Robert Darnton

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Robert Darnton
Darnton in 2006
Darnton in 2006
Born (1939-05-10) May 10, 1939 (age 79)
New York City, New York City
Occupation Historian, librarian
Education Philips Academy
Alma mater Harvard University
University of Oxford
Subject Cultural history, 18th-century France, history of the book
Notable works The Great Cat massacre
Spouse Eleanor Choate Darnton
Relatives Byron Darnton (father)
John Darnton (brother)

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

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 [de].

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

Prof. Darnton with prof. Hans Tuzzi at Festivaletteratura of Mantua, September 8, 2018.

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.


  • Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1995 [1968]. ISBN 0-674-56950-4.
  • "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 0-674-08786-0.
  • The Literary Underground of the Old Regime. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1982. ISBN 0-674-53656-8.
  • The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History. New York: Basic Books. 1984. ISBN 0-465-02700-8.
  • Coauthored with Daniel Roche: Revolution in Print: the Press in France 1775–1800. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1989. ISBN 0-520-06430-5.
  • The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. 1990. ISBN 0-393-02753-8.
  • Edition et sédition. L'univers de la littérature clandestine au XVIIIe siècle (in French). Paris: Gallimard. 1991. ISBN 2-07-072212-0.
  • 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 2-7381-0162-3.
  • The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Prerevolutionary France. New York: Norton. 1996. ISBN 0-393-31442-1.
  • The Corpus of Clandestine Literature in France, 1769–1789. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. 1995. ISBN 0-393-03745-2.
  • George Washington's False Teeth: An Unconventional Guide to the Eighteenth Century. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. 2003. ISBN 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.

See also


  1. ^ Robert Darnton; Liz Townsend; Robert Townsend (2000). "AHA Presidential Addresses: Robert Darnton, 1999". American Historical ASsociation. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  2. ^ Princeton's Robert Darnton To Succeed Verba as Harvard Library Director – 5/25/2007 – Library Journal Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^
  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 2 February 2016.

External links

  • Darnton on the Gutenberg-e Program
  • Articles by Robert Darnton from The New York Review of Books
  • Works by or about Robert Darnton in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • Robert Darnton, An Early Information Society: News and the Media in Eighteenth-Century Paris, AHA Presidential Address Retrieved April 19, 2010
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
    • Booknotes interview with Darnton on George Washington’s False Teeth: An Unconventional Guide to the Eighteenth Century, August 31, 2003.
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