SoFCB Junior Fellows Program

Each year, ten Junior Fellows will be selected to join the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography (SoFCB) through an open application process. After completing two years in good standing as Junior Fellows, participants will have the option to become Senior Fellows.

Junior and Senior Fellows form a thriving community of scholars working across disciplines to advance the study of texts, images, and artifacts as material objects. They come from a diverse array of institutions and fields; they collaborate in a wide range of scholarly and professional contexts; they participate in a community of shared research and peer mentorship; they direct the ongoing operations and governance of the Society. Current Junior and Senior Fellows are librarians, archivists, curators, doctoral students, independent scholars, and faculty members who hold tenure-track, teaching, or postdoctoral research positions. They pursue research involving a wide array of objects, including printed books, illuminated manuscripts, coins and medals, carved stones, moveable books, digitized newspapers, and photographic archives. Committed to fostering an accessible, inclusive, and diverse environment for the study of the material text, fellows seek out opportunities to share their knowledge with broader publics and communities.

The Society is a program of Rare Book School, and is non-residential: fellows remain based at their home institutions. Fellows participate in a variety of activities, described further below, that bring SoFCB members together. Fellows frequently gather at the University of Virginia where RBS is based, and work in collaboration with RBS staff to forward our shared goal of promoting inclusivity and diversity in the field of bibliography.

The SoFCB Junior Fellows Program is supported by a $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

In 2019, Mark D. Tomasko established the Nancy Norton Tomasko Fellowship in honor of his late wife in order to advance the Junior Fellows’ work in the study of papermaking, conservation, ephemera, and Asian materials. 

The Junior Fellows Program includes:

  • two Rare Book School courses: Fellows study annually with Rare Book School’s distinguished international faculty during the School’s weeklong seminar-style courses. During their courses, fellows receive hands-on, expert instruction by RBS faculty on interpreting the material forms of textual artifacts. In these 30-hour courses, fellows have the opportunity to handle, analyze, and interpret materials from RBS’s c.100,000-item collection, from the University of Virginia’s Special Collections, and, in some cases, from the Library of Congress, Yale University, and other major special collections in the United States. One course, on the topic of descriptive, analytical, or textual bibliography, will be required; the other course will be chosen by fellows to suit their research interests. Fellows’ tuition for their two RBS courses will be waived. Fellows are eligible for a reimbursement of up to $500 to assist with transportation and lodging costs for attendance at each of their two RBS courses.
  • seminars on critical bibliography: Fellows will discuss bibliography and its potential place in humanities teaching and research during their cohort’s orientation and attendance at the SoFCB annual meeting. Fellows will receive travel support to attend their cohort’s orientation.
  • symposia on critical bibliography: Fellows will each be assigned $500 for use in hosting symposia on topics relating to critical bibliography. These symposia will enable fellows to invite distinguished scholars who are model practitioners of bibliography, book history, and related fields to enrich the ongoing critical conversations at their home institutions. Fellows will be encouraged to collaborate with each other and their local departments, centers, and programs in planning and hosting events.
  • bibliographical field school: Fellows have the option of attending a three-day “bibliographical field school,” a targeted visit to major special collections, antiquarian bookstores, conservation labs, auction houses, and private collections in New York City. The field school will be tailored to fellows’ research interests, and will provide them with opportunities to speak with leading professionals regarding resources pertinent to their research. RBS will cover the cost of housing and group meals for field schools; in addition, fellows are eligible for $400 in support for transportation costs to and from the events.

After successful completion of the Junior Fellows Program, those who elect to become Senior Fellows are eligible for further research, teaching, and professional development opportunities. These include participation in Society governance; access to resources for the development of teaching collections of rare books; access to symposium and event funding; and collaborative networking and continuing education opportunities through conferences, Rare Book School events, and the Society’s Annual Meeting.

Who is eligible to apply for the Junior Fellows Program?

The Society invites applications for the Junior Fellows Program from early career scholars and researchers from all fields, with preference given to first-time Rare Book School participants. We welcome applications from tenure track faculty, Ph.D. candidates, curators, librarians, those in postdoctoral research and teaching positions, and independent scholars. We ask that applicants be Ph.D. candidates or possess the terminal degree appropriate to their field (Ph.D., M.L.I.S., &c.). The Society especially encourages applications from individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, individuals from under-resourced institutions, and individuals working on topics currently underrepresented in the fields of book history and bibliography. Please read a welcome letter from the Society’s Diversity & Outreach Committee and Council.

