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Miriam-Helene Rudd, a UD junior studying art
conservation and art history, has been reading and collecting Nancy Drew
mysteries since grade school. Today, her collection of more than 350
books features an array of leading ladies from 20th century mystery
adventure series about and for young women.
Note: This is the third installment in a series of articles
highlighting the winners of the first Seth Trotter Book Collecting
Contest, hosted by the Friends of the UD Library. Below, uncover the
story of junior Honors student Miriam-Helene Rudd and her growing
collection of mystery novels with heroines like Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames
and Vicki Barr.
Its common to find Miriam-Helene Rudd in the University of
Delawares Morris Library. There, she helps preserve and repair books as
a student assistant. This hands-on experience is another step in the
juniors path to becoming a conservator. But her journey started long
before college. For years, she has collected books specifically, 20th
century mystery adventure series about and for young women.
While preserving books and collecting them may seem like distinct
activities at first, the connections between the two are organic.
The urge to collect and preserve ephemera, to create resources for
future generations to look back on, is very much aligned with art
conservation, said Rudd, an art conservation and art history major in
the College of Arts and Sciences. I have always been excited about the
material remnants of history and how we must work to save them.
Its true. Whether she was collecting pressed pennies or ticket
stubs, Rudd has long been a collector. In second grade, she read her
first chapter-book mystery and fell in love with the stories of teenage
sleuth Nancy Drew, quickly accumulating them as she continued reading.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Collecting and preserving books are two ways to create resources
for future generations to look back on. In addition to her collecting
efforts, Miriam-Helene Rudd helps preserve and repair books as a student
assistant in Morris Library.
Accustomed to reading the novels in their iconic yellow binding,
Rudd fell in love with the physical books after receiving a relatives
collection of older editions with faded blue cloth covers. And so began
her mission to collect the complete series in its various editions and
But Rudd didnt stop with Nancy Drew.
Her collection and reading list quickly expanded to include
Cherry Ames, Vicki Barr, Connie Blair, the Dana Girls and Judy Bolton,
the leading ladies of other 20th century mystery adventure series for
young women. Today, her collection of more than 350 books has expanded
further to include lesser known, older, foreign and more boy-focused
series as important counterbalances.
This collection provides a window into the social constructs of
growing up as a girl in the mid-20th century, Rudd said. Rather than
dismiss these books as out of date, reading them can serve to
acknowledge the damaging social constructs our parents and grandparents
grew up with, while at the same time embracing the positivity and
empowering messages also found in the text.
Nancy was a positive role model for young women who were seeing a
female figure breaking free of these limiting expectations in a way that
received praise and admiration, not contempt or scorn, she said,
reflecting on the heroines of the other series in kind. These mystery
adventure series provide a connection to our past, and will continue to
inspire young people into the future.
Rudd has always found joy from the stories she collects just as
she finds joy in uncovering a book that fills a gap in her collection.
However, she refuses to shop for missing titles online. The thrill of
uncovering a sought-after title at an antique mall or bookstore is too
Miriam-Helene Rudd at work on a book in Morris Library.
Originally from New York City, Rudd has always had ample access to
antique malls and flea markets growing up through her mother and
grandmothers antiques business. When she was younger, she would travel
with them to antique shows across the country to help and to continue
her search. During her college years, she has found a few additions to
her collection locally at Aunt Margarets Antique Mall on Main Street in
By collecting what she finds in person, she is always discovering new editions of the series.
In addition to the titles and editions she already collects, Rudd is
interested in collecting foreign editions of the series as well as books
from the turn of the century that served as precursors to these types
Another avenue she plans to explore is more personal: Her
great-great uncle Julian R. Paul illustrated some of the cover art for
various titles within these series. However, it was common for many of
the authors and artists involved in the production of these books to be
anonymous, making this mission more challenging. While she has one title
in her collection that her great-great uncle designed the cover for,
she plans to delve into research and find others.
I think my collection will never be finished because there are so
many avenues to explore, Rudd said. As her collection continues to
expand, the size and number of bookshelves where she currently keeps her
trove will grow too.
Rudd earned second place in the 2019 Friends of the University of
Delaware Librarys Seth Trotter Book Collecting Contest. The other
winners in the book collecting contest were Joseph Nakao and Sean McAllister.
The Friends created the contest to encourage reading and research, the
creation of personal libraries, and an appreciation of printed or
illustrated works for pleasure and scholarship among UD undergraduate
and graduate students. Students can learn more about the 2020 Seth
Trotter Book Collecting Contest, including how to submit their
applications, on this website.
In addition to being recognized by the Friends of the UD Library,
Rudd won second prize in the 2019 National Collegiate Book Collecting
Contest for her collection. In October, Rudd attended the awards
ceremony at the Library of Congress alongside representatives from the
Friends group and the University. As part of her prize, Rudd received a
years membership to the Grolier Club, Americas oldest and largest
society for bibliophiles, and will receive a mentor from the group.
Article by Allison Ebner; photos by Sean Diffendall
Published Dec. 19, 2019