The editorial process of a book's production—far from a minor material detail in its formation or an anecdotal event of publishing history—constitutes a meaningful aspect of its elaboration as a literary work, as significant as the author's biography. Indeed, book history and descriptive bibliography can lead a biographical approach to a literary work. In this regard, Montaigne's Essais, published in 1580, is a special case in point. The very form of its publication was ingeniously used by Montaigne in a social-climbing strategy, for the ostentatious typographical layout of the title page was intended to demonstrate that it was the book of a gentleman, a “noble book.” This displayed nobility supported Montaigne's moral and pedagogical purpose, it served as the basis of his social authority and literary authorship, and, last but not least, this noble status ensured the success of his book.
Skip Nav Destination
Jean Balsamo; Montaigne's Noble Book: Book History and Biographical Criticism. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2011; 41 (2): 417–434. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-1218367
Download citation file: