Grafton, Anthony T. 1950–

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Grafton, Anthony T. 1950–

(Anthony Grafton, Anthony Thomas Grafton)


Born May 21, 1950, in New Haven, CT; son of Samuel and Edith Grafton; married Louise Erlich, May 13, 1972; children: Samuel David, Anna Temma Rachel. Education: University of Chicago, B.A., 1972, M.A., 1972, Ph.D., 1975. Attended University College London, 1973-74. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Walking, reading.


Office—Department of History, Dickinson Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544. E-mail—[email protected].


Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, instructor in history, 1974-75; Princeton University, Department of History, assistant professor, 1975-80, associate professor, 1970-85, university professor, 1985—, Andrew Mellon Professor of History, 1988-93, Dodge Professor of History, 1993-2000, Henry Putnam University Professor of History, 2000—, director, Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies. Visiting associate professor, Columbia University, 1981; visiting professor, College de France, 1992; Meyer Schapiro lecturer, Columbia University, 1996-97; Warburg Professor, University of Hamburg, 1998-99; visiting professor, Ecole Normale Superieure (Chaire Condorcet), 1999. Exhibit curator, New York Public Library, New York, NY, 1992, and Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 1993.


Phi Beta Kappa, Renaissance Society of America, American Philosophical Society.


Danforth fellow, 1971-75; grant-in-aid, American Council of Learned Societies, 1977; Rollins Bicentennial Professorship, Princeton Univer- sity, 1978; Guggenheim fellow, 1988-89; Fairchild fellow, California Technical Institute, 1988-89; Los Angeles Times prize for history, 1993; fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, 1993-94; Behrmann fellow, Princeton University, 1994-95; Ausserordentliches Mitglied, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie, 1996; corresponding fellow, British Academy, 1997; Bainton Prize, Sixteenth-Century Studies Conference, 1999; Marron Prize, American Historical Association, 2000.


Joseph Scaliger: A Study in the History of Classical Scholarship, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), Volume 1: Textual Criticism and Exegesis, 1983, Volume 2: Historical Chronology, 1993.

(With Lisa Jardine) From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Europe, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1986.

Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1990.

Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in an Age of Science, 1450-1800, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1991.

(With April Shelford and Nancy Siraisi) New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery, Belknap (Cambridge, MA), 1992.

(With Eugene F. Rice) The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559, Norton (New York, NY), 1994.

The Footnote: A Curious History, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1997.

(Editor, with Nancy Siraisi) Natural Particulars: Nature and the Disciplines in Renaissance Europe (based on papers from a workshop held at Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology, May 5-6, 1995), MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

Cardano's Cosmos: The Worlds and Works of a Renaissance Astrologer, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance, Hill and Wang (New York, NY), 2000.

(Contributor) Aaron Levy and Thaddeus Squire, editors, The Revolt of the Bees (essays), Slought Books/The University of Pennsylvania Library (Philadelphia, PA), 2005.

Magic and Technology in Early Modern Europe, Smithsonian Institution Libraries (Washington, DC), 2005.

Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Library of Caesarea, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.

What Was History? The Art of History in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, History and Theory, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, and Journal of Roman Studies.


(Compiler, with H.J. de Jonge) Joseph Scaliger: A Bibliography, 1852-1982, Cristal-Montana (The Hague, Netherlands), 1982.

(With Ann Blair) The Transmission of Culture in Early Modern Europe, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1990.

Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in an Age of Science, 1450-1800, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1991.

Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library and Renaissance Culture (exhibition catalogue), Library of Congress (Washington, DC)/Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1993.

(With J.H.M. Salmon) Historians and Ideologues: Essays in Honor of Donald R. Kelley, University of Rochester Press (Rochester, NY), 2001.

(With William R. Newman) Secrets of Nature: Astrology and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

Bring out Your Dead: The Past as Revelation, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

(With Kenneth Mills) Conversion: Old Worlds and New, University of Rochester Press (Rochester, NY), 2003.

(With Kenneth Mills) Conversion in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Seeing and Believing, University of Rochester Press (Rochester, NY), 2003.

(Editor, with Marc S. Rodriguez) Migration in History: Human Migration in Comparative Perspective, University of Rochester Press (Rochester, NY), 2007.


(With Glenn W. Most and James E.G. Zetzel; also author of introduction and notes with Most and Zetzel) F.A. Wolf, Prolegomena to Homer, 1795, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1985.


