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Robert Darnton

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Title: Robert Darnton  
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Subject: Age of Enlightenment, History of books, Intellectual, American Historical Association, Louis-Sébastien Mercier
Collection: 1939 Births, Alumni of the University of Oxford, American Historians, American Information and Reference Writers, American Librarians, American Rhodes Scholars, Chevaliers of the Légion D'Honneur, Fellows of St John's College, Oxford, Harvard University Alumni, Harvard University Faculty, Harvard University Librarians, Living People, MacArthur Fellows, National Humanities Medal Recipients, Place of Birth Missing (Living People), Presidents of the American Historical Association, Princeton University Faculty
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Robert Darnton

Robert Darnton
Darnton in 2006
Born (1939-05-10) May 10, 1939
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Historian, Librarian
Subject Cultural History, 18th Century France, History of the Book
Notable works The Great Cat Massacre
Relatives Byron Darnton
John Darnton

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


  • Life 1
  • Awards and honors 2
  • Family 3
  • Works 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


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 Ph.D. (D. Phil.) in history from Oxford in 1964, where he studied with Richard Cobb, among others. 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 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.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]


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].  
  • "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].  
  • The Literary Underground of the Old Regime. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1982.  
  • Coauthored with  
  • The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. 1990.  
  • Edition et sédition. L'univers de la littérature clandestine au XVIIIe siècle (in French). Paris: Gallimard. 1991.  
  • Berlin Journal, 1989–1990. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. 1993 [1991].  
  • Coauthored with  
  • The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Prerevolutionary France. New York: Norton. 1996.  
  • The Corpus of Clandestine Literature in France, 1769–1789. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. 1995.  
  • George Washington's False Teeth: An Unconventional Guide to the Eighteenth Century. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. 2003.  
  • The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future. New York: NY Public Affairs. 2009.  
  • The Devil in the Holy Water, or the Art of Slander from Louis XIV to Napoleon. Philadelphia, PA: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press. 2009.  
  • Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. 2010.  
  • Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. 2014.  

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
  3. ^ Taylor, Kate. "Amherst President is Expected to Be Named Chief of the New York Public Library," New York Times. October 6, 2010.
  4. ^ Books reveal volumes about times past, Jennifer Greenstein Altmann, Princeton Weekly Bulletin, March 28, 2005.
  5. ^ "Robert Darnton Awarded Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca". Harvard University Library. 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 

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)
  • AHA Presidential AddressAn Early Information Society: News and the Media in Eighteenth-Century Paris,Robert Darnton, Retrieved April 19, 2010
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
    • , August 31, 2003.George Washington’s False Teeth: An Unconventional Guide to the Eighteenth Century interview with Darnton on Booknotes
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