Saturday, February 2, 2013

Robert Darnton

Robert Darnton is a history professor and the university librarian at Harvard.  He holds the Carl H. Pforzheimer professorship (Pforzheimer appears to have been a wealthy financier who invested in the arts and sciences, including endowing a Harvard professorship).  Darnton was educated at Harvard and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford where he obtained his PhD (or DPhil as they call it).  He spent a brief time as a New York Times journalist, and is the author or editor of 24 books (perhaps more by now), including one which seems intriguing (given this week’s reading) for having been translated into 16 languages (The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History, 1984). 
Darnton’s interests are in the history of the book and modern Europe.  His article “What is the History of Books?” (1982) has been very influential for the field of book history.  Its chart “The Communications Circuit” has been frequently cited by other researchers in book history (some cite it in agreement, others in dissention). 
Some of Darnton’s more recent activities may also be of particular interest to “The Future of Print.” On April 17, 2011, Darnton had an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “5 Myths about the ‘Information Age.’”  Last April during a talk at Columbia University, he forecasted that the Digital Library of America—a project that would provide open access to millions of digitized books—would be running by this April (2013).  He is currently 73. 
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