Robert Darnton

Robert Choate Darnton (born May 10, 1939) is an American cultural historian and academic librarian who specializes in 18th-century France.

Robert Darnton
Darnton in 2006
Born (1939-05-10) May 10, 1939
New York City, New York City
OccupationHistorian, librarian
EducationPhilips Academy
Alma mater
SubjectCultural history, 18th-century France, history of the book
Notable worksThe Great Cat Massacre
SpouseNina Darnton

He was director of the Harvard University Library from 2007 to 2016.


Darnton was born in New York City. He graduated from Phillips Academy in 1957 and Harvard University in 1960, attended Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship, and earned a PhD (DPhil) in history from Oxford in 1964, where he studied with Richard Cobb, among others. The title of his thesis was Trends in radical propaganda on the eve of the French Revolution (1782–1788). He worked as reporter at The New York Times from 1964 to 1965. Joining the Princeton University faculty in 1968, he was appointed Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of European History and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1982. He served as President of the American Historical Association in 1999.[1]

On July 1, 2007, he transferred to emeritus status at Princeton, and was appointed Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the Harvard University Library, succeeding Sidney Verba.[2] In January 2016, Ann Blair succeeded him as the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor.[3]

In 1983, he delivered the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, the Netherlands, under the title The Meaning of Mother Goose.

Darnton is a pioneer in the field of the history of the book. He is writing about electronic publishing. He is founder of the Gutenberg-e program, sponsored by Mellon Foundation.

Darnton is a trustee of the New York Public Library.[4]

Awards and honors

His first major prize was the Leo Gershoy Award for The Business of Enlightenment in 1979. He has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996).

In 1999, he was named a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur, an award given by the French government, in recognition of his work. In 2004 he was awarded the Gutenberg prize by the International Gutenberg Society.

In 2005, he received an award for distinguished achievement from the American Printing History Association.[5]

On February 13, 2012, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal 2011 by President Barack Obama, for his determination to make knowledge accessible to everyone.

In 2013, he was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca lifetime achievement award.[6]

In 2016, Darnton received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Arts at Uppsala University, Sweden.[7]


His brother is the retired New York Times editor and author John Darnton, and his father was the war correspondent Byron Darnton.


External video
George Washington’s False Teeth, August 31, 20031, C-SPAN
Presentation by Darnton on The Case for Books, February 3, 2010, C-SPAN
  • Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1995 [1968]. ISBN 978-0-674-56950-8.
  • "In Search of the Enlightenment: Recent Attempts to Create a Social History of Ideas," The Journal of Modern History Vol. 43, No. 1, March 1971
  • The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie, 1775–1800. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press. 1987 [1979]. ISBN 978-0-674-08786-6.
  • The Literary Underground of the Old Regime. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1982. ISBN 978-0-674-53656-2.
  • The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History. New York: Basic Books. 1984. ISBN 978-0-465-02700-2.
  • Coauthored with Daniel Roche: Revolution in Print: the Press in France 1775–1800. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1989. ISBN 978-0-520-06430-0.
  • The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. 1990. ISBN 978-0-393-02753-2.
  • Edition et sédition. L'univers de la littérature clandestine au XVIIIe siècle (in French). Paris: Gallimard. 1991. ISBN 978-2-07-072212-9.
  • Berlin Journal, 1989–1990. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. 1993 [1991]. ISBN 978-0-393-31018-4.
  • Coauthored with Marie-Alyx Revellat: Gens de lettres, gens du livre (in French). Paris: O. Jacob. 1992. ISBN 978-2-7381-0162-4.
  • The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France. New York: Norton. 1996. ISBN 978-0-393-31442-7.
  • The Corpus of Clandestine Literature in France, 1769–1789. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. 1995. ISBN 978-0-393-03745-6.
  • George Washington's False Teeth: An Unconventional Guide to the Eighteenth Century. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. 2003. ISBN 978-0-393-05760-7.
  • The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future. New York: NY Public Affairs. 2009. ISBN 978-1-58648-826-0.
  • The Devil in the Holy Water, or the Art of Slander from Louis XIV to Napoleon. Philadelphia, PA: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press. 2009. ISBN 978-0-8122-4183-9.
  • Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. 2010. ISBN 978-0-674-05715-9.
  • Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. 2014. ISBN 978-0-393-24229-4.
  • A Literary Tour de France: The World of Books on the Eve of the French Revolution. Oxford University Press. 2018. ISBN 978-0-19-514451-2. (author website)

See also


  1. Robert Darnton; Liz Townsend; Robert Townsend (2000). "AHA Presidential Addresses: Robert Darnton, 1999". American Historical Association. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  2. Albanese, Andrew (May 25, 2007). "Princeton's Robert Darnton To Succeed Verba as Harvard Library Director". Library Journal. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  3. "Ann Blair named University Professor". Harvard Gazette. November 23, 2015. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  4. Taylor, Kate. "Amherst President is Expected to Be Named Chief of the New York Public Library," New York Times. October 6, 2010.
  5. Books reveal volumes about times past, Jennifer Greenstein Altmann, Princeton Weekly Bulletin, March 28, 2005.
  6. "Robert Darnton Awarded Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca". Harvard University Library. 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  7. "Faculty of Arts awards honorary doctorates – Uppsala University, Sweden". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.