Applicants must be available for an orientation in Charlottesville on Wednesday and Thursday, 22–23 May 2024. Applicants must commit to participating in two RBS courses, one per year of the fellowship: the first before 31 May 2025, and the second before 31 May 2026. One course must be on the topic of descriptive, analytical, or textual bibliography (i.e., drawn from the G-series courses), unless the applicant has previously taken an RBS course that meets these requirements; the other may be freely chosen from any section of the RBS course catalog. Please note that most RBS courses take place in June and July, so it is best to assume that course participation will happen in those months. Should circumstances concerning COVID-19 require it, the period of time in which courses may be taken will be lengthened to account for limited course availability.

The following individuals may not apply for the Junior Fellows Program: graduate students who are pursuing a Ph.D. but have not yet advanced to candidacy; scholars who received their terminal degrees (Ph.D., M.L.I.S., &c.) ten or more years prior to the fellowship application deadline; students and faculty based at institutions located outside the United States; tenured faculty; tenured scholarly professionals, and professionals hired at equivalent levels; and those who have served on RBS’s full-time, year-round staff.

How do I apply for the Junior Fellows Program?

Applications for the 2024–26 cohort are now closed. If you would like to receive notification when applications open for the 2025–27 cohort, you may sign up for our mailing list here. 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 for the 2024–26 cohort were due on Friday, 17 November 2023, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Please note that an Application FAQ for the Junior Fellows Program is located at the bottom of this page.

RBS-Mellon SoFCB Junior Fellows

2024–26 Junior Fellows

Ten RBS-Mellon SoFCB fellowships for 2024–26 were awarded in April 2024.

2023–25 Junior Fellows

Ten RBS-Mellon SoFCB fellowships for 2023–25 were awarded in April 2023.

2022–24 Junior Fellows

Ten RBS-Mellon SoFCB fellowships for 2022–24 were awarded in April 2022.

2021–23 Junior Fellows

Ten RBS-Mellon SoFCB fellowships for 2021–23 were awarded in April 2021. (Press release)

2020–22 Junior Fellows

Ten RBS-Mellon SoFCB fellowships for 2020–22 were awarded in April 2020.

2019–21 Junior Fellows

Ten RBS-Mellon SoFCB fellowships for 2019–21 were awarded in April 2019.

2018–20 Junior Fellows

Ten RBS-Mellon SoFCB fellowships for 2018–20 were awarded in April 2018. (Press release)

2022–24 SoFCB Selection Committee

  • Chair: Zachary Hines (Assistant Professor, Department of English, The Ohio State University)
  • Elizabeth Eager (Assistant Professor, Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University)
  • Georgia Henley (Assistant Professor, Department of English, Saint Anselm College)
  • Kailani Polzak (Assistant Professor, History of Art and Visual Culture, UC Santa Cruz)
  • Daniel Radus (Associate Professor, English Department, SUNY Cortland)

Application FAQ

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  • Why does your application include narrative questions? Why can’t I just submit a standard cover letter?

    • The Interfolio application includes a series of five short answer questions. Two ask you to discuss your current research and describe your training and experiences as a graduate student. The remaining three ask you to describe your reasons for wanting to join the SoFCB as a Junior Fellow, reflect on the RBS courses you would like to take (or have taken in the past), and explain how you hope to contribute to and interact with the larger RBS community.

      We acknowledge that, in their specificity, these questions go beyond the materials typically requested for fellowship applications. The reasons for this are twofold: first, as we seek to identify and recruit a diverse cohort of scholars from the book-related disciplines and professional domains, we have tried to create an application process that allows applicants to describe the full scope of what they have to offer the fellowship, and how they stand to benefit from it. We know that future fellows have experiences, training, and backgrounds that we as current fellows cannot yet envision. The first two questions are designed to give you a chance to tell us about them.

      Second, induction as a Junior Fellow represents not only a two-year experience, but also the first step in what we hope will be a permanent membership in the scholarly community of the SoFCB. We therefore invite applicants, especially as they address the final three questions, to think imaginatively about their long-term role in the Society, and how it might shape their intellectual trajectory beyond the two years of the Junior Fellows Program.

      NB: Our application system cannot enforce the character limits (including spaces) for the narrative questions, but our staff will manually flag responses that are of excessive length for the benefit of our evaluators. We recommend that you prepare your essays in a word processing system, such as MS Word, that provides basic analytical services, before pasting the essays into Interfolio.

  • Why do finalists for the Junior Fellows Program have to apply separately to RBS courses?

    • Because the application timeline for the Junior Fellows Program coincides with the application timeline for summer Rare Book School courses, finalists must submit course applications by mid-February in order to ensure that there are spaces available for them in RBS courses. By April, most summer RBS courses have filled to capacity.