Historian, educator, and author Anthony T. Grafton specializes in the history of classical scholarship, of Renaissance education, and of early astronomy. Grafton is "a Classicist with the gift of making his arguments fascinating to non-Classicists," asserted John Sutherland in his London Review of Books review of Grafton's Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship. John Bossy, in a London Review of Books assessment of Cardano's Cosmos: The Worlds and Works of a Renaissance Astrologer, wrote: "A traditionalist in topic and method, probably because a traditionalist in topic and method, he has come up with all sorts of original things, and now deservedly, perhaps symbolically, sits in the Princeton chair once occupied by the late Lawrence Stone, and next to another chair once occupied by the happily not late Natalie Davie. As against both of them, he has pursued a roughly Warburgian path of investigating the 16th-century intellect."

Grafton's first major work was an intellectual biography of the classical scholar Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609), the first volume of which emerged in 1983. Scaliger, who, according to reviewer William Calder III in Classical World, may have been "the greatest figure in classical scholarship" of his era, made numerous contributions to his field, including developing a chronology of ancient history, devising fundamental methods of historical research, and inventing archaic Latin.

Known as an irritable person, Scaliger taught himself several languages, beginning with Greek. According to Grafton's biography, his interests led from writing commentaries on ancient Greek and Roman writings to examining the accuracy or inaccuracy of various calendrical systems and, from there, to attempts at solving problems in astronomy and geometry. He created vast subject-indexes of importance to classical scholars, and examined crucial texts for authenticity or forgery. He set forth rules for the scientific editing of texts and established a new way of defining intellectual disciplines according to their rules and expectations of study. "These were basic achievements in critical and philological methodology which were to remain essentially stable for four hundred years," wrote Timothy J. Reiss in a Renaissance Quarterly assessment of the biography's second volume.

For Grafton, Scaliger is a bridge between Early Renaissance humanism, with its unified ideal of classical learning, and the more fragmented, multidisciplinary, scientific form of learning that has evolved. In the first volume of his intellectual biography, Grafton produced, in Calder's opinion, "an absorbing study." Calder faulted the scant attention paid to even the most important biographical events of Scaliger's life, such as when he was born and if he married. Calder commented: "We have a splendid book about his books. Where is the man?"

On the publication of the 766-page second volume ten years later, Reiss, in his Renaissance Quarterly piece, called it "huge and complex … often highly technical and at the time deeply controversial," and noted its complex interpretations of text. He commented that Grafton, although an admirer of Scaliger, demonstrates that Scaliger's work on chronology and philology drew substantially on the work of others. Though the biography's "pleasures are sometimes antiquarian," Reiss commented, "at issue is a main step on the bridge to modernity." The rise of rigorous chronology as a scholarly study and the careful examination of textual details were intellectual developments that were to resound throughout all later periods. Observing that Scaliger's work may have helped create "a new scholarly community … one that did not assume a sharing of like expertise, but carried a mix and exchange of diverse ones," Reiss hailed Grafton's own scholarly tome as "an exemplar—a fine ‘archeology’ of the humanist enterprise." Assessing the two volumes as a whole in the London Review of Books, John Norton wrote that they "provide little of a personal nature, but a remarkably rich insight into a vigorous period of scholarship."

In the 1986 From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Europe, Grafton, in collaboration with Lisa Jardine, examines humanist educational methods in both northern and southern Europe during the Renaissance. According to reviewers, the coauthors' revisionist aim was to provide a realistic view of actual educational practices in the humanist era, thus correcting the prevailing view of humanist education as the promulgation of ideal liberal values. Using a case-study method, the authors examined textbooks, student compositions and notes, and teachers' letters and diaries, and concluded that education during the Renaissance had as much to do with instilling conformity as with opening minds or shaping moral character. "Their conclusions are sobering," responded Francis Oakley in America. Critic Peter Burke, in the London Review of Books, called From Humanism to the Humanities a "lively new study," and praised the authors' reworking of their earlier, individually published essays into a "coherent" whole.

Burke did not completely agree with Grafton and Jardine's assertion that humanist education served the needs of the establishment or that humanist values became routine in the academic study of the humanities; however, he applauded their scholarly reconstruction of Renaissance educational practice and concluded: "It is at once the merit and the defect of From Humanism to the Humanities that it raises far more questions than it answers. Grafton and Jardine have written a book which is provocative, ambitious, unfair, sardonic, and readable. It is a breath of fresh air in a stuffy classroom."

