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Rare Book School Director Terry Belanger Wins Macarthur Fellowship

September 20, 2005 -- Terry Belanger, a University of Virginia professor, has been named a 2005 Fellow by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Belanger is the director of Rare Book School, a U.Va.-based institute that supports the study of the history of books and printing, rare book librarianship, and related subjects including typography, binding, illustration, the regulation of the press, publishing history, the geography of reading, and book collecting.

MacArthur Fellowships provide $500,000 in no-strings-attached support over the next five years, to be used at the recipient’s discretion.

Belanger, 64, is the founder of Rare Book School, which attracts about 300 people each year from around the world to study at the University of Virginia.

Rare Book School is noted for the excellence of its faculty, many of whom are world-renowned in their fields; for its extensive teaching collections; and for the high quality of its students who apply competitively for admission to the school’s five-day courses. Rare Book School students, typically about 40 years old, include curators and rare book librarians, acad­emics, antiquarian booksellers, book conservators and binders, and book collectors.

The school employs a widely admired — though rarely imitated — course evaluation system in which attendees write detailed prose accounts of their experience at the school. Their comments are then mounted permanently and in their entirety on the school’s Web site,

“Terry Belanger has created new understandings of the world of learning by educating a new generation of book lovers and book specialists in the origins, development, production and aesthetics of the printed page,” said U.Va. President John T. Casteen III. “His Rare Book School is unique in its sustained examination of all that is known of books, bindings, type faces, printing and those who made books from the beginning to the present day. He has opened up the book as an art form. At the same time, he has led a generation of learners to appreciate and understand the rare book, the unique book, the artistically produced book as an artifact of that aspect of popular culture that best charts the progress of human learning."

Belanger downplayed his achievement, saying he would be using the award to further the work of Rare Book School. “I am simply one of the noisier members of a considerable group of people who have worked for a very long time to help ensure that the future is not deprived of the past,” said Belanger. “Rare Book School is beginning a five-year capital fund drive, and the MacArthur grant will make an enormous difference in our ability to increase our endowment.”

Belanger is the third U.Va. faculty member to win a MacArthur fellowship in recent years. Chemistry professor Brooks Pate received the award in 2001; epidemiologist Janine Jagger, in 2002.

A Connecticut native, Belanger received an A.B. from Haverford College in 1963 and a Ph.D. in English Literature from Columbia University in 1970. He joined the U.Va. faculty as University Professor and Honorary Curator of Special Collections in 1992.

“I congratulate Terry on the honor and credit him with building a wonderful synergy between Rare Book School and the U.Va. Library,” said University Librarian Karin Wittenborg. “The University has a long tradition of the study of the book, and Terry has enriched that tradition immeasurably, here and around the world.”          

MacArthur fellowships are intended to “celebrate the creative individual in our midst,” said Jonathan F. Fanton, president of the MacArthur Foundation, which bestows the grants. “We are committed to nurturing those who are a source of new knowledge and ideas, who have the courage to challenge inherited orthodoxies and to take intellectual, scientific, and cultural risks. The Fellows Program supports individuals who lift our spirits, illuminate human potential, and shape our collective future."


Reporters:  Terry Belanger can be reached Tuesday, Sept. 20, beginning at 11 a.m. at (434) 924-8851.

Editors:  For an electronic photograph of Belanger, contact Sally Barbour in the U.Va. News Office at (434) 924-7116 or

Photos and full biographies of 2005 MacArthur Fellows can also be found on a password-protected Web site,  To obtain a user name and password, contact Rodney Ferguson or Joelle Ziemian at (202) 457-8100.

Contact: Kathleen Valenzi, (434) 924-6857

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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