The M. C. Lang Fellowship in Book History, Bibliography, and Humanities Teaching with Historical Sources

The M. C. Lang Fellowship in Book History, Bibliography, and Humanities Teaching with Historical Sources is a two-year program designed to animate humanities teaching and equip educators (both library/curatorial staff and tenured or tenure-track faculty) to enlarge their students’ historical sensibilities through bibliographically informed instruction with original historical sources. Open to faculty and librarians at liberal arts colleges and small universities (i.e., 5,000 or fewer undergraduates) in the United States, this fellowship program will teach teachers how to discern and convey the human presences in original textual artifacts, to inculcate wonder in their students through guided contact with original textual artifacts. Lang Fellows will learn how most effectively to help undergraduates understand every book as a coalescence of human intentions, a rich sign system whose culturally incarnated meanings are conveyed not only by linguistic codes, but also by the bibliographical and social codes present in every book as well. The ultimate goal of this program is to re-seed American colleges and small universities with humanities teachers who make maximal use of special collections resources in their undergraduate courses, so that the integration of bibliographical and book-historical sensibilities becomes woven into the fabric of such teaching. Lang Fellows will be encouraged to enlist others on and near their campuses who could help create a community of practice, so that book-historical humanities teaching with original primary sources is not merely a matter of individual style, but rather a central aspect of the local educational culture.

Overview of Fellowship Program

The M. C. Lang Fellowship in Book History, Bibliography, and Humanities Teaching with Historical Sources includes the following components:

  • two Rare Book School courses: Each Fellow will take a sequence of two intensive, hands-on Rare Book School courses, including an introductory course, “Book History, Bibliography, and Humanities Teaching” required of all participants during their first year. In the second year of their fellowship, Lang Fellows will choose an elective course from the extensive RBS course offerings, in consultation with the Executive Director, the Director of Programs & Education, and other RBS staff members. This second course might be aimed at helping the Fellow better understand and teach with a particular group of materials in their home institution’s collection (e.g., illustrated books, decorative bindings, incunabula, early-modern manuscripts, photographs, bibles, eighteenth-century books), or might help the Fellow make powerful connections between an academic specialty and book history. Fellows’ tuition for their two RBS courses will be waived. However, Fellows electing to take courses online must ensure that their total number of credit hours is equivalent to one in-person course. In the event that multiple online courses are needed to meet this requirement, Fellows must take these courses within the same year (or, alternatively, pay out of pocket for the online course, and use their Lang Fellowship waiver on a different course instead). The fellowship includes up to $1,500 annually for travel, housing, course books, and other costs related to the Fellow’s RBS course attendance.
    **The next iteration of H-165 Book History, Bibliography, and Humanities Teaching is scheduled for 9–14 June 2024 in Charlottesville, Virginia.**
  • available matching funds: Fellows will be eligible to apply for matching funds of up to $1,000 per year of the fellowship to help improve their own teaching, create student-learning experiences, build book-historical culture on campus, foster book-related public outreach programs, or organize an event to raise awareness about humanities teaching with original textual artifacts. Accordingly, matching funds might be used, for example, to lead undergraduates in mounting a student exhibition, to marshal the local resources necessary to inaugurate a book collecting prize, or to bring a collector (or antiquarian bookseller) to campus to give a talk and meet with students. In all instances, collaboration with other parties (departments, the library, deans, faculty, collectors, local artisans of the book, &c.) is warmly encouraged.

Qualifications & Eligibility

The Lang Fellowships are open to full-time tenured faculty; full-time tenure-track faculty who have passed the third-year review; or full-time library/curatorial staff members, at liberal arts colleges and small universities (i.e., 5,000 or fewer undergraduates) located in the United States.

The following classes of applicants are ineligible for this fellowship program:

  • individuals based at institutions located outside the United States
  • individuals employed by universities that award earned doctorates (exceptions will be made for institutions that only offer doctorates in fields outside the humanities, such as medical fields, law, and education)
  • anyone who has previously taken more than two Rare Book School courses, or who has taken RBS course H-90, Teaching the History of the Book
  • past or present members of RBS’s full-time, year-round staff

Application Process

Interested in learning more about the Lang Fellowship?

  • Click here to watch the October 2023 informational session on Rare Book Schools’s YouTube channel.
  • Click here to view the slides from the YouTube recording.

