To contribute anecdotes, reminiscences, bon mots, or any other graftoniana, please contact Paris Spies-Gans at spies at princeton dot edu.

FROM PAULA FINDLEN (Stanford University)

Around 1989, I gave a paper at the RSA in Boston as I was finishing my PhD at Berkeley. Going to a major conference is nerve-racking at this stage so I was terribly relieved to find myself at a reception inside the Gardner Museum. I started talking with a friend when suddenly the beaming bearded face of a smiling man rose like a full moon before us. There were lots of people eager to talk to him, I saw, and wondered who he was. Then he introduced himself. Moments later I was strolling through the museum with Tony Grafton, doing my best to answer his delightfully probing questions about my dissertation.

This kind of open and boundless curiosity about what younger scholars are doing characterizes the kind of first encounter many of us have had with Tony. I think with pleasure of the students we have worked with together, and the research that created these intersections. Of course I have to credit Tony with insisting that I show up at an event he whimsically called “Was Athanasius Kircher the coolest guy ever, or what?” I’m not sure if Kircher is, but Tony certainly embodied all the fun of early modern intellectual history for a general audience that evening! Plus I ended up in a memorable conversation with Susan Sontag – thanks Tony!

In 2003-04 I was in Rome for a year, increasingly pregnant; Tony was there for part of winter and spring. I fondly recall the many meals I had with him and Louise where we discussed children in the way that only eager grandparents-in-the making can do, reflecting on how their own children had grown; we shopped for jewelry, probably some old books, and Roman kitsch in Trastevere, and met at the Vatican bar to talk shop. The first time Tony came to Stanford after Natalie’s birth, he couldn’t wait to come over and hold her. It’s a lovely memory.

FROM ANDREW HUI (PhD Princeton 2009, Comparative Literature)

The Homeric bards were famed for their oimai—the paths of songs that took the audience to imaginary worlds, narrating the cycles of the heroes of old—their births, deaths and strivings in this wide green world of ours. In this generation, Tony Grafton, that most bardic of teachers, has taken all of us on many itineraries, through worlds ancient and modern, texts well-loved and forgotten. 

I wish to share one particular oimê, one that does not traverse the Mediterranean seas or the venerable libraries of Europe, but rather along the Northeast Corridor of the Mid-Atlantic States, through the bus, car, train, and taxi.

This is a recent memory—just last April (2014)—it was my first year teaching at Yale-NUS College in Singapore and I returned to the US for the American Comparative Literature Association conference at NYU. Tony was a fellow at the New York Public Library and preparing his Andrew W. Mellon Lectures to be delivered in a couple of weeks at the National Gallery. I just wanted to meet up with him and catch up on things.

It was a bright spring day, we met around noon. He took me a tour of the Cullman center and the library; we had pastrami sandwiches at a classic joint that catered for the mid-town office workers (we looked distinctly out-of-place in a phalanx of business suits), then carried coffee from a hipster café to Bryant Park, then a brisk walk to the Port Authority to meet up with Freddie Clark, who had just won a post-doc fellowship at Stanford. All three of us took the $16.50 Bolt bus one-way to Philadelphia.

Why? To see Ann Blair’s Rosenbach lectures, “Hidden Hands: Amanuenses and Authorship in Early Modern Europe.” On the way to the Penn campus we stopped for freshly baked cookies at a food-truck. After Ann’s splendid talk we went Thai food with Theo Dunkelgrün and Adam Beaver, then we all crammed into Adam’s SUV and he dropped us off at Princeton Junction, then a half-an hour wait in the still-bitter April cold for the NJ Transit, then back to Penn Station, and finally, around 1 a.m., a cab ride to Lower Manhattan, where my hotel was and where Tony has an pied-à-terre. He said that he had to wake up by 5 a.m. to finish a review for the LRB, couple of reference letters for colleagues and students, and the proofs for an edited volume. . . .

What I remember that day was—all of us know this already but it bears repeating—his unflagging energy, enthusiasm, generosity, the glint in his eyes when he glowed about his students, whether it was his first—Ann Blair, or most recent, Maddy McMahon.

