Robert Darnton: The Case for Books

WED, FEB 3, 2010 (57:52)

Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library, discusses the historical and cultural importance of the printed word. In The Case for Books, Robert Darnton, an intellectual pioneer in the field of the history of the book and director of Harvard University’s Library, offers an in-depth examination of the book from its earliest beginnings to its shifting role today in popular culture, commerce, and the academy. As an author, editorial advisor, and publishing entrepreneur, Darnton is a unique authority on the life and role of the book in society. This book is a wise work of scholarship–one that requires readers to carefully consider how the digital revolution will broadly affect the marketplace of ideas. In The Devil in the Holy Water, Darnton offers a startling new perspective on the origins of the French Revolution and the development of a revolutionary political culture in the years after 1789. He opens with an account of the colony of French refugees in London who churned out slanderous attacks on public figures in Versailles and of the secret agents sent over from Paris to squelch them. The libelers were not above extorting money for pretending to destroy the print runs of books they had duped the government agents into believing existed; the agents were not above recognizing the lucrative nature of such activities–and changing sides.

+ BIO: Robert Darnton

Robert Darnton is a former professor of European History at Princeton University, and current Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the Harvard University Library. The founder of the Gutenberg-e program, he is the author of many books, including most recently George Washington’s False Teeth: An Unconventional Guide to the Eighteenth Century, as well as the 1995 National Book Critics Circle Award–winning The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Prerevolutionary France. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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