SoFCB Junior Fellows Program

Each year, ten Junior Fellows are 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 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, graduate students, independent scholars, and faculty members who hold tenure-track, teaching, and 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 at the University of Virginia, and fellows 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. The Mellon Foundation’s support will enable eight cohorts of Junior Fellows to join the Society, with the final cohort being selected in 2025.

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 $400 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. Fellows are eligible for a reimbursement of up to $400 to assist with transportation and lodging costs for their attendance at the field school.

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 letter of welcome from the Society’s Diversity & Outreach Committee and Council.

Applicants must be available for an orientation at the University of Iowa Center for the Book in Iowa City on 24–27 May 2021. Applicants must commit to participating in two RBS courses, one per year of the fellowship: the first before 31 May 2022, and the second before 31 May 2023. 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 Fellowship Program?

Applications and their accompanying letters of recommendation are due on Monday, 2 November 2020 by 11:59 p.m. EDT, and must be submitted through our online, free Interfolio portal (except in cases of disability requiring alternate accommodation). Participation in the fellowship program implies acceptance of the scholarship/fellowship Terms and Conditions.

To begin the application process, please create a myRBS account (or log on to your existing account). On the Home screen, click the “Apply for a Scholarship or Fellowship” button on the left side of the page. If you have trouble with myRBS, see the FAQ page or email For other questions about the SoFCB application, please email  

When finalists are notified in February 2021, they will be asked to complete a phone interview with the SoFCB Selection Committee, and to submit two applications for summer 2021 RBS courses by 1 March 2021, as part of the final round of evaluation. We will announce the 2021–23 SoFCB Junior Fellows in April 2021.

Application FAQ

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

The 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.

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.

Why do I need transcripts from my graduate and undergraduate institutions?

The selection committee requests transcripts in order to help evaluate candidates’ interests in interdisciplinary scholarship. Unofficial transcripts are fine. We do not require sealed or encrypted transcripts sent directly from institutions. If you are a current student, we will accept a printout from your course registration system that includes a list of the courses you have taken in past terms. A clear photo or scan of an opened transcript you have on hand is also acceptable. If you have attended an institution that does not provide transcripts, please provide a memo to that effect, including a description of the coursework undertaken for the degree.

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 participating in the RBS and fellowship community?

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. 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 fellowship. Are there other opportunities to join the Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography?

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.

RBS-Mellon SoFCB Junior Fellows

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)

2020–21 SoFCB Selection Committee

  • Chair: Sonia Hazard (Assistant Professor, Department of Religion, Florida State University)
  • Hwisang Cho (Assistant Professor in Korean Studies, Emory University), ex officio
  • Ryan Cordell (Associate Professor of English and Core Founding Faculty Member in the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, Northeastern University)
  • Santiago Muñoz Arbeláez (Assistant Professor of History, Universidad de los Andes)
  • Caroline Wigginton (Associate Professor of English, University of Mississippi)