      (If you are pressed for time in preparing your SoFCB application, you may delay filling out the educational history, employment history, and emergency contact sections of your profile in the myRBS application system until such time as you need to apply for an RBS course or scholarship. The Interfolio application contains all the information that will be evaluated for the SoFCB Junior Fellows Program competition.)

  • What materials will I need to submit to apply for the Junior Fellowship Program?

    • Using Interfolio’s free submission interface, you will submit a current C.V., two letters of recommendation, a graduate transcript (official or unofficial), a writing sample (10–25 pages), and answers to five narrative questions. You will also be asked to provide contact information and will have the opportunity to complete a voluntary demographic self-identification form. (Note that as of the 2021-22 application cycle, undergraduate transcripts are no longer required.)

  • What happens if my letters of recommendation do not arrive by the application deadline?

    • RBS staff members check every application for completeness. If an application element is missing, like a letter of recommendation, we will contact you and/or your recommender. In the rare but occasional case that your original recommender is unable to supply a letter, we will accept a letter from a different source. We will not distribute your application for review until the application is complete, however, so we encourage you to try to get all parts of the application in at the same time. As the application cycle progresses into the holiday months, we may have fewer reviewers available to match with your application.

      If your recommender encounters any issues uploading their letter (whether before or after the deadline), please have them contact Interfolio Faculty Search support at or (877) 997-8807 for technical assistance.

  • What is it like to study in Charlottesville?

    • Charlottesville—one of several sites where the SoFCB gathers its geographically dispersed community—is the main location for Rare Book School courses and the home of its celebrated teaching collection (as well as the wonderful collections at UVA). With a high concentration of antiquarian bookstores and a lively restaurant scene, Charlottesville is an enjoyable location for book historical and bibliographical scholarship, teaching, and collaboration. For more information on what it is like to study and work in Charlottesville (as well as the other cities in which RBS conducts courses) please see the RBS Information Guides for each location.

  • I am concerned about Charlottesville’s present and past as a site of white supremacist violence. In what ways are the SoFCB and RBS seeking to put into practice their commitment to diversity, accessibility, and inclusivity in the field of bibliography?

    • The SoFCB and RBS are committed to fostering an inclusive, respectful, and welcoming environment that embraces a richly diverse representation of human attributes, perspectives, and disciplines, as detailed in our Statement of Values & Code of Conduct.

The Society’s Fellows are mindful that Charlottesville, and the University of Virginia, have complex histories. We value social justice both as a part of the interpretive practice of critical bibliography, and as a way of building community. Please read a letter of welcome from the Society’s Diversity & Outreach Committee and Council as well as our statement of solidarity written in the aftermath of white supremacist violence in 2017.

  • RBS courses are predominantly Western in focus, and I study material texts from another part of the world. How will I fit in as a Junior Fellow?

    • Rare Book School is expanding the scope of its programs beyond its traditional focus on Anglo-American bibliography and special collections librarianship, and the SoFCB is part of that initiative. We actively encourage applications from scholars, curators, and teachers in fields outside the Anglo-American bibliographic tradition. Current fellows study material texts and apply critical bibliographic methods across a wide array of disciplines, geographies, and time periods. Courses in descriptive, analytical and textual bibliography welcome participants with diverse disciplinary backgrounds, and the SoFCB encourages creative, interdisciplinary application of bibliographic methods as a key aspect of critical bibliography. In recent years, RBS has expanded its offerings to include courses on the history of Tibetan, East Asian, and Indigenous American books. Further, RBS warmly invites suggestions for future courses that speak to histories of material texts and their circulation in times and places not yet covered by current course offerings.

  • Who evaluates my application? If I am not successful in my first application, can I reapply?

    • Applications are evaluated by Senior Fellows in the SoFCB with relevant disciplinary and content expertise, as well as RBS staff and RBS-affiliated faculty. Fellowship decisions are made by the SoFCB Selection Committee, comprised of Senior Fellows, with advice from RBS staff and in consultation with external senior scholars. The composition of the Selection Committee changes from year to year, and whenever possible we send dossiers to different readers for a fresh perspective when previous applicants choose to reapply. Anyone who is still eligible is welcome to reapply, but those who have reached finalist or semifinalist status in a prior year are more likely to advance.

  • Will I receive comments from reviewers on my application?

    • Selection Committee deliberations and Senior Fellows’ reviews of applications are confidential. If you would like to reapply, and have questions about crafting an application, we encourage you to contact a Senior Fellow outside the Selection Committee whose scholarly interests closely aligns with your own.

  • I am not eligible for the Junior Fellows Program. Are there other opportunities to join the SoFCB?

    • The Society’s Council may appoint a limited number of honorary Fellows whose work advances the intellectual, pedagogical, and service aims of our community but who are ineligible for the Junior Fellows Program.