The 2012 Grafstein Lecture in Communications

Robert Darnton
Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and University Librarian,
Harvard University

"Books, Libraries & The Digital Future"

Thursday, March 15, 2012
5:30 p.m.
Bennett Lecture Hall
   Flavelle House, 78 Queen’s Park

View the event poster (PDF)

Click here to watch the lecture via webcast

Read an account of the lecture from the University of Toronto iSchool

In a famous metaphor, Thomas Jefferson explained that the spread of an idea resembled the lighting of a candle by a taper, or another candle: one candle gained light, and the other did not lose it.  The Internet promotes the diffusion of knowledge in the same way and on a larger scale - unless commercial speculators continue to fence off the public domain and to claim it as their own. One way to resist commercialization is to promote the creation of a Digital Public Library of America, which will make the collections of our research libraries available, free of charge, to all Americans and in fact to everyone in the world.

Robert Darnton was educated at Harvard University (A.B., 1960) and Oxford University (B.Phil., 1962; D. Phil., 1964), where he was a Rhodes scholar.  After a brief stint as a reporter for The New York Times, he became a junior fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard.  He taught at Princeton from 1968 until 2007, when he became Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library at Harvard.  He has been a visiting professor or fellow at many universities and institutes for advanced study, and his outside activities include service as a trustee of the New York Public Library and the Oxford University Press (USA) and terms as president of the American Historical Association and the International Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies.  Among his honors are a MacArthur Prize Fellowship, a National Book Critics Circle Award and election to the French Legion of Honor. He has written and edited many books, including The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie (1979, an early attempt to develop the history of books as a field of study), The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History (1984, probably his most popular work, which has been translated into 17 languages), Berlin Journal, 1989-1990, (1991, an account of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of East Germany), and The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Prerevolutionary France (1995, a study of the underground book trade).  His latest books are The Case for Books (2009), The Devil in the Holy Water, or The Art of Slander in France from Louis XIV to Napoleon (2010), and Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris (2010).