Applications for the fifth Lang cohort are open as of 15 September 2023. To begin the application process, please log into your myRBS account (or create a new myRBS account). On the home screen, scroll to “Scholarships and Fellowship Applications Now Open” and select the “click here” link. If you have trouble with myRBS, see the FAQ page or email Participation in the fellowship program implies acceptance of the scholarship/fellowship Terms and Conditions. If you have questions about the fellowship or the application process, please email Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, 4 December 2023 (extended from 17 November).

The application will include:

  • brief forms requesting basic contact information and confirmation of eligibility
  • curriculum vitae
  • one confidential letter of recommendation from a colleague or supervisor familiar with your work
  • a few short essays to help the candidate establish their suitability and explain why and how the fellowship would be put to good use
    • Why do you want to be part of the M. C. Lang Fellowship? What intellectual, professional, and pedagogical aspirations could participation in the program help you fulfill?  Please discuss what you see as the potential impact of the fellowship on your teaching and other activities. (1 page max)
    • What interests you most about participating in Rare Book School courses? What course might you most hope to take in your second year? How might you share what you have learned with diverse audiences, through teaching, curation, or other public-facing activities? (1 page max)
    • Lang Fellows are meant to be outstanding undergraduate educators. Describe your experiences of and commitment to undergraduate education. How does working in a Liberal Arts environment contribute to your efficacy?  Do you have experience teaching with books or other textual artifacts? (1 page max)
    • Lang Fellowships are meant to engender collaborative leadership in local learning environments. How might you work with others to help create an educational culture of book-historical humanities teaching with original sources? What kinds of sources are currently available to you? (1 page max)

Fellows will be selected on the basis of: academic and pedagogical excellence; evidence of collegiality and a service-minded outlook; diversity of perspective, experience, and/or disciplinary field; demonstrated commitment to undergraduate learning; and concrete plans to implement a program of teaching with original sources in the near term.

Because the purpose of the program is to foster a culture of teaching in which students learn to read primary sources in their original forms, candidates reaching the semi-finalist stage of selection will be asked to provide a letter of support from their home institutions. (For librarians, this letter would come from the candidate’s supervisor; for faculty, from the department chair or director of undergraduate studies.)

Lang Fellowship Recipients

Requesting Matching Funds

M. C. Lang Fellows may request matching funds of up to $1,000 in each year of the fellowship. These funds will be used to support a project to foster a culture of the book on the Fellows’ home campus and to spark excitement about book history among undergraduates. For example, the funds may be used to support a guest lecture or symposium, pedagogical development, creating an exhibition (purchasing vitrines, collection items, advertising, &c.), or creating learning experiences for students.

Submitting a Request for Matching Funds

Fellows should email with their request application materials, which should include:

  • A proposal describing the project, its intended impact, a timeline, and a basic budget describing how the funds will be used. The proposal need not be more than 500 words. Please also include instructions for how and to whom the matching funds should be disbursed (e.g., the Fellow’s department).
  • A letter promising matching funds from an appropriate academic official (e.g. a dean, department chair, or program head) at the Fellows’ home institution.

Timeline for Submitting Request

Following the conclusion of their first course, H-165 Book History, Bibliography, and Humanities Teaching, which will be offered during Rare Book School’s summer course sessions, Fellows may request their first tranche of matching funds. Requests should be made as early as possible, but in no case later than 31 January of the following year. In the second year of the fellowship, requests for matching funds should be submitted as soon as possible after the Fellows’ second course and no later than 31 January. For example, Fellows who completed H-165 in the summer of 2024 must submit their first matching fund request by 31 January 2025, and their second by 31 January 2026. Requests will be reviewed as they are received, and funds will be disbursed promptly upon approval.


Fellows may not submit one request for $2,000 in matching funds rather than two requests for $1,000. Where Fellows who are proximate, proposals for joint projects (with each Fellow requesting up to $1,000 in matching funds) are welcome.

Lang Fellowship Selection Committee

  • Alexander Bevilacqua (Associate Professor of History, Williams College)
  • Alisha Knight (Associate Provost for Diversity & Inclusion and Senior Equity Officer, Professor of English and American Studies, Washington College)
  • Laura Perrings (Director of Programs & Education, Rare Book School)
  • Christopher Phillips (Professor of English, Lafayette College), Chair
  • Marieke Van Der Steenhoven (Special Collections Education and Engagement Librarian, Bowdoin College)
  • Ed Vermue (Special Collections and Preservation Librarian, Oberlin College)

An informational session about the Lang Fellowship was presented live in October 2023. You are invited to watch the recording of the event below via our RBS YouTube channel.

Click here to view the slides from the YouTube recording.