Thursday, May 24, 2007

Darnton to Head Harvard Libraries

Big news from the field of book history: Robert Darnton, currently Professor of European History at Princeton, has accepted the position of Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the Harvard University Library, according to a Harvard press release. He will begin work at Harvard on 1 July.

Harvard president-elect Drew Gilpin Faust said of the selection "We are truly fortunate that Bob Darnton has decided to return to Harvard. Bob is one of the most distinguished historians working today. His deep engagement with the history of the creation and dissemination of information will provide him with unparalleled insight as he grapples with the challenges and opportunities facing the Harvard libraries in the years ahead. I look forward to working with Bob in this area of mutual passion and interest."

Darnton comments "Having, as a historian, studied the world of books in the distant past, I now have an opportunity to do something for the cause of books and book learning in the present. And I want to help find a way in which the new and the old media can reinforce each other, strengthening and transforming the world of learning."

One of the most prominent and excellent writers in the book history field, Darnton is the author of (among other books and many articles) Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France (1968), The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie (1979), The Literary Underground of the Old Regime (1982), The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History (1984), The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History (1989), Revolution in Print: the Press in France 1775-1800 (1989, Daniel Roche co-editor), Edition et sédition (1991, written in French, not available in English), Berlin Journal, 1989-1990 (1991), The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Prerevolutionary France (1995), and George Washington’s False Teeth: An Unconventional Guide to the Eighteenth Century (2003). The Harvard press release adds "he is currently completing a book on the art and politics of slander in the 18th century."

Excellent news for Harvard, for Boston, and for book history. I want to extend my congratulations to Dr. Darnton on his appointment and wish him all the best of luck with his new position.