The Booker Prize trophy: the story behind our distinctive statuette
The creator of children’s classics Meg and Mog, and Haunted House, Jan Pieńkowski also designed the Booker Prize trophy. Here is story behind the statuette.
After reviving Jan Pieńkowski’s original statuette, we asked you to help us name the Booker Prize trophy. We can now reveal that Iris is the winning name, and is set to become part of Booker history
At the beginning of this year, we launched a competition inviting you, our readers, to help us name the Booker Prize trophy - a recreation of the original Booker Prize statuette designed by the much-loved children’s book illustrator Jan Pieńkowski, of Meg and Mog fame, for the first Booker Prize ceremony in 1969. It was awarded to author P.H. Newby that year, for his novel Something to Answer for.
Following Pieńkowski’s death in February 2022, the trophy was reinstated and revived in his honour for the 2022 Booker Prize. In October of that year, it was awarded to Shehan Karunatilaka, who won the prize for his novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.
Over 800 people suggested and submitted names in the competition, which included a wide array of authors past and present, characters from great works of literature and even ancient goddesses and muses. From the hundreds of entries, a panel of judges chose six names to put to a public vote. This judging panel consisted of Shehan Karunatilaka, winner of the Booker Prize 2022 for his novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida; Margaret Busby, Britain’s first Black female publisher and Chair of the Booker Prize 2020 judges; Gabriel Schenk, grandson of P.H. Newby; David Walser, partner and collaborator of the late Jan Pieńkowski; and Gaby Wood, Chief Executive of the Booker Prize Foundation.
Literature satisfies our curiosity and interests us in other people and other scenes and helps us to be tolerant and generous
The shortlisted names were Bernie, Beryl, Iris, Minerva, Janina and Calliope, which thousands of readers from around the world then voted for in a poll on the Booker Prizes website.
The name Bernie - after Bernardine Evaristo, the first Black woman to win the prize, in 2019; as well as being a reference to Bernice Rubens, the first woman to win the prize, in 1970 - received the most public votes. However, Bernardine Evaristo felt it would be more appropriate to pay tribute to one of the great writers from the Booker Prize’s past instead. ‘I’m surprised and flattered that the name Bernie was nominated by readers in the Booker Prizes’ trophy competition and that it received the most votes in the public poll,’ Evaristo said. ‘But as the only living author on the list, I feel it would be more fitting for the honour to go to a writer who is no longer with us,’ she added.
The Booker Prize Foundation respects Bernardine’s wishes and has decided that the name with the second-highest number of votes, Iris - after Iris Murdoch - will now be the name of the trophy, which Evaristo said was a ‘wonderful’ decision.
The Iris Murdoch Society, based at the University of Chichester and which exists to promote the author’s work and further her philosophical vision, said they were ‘thrilled’ that the trophy has been named Iris, adding that the author would have been ‘greatly honoured’ for her name to be associated with the prize in this way.
The winner of the competition has won a Montegrappa Zero fountain pen, worth over £600, and a Folio Society edition of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.