Keffer, Ken

About the author: Ken Keffer did his graduate work in Romance languages at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For the last twenty years he has taught French and German at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, where he currently holds the chair of NEH Distinguished Professor of the Humanities.

Publication History of the Rival Transcriptions of Montaigne’s Essays
2001 0-7734-7589-3
Winner of the Adele Mellen Prize for Contribution to Scholarship This publication history is based on a peculiar historic event: the systematic recopying or transcription of Montaigne’s extensive marginal notes by secretaries, librarians, and paleographers in the last years of the 19th century at the Bordeaux City Library. Those transcriptions proved to the necessary condition (and quid pro quo) for the publication (from 1906-1933) of the first critical editions of Montaigne’s complete Essays. It is also, indirectly, a case study of how a literary bureaucracy treats subaltern personnel like sub-librarians and paleographers and how it construes their intellectual property rights. This study offers a commentary on a group of letters revealing a very different culture, one both impaired and enriched by notions of duty, honor and high formality. For students of Montaigne, it gives insight into the Essays’ reception, scholarly management and marketing. The appendix includes over eighty letters from the Bordeaux Archives which trace the eccentric bureaucratic path to the editions. With illustrations.