Bound for the Future: The Campaign for Rare Book School

Hold history in your hands

For 40 years, Rare Book School has been working to preserve and illuminate the record of humanity’s endless striving to know more about ourselves and our world. Our signature approach is renowned: drawing on a collection of more than 100,000 original artifacts, we study and teach the history of the book “hands on” with leading experts, providing unparalleled opportunities for students to examine textual artifacts up close and firsthand. Experiential learning enables our students to gain historical, tactile, and technical knowledge about materials ranging from ancient papyri to twenty-first-century digital files.

Our students come from around the world to acquire essential expertise for the curation of our global cultural heritage. During the last decade, 15,000 students from 48 different countries have attended Rare Book School. Many of our courses teach foundational skills not offered in formal degree programs—skills that are critical for the day-to-day work of special collections librarians, curators, archivists, collectors, conservators, and antiquarian booksellers working with rare and historical collections. At Rare Book School, we inculcate a deep historical sensibility in our students. Our materials-based classes and labs provide vital training for teachers and scholars working with original sources. And our fellowship programs provide vital support for the next generation of innovative cultural heritage professionals, who, even now, are advocating for the inclusion of multicultural collections in our libraries, archives, and museums to ensure that we document and communicate the full richness of our collective history.

We are now striving to secure the future of our educational work over the long term and meet the emerging needs of educators, librarians, archivists, and other professionals. Accordingly, we are culminating the public phase of our largest-ever comprehensive campaign, “Bound for the Future,” that planned to raise $10 million for the School’s endowment, along with 50 planned gifts to sustain and build on our mission of education, advocacy, and outreach. To date, through the generosity of our donors, we have raised $9.1 million in endowed funding, and we have documented 39 planned gifts.

We invite you to explore the ways that you can contribute to our mission. Please help us continue to educate those who are charged with preserving and interpreting the records of our past.

To learn more about our campaign priorities or to discuss a gift, please contact Michael Suarez, Barbara Heritage, and Adam Miller at; or call Director of Development Adam Miller directly at 434-243-1010. 

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  • The Next Generation: Student Opportunity & Access

    • A scholarship can make a tangible difference for those early on in their careers—whether their Rare Book School experiences lead to new career paths, collaborative research projects, new teaching opportunities, or even lifelong friendships. We are seeking $1 million to endow and enhance some of RBS’s core scholarship and fellowship programs.

      The opportunity to work directly with books, manuscripts, and other textual artifacts is more important than ever before, given that researchers are becoming increasingly reliant on the use of digital media and surrogates without any training in interpreting the original sources behind them. We believe that it is imperative to “re-seed” the next generation with experts skilled in working with a rich range of artifacts—experts who also understand the kinds of knowledge that can be discovered and imparted by working firsthand with original sources.

      Nearly one in every three students who comes to Rare Book School does so with the help of a scholarship or fellowship. These awards are essential for ensuring equal fair access to our programs. We also have many students who come from countries as far away as Singapore, India, and Australia. Like their classmates, they take home with them the knowledge, skillsets, and connections needed to succeed in their professional communities. Past awardees report that their Rare Book School experiences have been pivotal for their careers, leading to new jobs, scholarly breakthroughs, teaching opportunities, and important collaborations.

      A gift to support scholarships thus touches the lives of many. Currently, our scholarships and fellowships are made possible largely through annual funding raised from individuals and foundations. By helping to endow these vital programs, you can help ensure that this next generation of curators, educators, and librarians is equipped with the knowledge essential for maintaining the integrity of the historical record, making it come alive for audiences both young and old.

      Read more about RBS’s core scholarship and fellowship programs, which we seek to endow:

  • Advocacy for the Book in the Humanities & Cultural Heritage Institutions

    • During the past decade, Rare Book School has advocated for the study of the physical book in humanistic disciplines, even while forging vital, new pathways for global book history. We are seeking $1 million to endow RBS’s Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography, which has played a vital role in advancing this important work.

