January 24, 2014

“In the final pages of his monograph on the coins of Julius Caesar, published in 1563, Hubert Goltzius provided a list of scholars and collectors who had helped him in his research; the list contained 978 names! If I were as conscientious as Goltzius, I fear my list would be twice as long, and would start twenty-five years ago with Lowell Heaney, head of Special Collections at the Philadelphia Free Library.”

[. . .]

After thanking a number of scholars, librarians, and mentors:

“I cannot say whether this volume lives up to their expectations, but I take comfort in the adage Jacopo Strada attributes to Pliny in the preface of his 1553 Thesaurus: ‘A wise man will find something of profit in whatever book falls into his hands, no matter how bad it is.'”

– John Cunnally, Images of the Illustrious: The Numismatic Presence in the Renaissance (1999)

The Imperial City of Potosí by Lewis Hanke (1956)

August 14, 2013


Cross Your Path

August 7, 2013

“My trajectory has been indirect, and I had already begun a doctoral dissertation on nineteenth-century North American circuit-riders when I discovered the path to this book. I made the discovery in Rome, behind the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva–built over a pagan temple, the Coricancha of the Old World–when a black cat looked into my face and led me through the back door into the cool, dark church. I am grateful for the guidance which that cat, along with my other counselors, gave me.”

Jeremy Mumford, Vertical Empire: The General Resettlement of Indians in the Colonial Andes (2012)


July 5, 2012

“Catherine S. Menand did heroic (and thankless) archival work in Boston, both at the beginning and the end of the project – but she’s my mother. Emily Abrahams talked me through many stretches, she commented wisely on the entire manuscript, and the pleasure she took in the book I was able to produce is what mattered to me the most – but she’s my wife.”

Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club (2001)

The Translator’s Modesty Topos

December 17, 2011

“To come from behind the façade of impersonality, I would also like to express thanks in propria persona to the many individuals who helped with both great and small problems over the years. Firstly, my most grateful thanks are due to Hildur Blöndal for her generosity in giving me the privilege of tackling what has been an ensnaring labour; it is a peculiar pleasure that she has been able to see the work brought to an end, and her husband’s last ambition fulfilled, by however unworthy a surrogate.”

Bendikt S. Benedikz, trans. and ed. of Sigfús Blöndal’s The Varangians of Byzantium

Fan (E)Mail

December 17, 2011

From a dear friend: “I just started reading your blog whilst waiting in the pharmacy and have found it so unexpectedly moving that I’ve had to stop.”

(photo by Zeke Berman)

A Modern Theresa

October 13, 2011

“This book is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Merle Walker. A brilliant philosopher, poet, scholar, and teacher, she was as circumscribed as any fourteenth-century woman by her society’s assumptions about female nurturing and self-sacrifice. Only those who knew her will understand fully the ways in which this book is a tribute to her and an exploration of the pain and triumph of her life. But this book is more. For the books my mother might have written never appeared. My act of writing is therefore my pledge to her granddaughter, Antonia Walker, and to her granddaughter’s generation that women’s creativity shall not in the future be silenced. It is also an expression of hope that those future generations of women will not lose the compassion, the altruism, and the moral courage that made Merle Walker’s life not a tragedy of self-abnegation but a triumph over meaninglessness and suffering.”

– Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (1987)


October 8, 2011

“Nicholas Penny (to whom the book is dedicated) read the whole of it in typescript and proposed a large number of improvements–remaining weaknesses and errors are entirely my own; Linda Klinger most generously allowed me to read (and plunder) her thesis on Paolo Giovio which will not, I trust, remain unpublished for long; the friendliness, patience and efficiency with which Sheila Ballard produced order out of a long series of chaotic drafts gave me the spirit to continue writing at times when I felt like abandoning the project altogether; the constant friendship and encouragement I have received from John Nicoll and Gillian Malpass have, once again, made it a pleasure, as well as a cause of deep satisfaction, to be published by Yale University Press. What I owe to my wife is too deep to express.”

Francis Haskell, History and its Images: Art and the Interpretation of the Past (1993)

The Real Deal

October 5, 2011

“Without the help of my authentic husband, Chandler Davis, this history of an imposter-spouse could never have existed.”

– Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (1983)

To the Same

October 4, 2011

To the Same

(for Damien)

‘My favourite poem in this anthology

Is William Cowper’s To the Same.’ I wrote

At school. The English mistress pointed out

That this was no true title, but to me

Even after half a century

It shines out with the steadfastness of gold

From a dark bookcase. It is a title held

By all achievers in fidelity.

I do not write love poems, but if I did

I too would praise the continuity

Of love and not the onset. So a name

Would not be necessary, for I should

Of course mean you, who have survived with me,

And address all my sonnets to the same.

— Patricia Beer