Another of Grafton's projects is a compilation, with Ann Blair, of eight scholarly papers by different authors, titled The Transmission of Culture in Early Modern Europe. The overarching subject is how texts and ideas were transmitted and accepted—and sometimes forged—from the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries. Grafton provides an introduction and the opening essay—about a fifteenth-century forger named Annius of Viterbo—which reviewer H.G. Koenigsberger, writing in the English Historical Review, termed "characteristically elegant and witty," and Alastair Hamilton, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, called "scintillating." Grafton's thesis in the essay is that forgeries, at certain crucial junctures, provided important methodological rules that were adopted by bona fide scholars.

To the volume as a whole, Hamilton applied the epithet "stimulating," while Koenigsberger elaborated: "Unusually, for a composite volume, these very different articles all attain a very high scholarly standard and are written so that it is a pleasure to read them." In a similar vein, in Renaissance Quarterly, journal editor Albert Rabil, Jr., hailed The Transmission of Culture in Early Modern Europe as an exception to the rule that collections of essays are almost always uneven: "All the essays collected here throw new light on the subjects they treat; I found each of them absorbing."

The subject of the value of forgery reappears in Grafton's 1990 monograph, Forgers and Critics, where his central idea, according to Sutherland in the London Review of Books, is "that criticism, as a practice, evolved as a kind of necessary antidote to forgery"—that a "benign spiral" arose between forgers' desire to make original contributions in the guise of received ones, and the need of scholars to distinguish the authentic from the unauthentic. Forgeries, observed H.R. Trevor-Roper in the New York Review of Books, fall into various categories, including "the physical manufacture of false documents," "the false attribution of real documents," and the use of documents whose physical existence cannot be demonstrated. Forgers' motives, too, may vary, from generalized malevolence to the desire for revenge, playful teasing, self-aggrandizement, or the desire to support a traditional claim. During the Renaissance, when the spotlight of public interest was cast upon ancient texts, "a brisk market in literary property encouraged the production of forgeries," Trevor-Roper noted. The result of Grafton's investigations into the history of forgery is "fascinating," according to Hamilton.

Grafton reemphasizes genuine texts, with a continuing eye on their interplay with texts that are not genuine, in a 1991 volume of nine of his own essays, Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in an Age of Science, 1450-1800. The unifying thesis is, wrote Paula Findlen in the Sixteenth-Century Journal, "that humanism and science are not ‘world views in collision’ … but part of a common whole," a developing Western culture whose intellectual hallmark, regardless of subject, was the quest for accuracy. Grafton himself, Findlen observed, exemplifies "detective-like accuracy" in charting the development of research tools by humanist scholars. Findlen remarked: "[Grafton's essays] constantly challenge tired assumptions about the demise of humanist learning. Humanism, in its conception, is a vibrant and multifaceted enterprise…. Certainly [Grafton's] book is testimony to the fact that there are ‘defenders of the text’ still among us." Renaissance Quarterly reviewer Craig Kallendorf called the book "a group of elegantly written essays whose attention to irony and complexity warns us not to oversimplify our account of the past."

Timed to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Columbus's voyage to America, Grafton released his book, New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery, to which April Shelford and Nancy Siraisi contributed chapters and vignettes. The book is a "gloss," remarked writer Felipe Fernandez-Armesto in the London Review of Books, of an exhibition at the New York Public Library that compared how the European experience of explorations of the New World gradually affected European ideas. Grafton and colleagues showed that the displacement of old theories by new experience was not a dramatic one, made in a single burst, but proceeded irregularly by bits and pieces. A broader insight arising from the study is that new knowledge may not always have the kind of sudden, revolutionary impact it is sometimes reputed to have, but at the same time, that traditional canons are by no means as solid as once believed. Rather, old and new are continually interwoven.

Fernandez-Armesto, calling the authors' argument "a good one," observed that New Worlds, Ancient Texts is "unmistakably a work of its own time"—of a late-twentieth-century era in which old canons were being attacked and defended by various parties in academia. Although mentioning that the book had flaws "as a survey of its subject," Fernandez-Armesto praised Grafton's skill at historical portraiture, and wrote: "The book is beautifully presented and delightful to read. Anthony Grafton's prose has a rare combination of qualities, smooth-flowing and hard-biting…. The concentrated power, the broad erudition, the impeccable aim which characterize Grafton's vignettes are enviable." In Renaissance Quarterly, William McCuiag assessed: "Most general readers will be fascinated and enlightened by this story…. And many of us who teach undergraduates will be secretly glad to have the basic outline presented so clearly." Wilson Library Bulletin contributor Stephanie Martin appreciated the "exceptional clarity" with which Grafton and company presented their story, "in a nicely flowing style, ornamented with sharp and refreshing figures of speech" that helped to make it a "very satisfying and yes, exciting book."