      Today, libraries, archives, and universities alike are grappling with pressing questions: What does it mean to read a book? Is a digitized surrogate a sufficient substitute for the original artifact? What do we lose exactly when we discard hard copies in favor of digital data?

      Rare Book School’s fellowship programs have brought together communities of the book that each contribute important perspectives about the history and craft of the book, enriching our understanding of the value of the physical book as well as the makers and distinctive communities that give rise to it. Our fellowship programs for junior academics have hosted trips to cities such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, introducing our fellows to prominent members of the bibliographical community, including book collectors, antiquarian booksellers, auctioneers, curators, book artists, preservationists, and conservators—fostering relationships that, over time, have enriched undergraduate courses at colleges and universities throughout the United States. RBS-Mellon fellows have brought classes of undergraduate students to antiquarian book fairs, for example, and have also taken classes to the homes of private collectors, who speak powerfully about why books matter and why collecting is important. These opportunities to connect with individuals beyond the traditional classroom have opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for young people who are, even now, developing a greater appreciation for books as physical objects richly laden with cultural meaning and significance.

      Day by day, Rare Book School is building a better future for the book. You can help to sustain this vital work by helping to endow Rare Book School’s flagship program, the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography.


      About the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography

      A special program of Rare Book School, the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography (SoFCB) is a scholarly organization whose purpose is to advance the study of texts, images, and artifacts as material objects through capacious, interdisciplinary scholarship. Open to doctoral candidates and early-career researchers working in cultural heritage professions, the SoFCB enriches humanistic inquiry and education by identifying, mentoring, and training junior scholars whose research and teaching would benefit from bibliographically enhanced methods of object-oriented inquiry. The SoFCB strives to introduce and integrate bibliographical thinking into a broad spectrum of humanities disciplines.

      As part of that mission, SoFCB Fellows work in close collaboration with Rare Book School to advance our shared goal of promoting inclusivity and diversity in the field of bibliography. RBS courses are central to the Fellows’ intellectual growth. The SoFCB also sponsors symposia, lectures, classes, and field schools at Fellows’ home institutions, and at libraries and museums around the world, allowing Fellows to establish meaningful connections with collectors, booksellers, conservators, and other members of the bibliographical community.

      Rare Book School is currently seeking to endow each of its ten SoFCB Junior Fellowships, in order to help sustain the Society over the long term. As part of this effort, Mark Tomasko generously made a lead gift to endow the Nancy Norton Tomasko Fellowship. In addition, Kimball Higgs is underwriting the Society’s annual essay prize, which is meant to recognize scholarship exemplifying the Society’s mission of advancing the study of texts, images, and artifacts as material objects through capacious, interdisciplinary scholarship. We welcome other named gifts in support of the program.

      Read more about Rare Book School’s other advocacy work:

  • Public-Facing Programming & Educational Outreach

    • At Rare Book School, we not only build deep bibliographical and book-historical expertise, but also work to educate the public about the printing technologies and techniques that make books possible over the centuries. We are seeking $1 million to endow programs that are key to public education and outreach.

      Not everyone can attend week-long classes at Rare Book School—particularly when travel is restricted, and funding is limited. For decades, Rare Book School has hosted public-facing programming in the form of evening lectures as well as public exhibitions that seek to educate professional and general audiences alike. Most RBS lectures are recorded and shared as freely available podcasts. RBS’s Soundcloud station now features more than 400 talks, and has garnered 66,400 listens during the past year. In 2021, Rare Book School will launch its inaugural Kenneth Karmiole Endowed Lecture on the History of the Book Trades, which is made possible by a generous endowed gift from ABAA bookseller Kenneth Karmiole.