It was truly an epic day—journey by feet, bus, SUV, train, cab, from noon to well after midnight—all in the conviviality of scholars. This was just one of the innumerable daily oimai for Tony, for it combined solitary reading and writing in the morning, a commingling of multiple generations of students and colleagues in the day, and more nocturnal lucubration, all done in the epic spirit of joyous learning.


When I give an academic talk the sight of Tony in the audience always brings a welcome feeling of reassurance. Improbably, this was true even when I was a fledgling graduate student. The first time was a conference at Stanford in 2001. It was one of my first academic presentations, and I had many reasons to be nervous, not least my desire to impress Tony, whom I had briefly met moments before. I was the second speaker on the program, following Ingrid Rowland who delivered a paper about cosmic sperm. As I spoke, I cast my gaze around the audience, as a public speaker should, but my attention was drawn magnetically to Tony. The source of this attractive force was not mysterious. It was Tony’s head. It occupied a considerable amount of the visual field, and not only because of the voluminous black beard. But it wasn’t the great head itself, so much as what it was doing: bobbing up and down in continuous and vigorous approval of my every word. What a brilliant paper I seemed to have written! In the years since, I’ve come to know that Tony’s distinctive, secular davening can register a broad range of reactions. Primarily it’s a sign of attentiveness, not necessarily assent or approval. But even knowing this, it still never fails to instill me with the same feeling of confidence. There is probably something primal in the body language of a nodding head that goes straight to my brainstem with the message, “right on, well said.” But, that message—real or imagined—affects me because it comes from Tony. And Tony has, of course, been enormously, unambiguously, gratuitously encouraging. After that first conference paper he agreed to serve on my dissertation committee and has been a crucial source of inspiration and intellectual and moral support ever since.
That conference was the first time I met Tony personally, but my first physical sighting of man and beard happened several years earlier. It was at the History of Science Society’s annual meeting in La Jolla in 1997. I had gone in order to orient myself in the academic discipline I had just joined, to attach faces to some of the names I had been learning in seminars. I didn’t know much, but I was certainly familiar with Tony’s work and formidable reputation. On the last day of the conference he would deliver his seminal paper, “Where Was Salomon’s House.” Earlier, at a less memorable panel, I noticed a man in the audience with rumpled sport coat and florid tie (or was he wearing a t-shirt under his jacket?), stroking a bushy black beard. When discussion time arrived, he made a comment and I learned his identity. I remember my first thought: This guy is way too young to be Anthony Grafton. Indeed, I just did the math, and Tony would only have been forty-seven years old. Forty-seven! That can’t be right. Actually, yes, I’ve done the calculation again: forty-seven. [Expletive deleted.] On the occasion of Tony’s 65th birthday, we celebrate his myriad accomplishments and thank him for his extraordinary generosity. We can also breathe a sigh of relief that finally his age is not too absurdly inappropriate to his achievements.

FROM PETER N. MILLER (Bard Graduate Center)

I had no Princeton connection of any sort when I wrote to Tony in Berlin–I think I sent it by fax–from Chicago in the winter of 1993-4. I had come back to North America a few months before and had begun to work on Peiresc. I think I realized that if I was going to get anywhere, he was the person I had to start talking with. It happened that Tony was coming to Chicago to deliver some lectures at Northwestern and we arranged to meet in Noel Swerdlow’s office. We all talked together and then Tony and I peeled off for a walk that took us to the Seminary Co-op Bookstore where, for hours while time stood still, we walked up and down the aisles talking books and ideas. It’s one of those conversations you can’t forget because you can’t imagine what your life would have been like had it not happened. At the end of the day, he invited me to Berlin that summer to stay with him and Louise. It was my first visit to Berlin, and first visit to the Wissenschaftskolleg. There have been hundreds more of these conversations since, and each has brought me something I didn’t have before.  Tony quickly became a part of our family life, starting here, really, at my wedding.

Peter Miller IMG_1136

There’s really very little Tony asks of us all, except to be ourselves. This is hard enough, of course. But that’s why I was so happy, in this glorious anniversary year, to be able to nominate Tony for an honorary degree at Bard College, which he’ll receive on the 23rd of May, just a couple of days after his birthday. Here is the citation I drew up:

Anthony Grafton is the leading historian of learning in the world today. Through his outstanding and impeccable scholarship, and his accessible, entertaining, but never patronizing writing for the public, Grafton has made scholars and scholarship subjects of wide appeal. He has been an indefatigable teacher as well, supervising forty-six doctoral students and sitting on the dissertation committees of eighty-one others. His combination of erudition, an extraordinary publication record, and devoted teaching has completely altered the state of intellectual history in the United States. By emphasizing the history of scholarly practices, moribund when he began his career, Grafton has raised the intellectual narrative of early modern Europe to new prominence in history departments at leading universities in the United States.