New Worlds, Ancient Texts received the Los Angeles Times prize for best history book of its year. That triumph was followed by Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library and Renaissance Culture, in which editor Grafton presents the exhibition of the Vatican Library's holdings at the Library of Congress. The book contains more than two hundred color plates with what America contributor Joel F. Harrington called "unusually helpful captions." A Library Journal reviewer labeled the exhibition catalogue "impressive" and called its text "readable." Grafton went on to participate in the writing and revision of a textbook on the Early Modern period, The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559, and to publish a humorous treatise on the history of the footnote, The Footnote: A Curious History, a university-press venture that was successful commercially as well as critically. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, in the New York Times, paid homage to Grafton's scholarly energy and authorial vivacity, calling the book "an informative, substantive book that traces the evolution of historical writing from the ancient to the modern." The 1997 publication was recognized by Bossy as "an eloquent history" which exemplified Grafton's "sharp and sprightly manner."

In 1999, Grafton's Cardano's Cosmos was released. "[Girolamo] Cardano was a master of many trades, [among them] astrologer, psychologist, medic, dream-interpreter, autobiographer," identified Bossy. "In his trade as an astrologer," related Bossy, "[Cardano] was an empiricist…. [He] was careful to establish … the exact details on which a ‘geniture’ or individual horoscope could be constructed … [and] to determine what were genuine rules of interpretation." He also maintained that "from time to time astrological influences were not determining, and might be counteracted by other factors, like forewarning," added Bossy.

An "eloquent" work, appraised a Natural History critic, Grafton's biography of Cardano gives readers insight into the discipline of astrology, its principles, players, and effects during the sixteenth century. As a Publishers Weekly reviewer stated, "Cardano's life and works [are placed] at the center of a detailed investigation of Renaissance astrologers" in a book by a "writer of superb perspective and clarity." Cardano's Cosmos is "fascinating … well researched and scholarly," proclaimed Marija Sanderling in Library Journal.

Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance was the personification of all that is meant when someone is referred to as a Renaissance man. An aficionado of architecture, both historical and modern, he was responsible for the erection of a number of prominent Italian monuments of his time and wrote a number of well-known treatises on the subject of architecture itself. In addition, he was a well-known writer, courier, and athlete, and his diverse interests made for a fascinating and well-rounded life. Because he engaged in so many and such varied activities, no one is entirely certain of the breadth and scope of his interests and contributions to his time, and a number of writers and critics have referred to him as the "universal man." Grafton's biography, however, attempts to collect the known details of Alberti's life and his feats in a single, accessible volume. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found Grafton's effort to be "an admirably clearheaded look at Alberti's creative endeavors," and went on to add that "it is hard to think of any other writer who might have done it better." A reviewer for the Economist agreed that Grafton provides as thorough an accounting of Alberti's life as possible given the available information, but found the work lacking in any true critical analysis, remarking that "for a more objective assessment of his achievements and historical importance we need to look elsewhere." The reviewer concluded that "his book, which reads more like public- relations hype than historical analysis, seems curiously old-fashioned in approach and slightly patronising in tone. Mr. Grafton's portrayal would have been more convincing had he scrutinised his subject with a more critical eye." However, Jonathan Crewe, reviewing for Italian Culture, opined that "everyone will have something to learn … from Grafton's thoughtful, appealing survey of Alberti's multi-disciplinary undertakings."

In Bring out Your Dead: The Past as Revelation, Grafton collects a series of fifteen essays regarding the work of the Renaissance period humanists with an eye toward shedding new light on the theories of Western scholarship during this period. It is Grafton's opinion that these individuals frequently consulted with each other, as well as the notable artists and innovators of the time, and that this trading of thoughts and opinions served as a strong foundation for a unified and lively intellectual community, one that stands in direct opposition to traditional concepts of the Renaissance humanist as a solitary thinker and isolated individual. Robert J. Andrews, writing for Library Journal, remarked that, "well argued but somewhat arcane, this work will be of interest to students of the Renaissance." In a review for Renaissance Quarterly, Donald R. Kelley commented that "to conventional intellectual history Grafton brings a fresh wind from out of a deep and perhaps suppressed past lost to most of us."

Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Library of Caesarea, which was published in 2006, is the combined effort of Grafton and his coauthor Megan Williams. Through their work, they have made an in-depth study into the form and history of the book, and the ways in which Christian scholars in particular have been responsible for the ways in which books have taken form and evolved throughout the history of writing and gathering information into texts. Origen and Eusebius, who were two late Roman period scholars, provide the main focus of the book, and Grafton and Williams explain to readers how these individuals in particular contributed to the evolution of books, as well as the development of scholarly research techniques and analysis of texts. In a review for Library Journal, contributor Wesley Mills noted that Christianity and the Transformation of the Book might prove to be hard going for a lay reader, but ultimately dubbed it "a very valuable resource for those involved or interested in a comprehensive study of the ancient Christian world and ancient scholarship." However, Joseph W. Trigg, writing for Church History, found the book somewhat limiting, declaring that "by intimating that the Christian scholarly culture of Caesarea has its main antecedents in Greco-Roman philosophy, Grafton and Williams fail to do justice to the richness of its background."



America, November 18, 1989, Francis Oakley, review of From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Europe, pp. 357-358; April 9, 1994, Joel F. Harrington, review of Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library and Renaissance Culture, pp. 31-33.

Church History, June 1, 2007, Joseph W. Trigg, review of Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Library of Caesarea, p. 397.

Classical World, July, 1985, William Calder III, review of Joseph Scaliger: A Study in the History of Classical Scholarship, volume 1, p. 606.

Economist, February 10, 2001, "All-round Man? Renaissance Art and Architecture; Leon Battista Alberti," p. 5.

English Historical Review, April, 1992, H.G. Koenigsberger, review of The Transmission of Culture in Early Modern Europe, p. 397.

Italian Culture, winter, 2002, Jonathan Crewe, review of Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance.

Library Journal, March 1, 1993, review of Rome Reborn, p. 93; December, 1999, Marija Sanderling, review of Cardano's Cosmos: The Worlds and Works of a Renaissance Astrologer, p. 161; January 1, 2002, Robert J. Andrews, review of Bring out Your Dead: The Past as Revelation, p. 124; October 1, 2006, Wesley Mills, review of Christianity and the Transformation of the Book, p. 77.

London Review of Books, May 17, 1984, John Norton, review of Joseph Scaliger, volume 1, p. 11; October 15, 1987, Peter Burke, review of From Humanism to the Humanities, pp. 21-22; January 7, 1993, John Sutherland, review of Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship, pp. 10, 16-17; April 7, 1994, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, review of New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery, pp. 13-15; June 1, 2000, John Bossy, "Using the Heavens," p. 14.

Natural History, February, 2000, review of Cardano's Cosmos, p. 22.

New York Review of Books, December 6, 1990, H.R. Trevor-Roper, review of Forgers and Critics, pp. 26-28.

New York Times, November 27, 1997, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of The Footnote: A Curious History, p. E16.

Publishers Weekly, December 20, 1999, review of Cardano's Cosmos, p. 74; September 4, 2000, review of Leon Battista Alberti, p. 97.

Renaissance Quarterly, spring, 1985, Timothy J. Reiss, review of Joseph Scaliger, volume 1, p. 107; autumn, 1991, Albert Rabil, Jr., review of The Transmission of Culture in Early Modern Europe, p. 559; winter, 1991, Craig Kallendorf, review of Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in an Age of Science, 1450-1800, pp. 822-824; winter, 1994, William McCuiag, review of New Worlds, Ancient Texts, pp. 954-955; fall, 2003, Donald R. Kelley, review of Bring out Your Dead: The Past as Revelation, p. 821.

Sixteenth-Century Journal, spring, 1993, Paula Findlen, review of Defenders of the Text, pp. 202-203.

Times Literary Supplement, June 14, 1991, Alastair Hamilton, review of The Transmission of Culture in Early Modern Europe, p. 31.

Wilson Library Bulletin, January, 1993, Stephanie Martin, review of New Worlds, Ancient Texts, p. 100.


Princeton University Web site, (November 3, 2003), profile of author.

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Grafton, Anthony T. 1950–

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