      Beginning in 2018, the School expanded its mission of education and outreach by instituting Presswork—an initiative that allows students and members of the public alike to learn about historical printing up close and hands on. Presswork has hosted one-off classes for K–12 classes, including at-risk youth in Charlottesville, as well as workshops for undergraduate students from surrounding colleges and universities. In addition, Presswork has held weekend open houses for UVA Alumni, as well as special events for the local community—including a public keynote and printing workshop led by the renowned book artist, Amos Kennedy, as well as a hot metal typecasting demonstration by Stan Nelson. More recently, Rare Book School has initiated RBS Online, a digital educational program that offers an array of courses, panel discussions, and instructive “BiblioVideos” geared toward experts and newcomers alike. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, RBS Online programs attracted 3,400 individuals during the summer and fall of 2021.

      By supporting our public programming, you can help enrich the learning of thousands of individuals, and contribute to their continuing education. As we have seen time and time again, one visit to Rare Book School—whether to an exhibition opening or an open house—can lead to life-changing opportunities that open up a world of possibilities for those who wish to study the history of printing and rare books. Please consider making a gift to ensure that we can continue to reach these wider audiences who benefit significantly from our unique programming.

      Learn more about Rare Book School’s public-facing programs and educational outreach, which we seek to endow:

  • Core Institutional Support

    • Rare Book School depends on a combination of income sources—tuition, philanthropic giving, and endowment payout—to support its human capital and core operations. We seek to raise $5 million to endow key faculty and staff positions in order to sustain our educational programs and the extensive collections on which they rely.

      Like no other institution, Rare Book School offers a close-up interactive experience for all who study and care for the books, manuscripts, and special collections that are essential to the long-term future of humanities. Our hands-on educational philosophy brings individuals into direct contact with these materials in classes conducted by world-leading experts. Crucially, our students also interact with each other, whether in a public lecture on a bibliographical topic, at an excursion to a renowned library, or by participating in an informal gathering on the University of Virginia’s historic Lawn. At its core, RBS is distinguished by its people—the students who take our courses each year, enriching our community; the faculty who lend their expertise to the next generation of librarians and academics, helping to launch and advance innumerable careers while ensuring the future of materials-based humanities education; and the staff whose year-long commitment makes possible the School’s courses and programming, including our lecture series, exhibitions, and, more recently, online offerings.

      Our faculty and staff are at the heart of the Rare Book School mission. Their often invisible but vitally important labor makes Rare Book School possible, from building our increasingly multicultural teaching collection, to developing partnerships with nearly a dozen leading universities and cultural institutions, and expanding our scope to include expertise from a range of diverse communities who can help us understand better our collective past. Their year-round efforts are responsible for the School’s many new, exciting initiatives—such as the School’s national fellowship programs promoting diversity and inclusion, as well as courses and fellowships to integrate bibliography into humanities teaching and research.

      Rare Book School is making a difference each and every day, thanks in no small part to the remarkable labors of its faculty and staff. Please consider making a gift to help us recruit and retain these exceptionally hardworking individuals.

  • About Rare Book School’s Endowment

    • Gifts that support our endowment, currently valued at $11 million, are a crucial component to Rare Book School and our educational directive. Expertly managed by UVIMCO at the University of Virginia, our endowment is carefully invested to maintain and increase its value year over year, often exceeding industry benchmarks. As of June 2021, UVIMCO’s long-term pool earned a ten-year annualized return of 12.1%. Accordingly, a gift to Rare Book’s School’s endowment is a sound investment in the School’s future sustainability and success.

      Each year, a predetermined percentage of these returns—currently 4%, based on a rolling three-year average of the quarterly market values—is distributed to Rare Book School to be used as needed. The remaining funds are reinvested into the endowment’s principal for future growth. As the endowment grows, so too does our annual drawdown, producing a sustainable source of income that helps us to fulfill our institutional commitments: to continue offering excellent educational programs in bibliography and book history; to ensure the accessibility of our courses to all students through scholarships; to augment our carefully curated teaching collection; and to protect the School and its work in times of volatility.