Publication History of the Rival Transcriptions of Montaigne’s Essays

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Winner of the Adele Mellen Prize for Contribution to Scholarship
This publication history is based on a peculiar historic event: the systematic recopying or transcription of Montaigne’s extensive marginal notes by secretaries, librarians, and paleographers in the last years of the 19th century at the Bordeaux City Library. Those transcriptions proved to the necessary condition (and quid pro quo) for the publication (from 1906-1933) of the first critical editions of Montaigne’s complete Essays. It is also, indirectly, a case study of how a literary bureaucracy treats subaltern personnel like sub-librarians and paleographers and how it construes their intellectual property rights. This study offers a commentary on a group of letters revealing a very different culture, one both impaired and enriched by notions of duty, honor and high formality. For students of Montaigne, it gives insight into the Essays’ reception, scholarly management and marketing. The appendix includes over eighty letters from the Bordeaux Archives which trace the eccentric bureaucratic path to the editions. With illustrations.


"This is a scholarly study, full of original documents and discoveries on the making of the first critical editions of the Essais (following the 'Bordeaux copy'), but may be read as novel on university life at the beginning of the 20th century." - The Year's Work in Modern Language Studies

Table of Contents

Table of contents: Illustrations; Foreword; Prefaces in French and English; Introduction; First Transcriptions; False Start; Betrayals; A Rival for the Rivals; A Society of Friends; Resignation; Celebrations; conclusion; Archival Letters and Other Documents; Bibliography

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