UW Today

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May 4, 2006

Scholar to speak about rare books

Terry Belanger, university professor and honorary curator of special collections at the University of Virginia, will speak on Books and Paper vs. the Electron: Meditations on the Fate of Rare Books and Documents in a Digital Age at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 12, in the Walker-Ames Room, Kane.

The lecture will address the concept that rare books may cease to be library materials as content is increasingly made available in digital format. Says Belanger, “Beginning in the late 1980s, first with the enormous upsurge of microfilm and microfiche, a lot of us began to feel that, except as physical artifacts, rare books were going to drop off the spectrum.” He works through the Rare Book School (RBS) — an independent non-profit institute devoted to the histories of manuscripts, print, electronic text, and everything in between — to “train the rare book community to make intelligent decisions about cataloging, acquisition, and retention.”

When Belanger was awarded a MacArthur grant in 2005, he decided to invest in the RBS, which has between 50,000 and 100,000 (in Belanger’s words) “something or others:” books, maps, cards — from the remains of incunabula (the first printed books of the fifteenth century) to samples of materials from which books have been constructed. While at Columbia University, he established the Book Arts Press (1971) at Columbia as a bibliographical laboratory for the training of rare book and special collections librarians and antiquarian booksellers. In 1983, he instituted the Rare Book School, also at Columbia. Belanger moved both the Book Arts Press and Rare Book School to the University of Virginia in 1992.

This event is sponsored by the University of Washington Libraries with support from the Book Arts Guild and the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies. The event is free and open to the public; no reservations are required. For additional information, call 206-543-1929.