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In a world of mobile phones and tablets it is hard to imagine the joy that children once felt when presented with a book as a prize by the head teacher or the vicar of their church. By 1901, awarding books as prizes had become standard practice for most schools in Edwardian England. But how were these books viewed by recipients? Were their contents read over and over again or were they placed on the shelf as attractive editions? Were readers aware of their explicit pedagogy? This article unravels these and other questions by tracking the role of the prize book as an institutionalized object. Through an exploration of its content and prize inscription, we can gain a unique insight into Edwardian culture and society and examine the perpetual line that the prize book treads between privilege and powerlessness.