970, for ‘The Elected Member.’ She’s seen here with the trophy in its original, taller, pewter-colored form. Image: Booker Prize Foundation

But media messaging from the Booker today (January 19) indicates that Pieńkowski’s inspiration had a somewhat less elegant prompt.

He’s said to have been influenced by an Art Déco lamp he found in a Portobello junk store. And when awarded as the first Booker Prize in 1969 to author PH Newby for his Something To Answer For, the figure was pewter-colored. Newby’s wife reportedly took the situation in hand and spray-painted the figure a gold color.

Using the original trophy, Adam Lowe’s Factum Foundation in Madrid last year made a 3-D print to recreate the sculpture, which now is cast in brass.

In the competition to name the piece, the winner is to receive the Folio Society collector’s edition of Wolf Hall, a Booker winner by the late Hilary Mantel, of course, that edition illustrated by Igor & Marina. There’s also a Montegrappa Zero Fountain Pen “with a 14k solid gold, gold-plated nib.” Should more than one person throw the same name into the cloche, then a winner will be selected at random from those entries.

Gaby Wood

In a prepared statement, Wood is quoted today, saying, “We’re incredibly grateful to our partners, the Folio Society and Montegrappa, for donating such elegant and luxurious prizes, and grateful in advance to members of the public for joining us in this venture to give the Booker Prize trophy a name.

“She will, we hope, come to stand not only for the triumph of a single winner but for the aims of the Booker Prize Foundation as a whole: to change lives and expand minds through the pleasures of reading.

“Once she has a name she can be a beacon, lighting the way to the world’s best literature. We’d like readers everywhere to be part of that.”

  • Entries, now open, will close on January 27.
  • The shortlist is set to appear on February 8.
  • The public then will be asked to vote by February 17.
  • A winner of the competition is then to be announced on February 23.

There’s a form to use in logging an entry here, a page that includes more information about the figurine and the contest.

A detail of the Jan Pieńkowski trophy. Image: Booker Prize Foundation

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Booker Prize for Fiction is here. More on the International Booker Prize is here, more from Publishing Perspectives on both Booker Prize programs is here. More from us on the international industry’s book and publishing awards programs overall is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.