Grafton’s main body of work is in the history of philology and antiquarianism. Not content only to read mountains of monument-sized books on arcane subjects, such as chronology and church history, Grafton has studied the books themselves: the ways scholars read and wrote them, and how they communicated with one another. In much of this he has followed in the footsteps of his teacher, celebrated Italian historian Arnaldo Momigliano, but with a much more explicit emphasis on practice and scholarly community. Grafton’s knowledge spans the history of science, art history, classics, and, like his master, history and historiography. The patron and supporter of a whole generation of younger scholars, Grafton also has made collaboration with them part of his own scholarly practice. His work is unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.

Born and raised in New York City, Grafton has B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago. After a year’s stint at Cornell University while finishing his doctorate (received in 1975), Grafton moved to Princeton University, where he has remained, eventually becoming Andrew W. Mellon Professor, then Dodge Professor of History, and, since 2000, Henry Putnam University Professor of History. Along with Lawrence Stone, Natalie Zemon Davis, and Robert Darnton, he has helped make Princeton’s Department of History the most interesting place in the world to study early modern Europe. He has a huge international following and is closely associated with the Warburg Institute, University of London; University of Oxford; Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin; and Collège de France. Among his many prizes are the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award in the Humanities and the Balzan Prize for the History of the Humanities. Major publications include the two volumes of Joseph Scaliger: A Study in the History of Classical Scholarship (1983, 1993), which made Grafton’s reputation; Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship (1990); Cartographies of Time (2010, with Daniel Rosenberg); and “I have always loved the Holy Tongue”: Isaac Casaubon, the Jews, and a Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Scholarship (2011, with Joanna Weinberg).

“What really interests me is how people do things,” Grafton has said. “I see that as the question that unifies my apparently completely disparate investigations of topics in antiquity, in the Renaissance, in the Baroque, and in the modern age.”

FROM THEO DUNKELGRÜN (Jesus College, Cambridge)

Tony and Theo in the Museum Plantin-Moretus

Theo Dunkelgrün and Tony Grafton examine the printing proofs to the Antwerp Polyglot Bible in the Museum Plantin-Moretus, Antwerp July 2008.

FROM JAMES AMELANG (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)

When I arrived at the History Department in 1976 I had the usual pro forma interview with the Director of Graduate Studies, who was then Bob Tignor. Toward the end he said that I would want to meet “this new guy, Grafton”. I took note and asked why, and he said that there were two reasons: “First, he’s read everything. Second, he’s only a year older than you are”.


What words are left to describe or praise Tony as a teacher, supervisor, mentor, scholar, human being or simply as Tony? His generosity and kindness, his jokes and anecdotes, his early morning routines and truffle hunting — we’re talking about a legend here. As it happens, I too have been fortunate enough to have gone with Tony and fellow hunter Jenny Rampling into the wild a few times, all of them equally memorable. Although Pastrami Queen and Tony the New-York-Tour-Guide ought to make an appearance here, I keep my graftonianum more visual. Once in the New York Society Library Tony, Jenny and I got a little too excited about an annotated Paracelsus and before we knew it “Rare Book Twister” was caught on tape. Another visit brought the three of us to the New York Academy of Medicine. After a brief lunch consisting of food and anecdotes, we quickly found ourselves in this scenic room, on the hunt for marginalia and monades. There and then Jenny took this photo that illustrates my relationship with Tony better than I could possibly describe in words.

NYAM 12-04-2014 PB Twister

FROM  FREDERIC CLARK (PhD Princeton 2014)

Anyone who has known Tony Grafton as a teacher, a mentor, or a colleague cannot feel anything but continuous astonishment at his endless generosity. I have never encountered a scholar who is so unfailingly giving of their time, their insights, and their energy. All of us who have worked with Tony, in whatever capacity, constantly marvel at that energy, wondering how there can be enough hours in the day for all that Tony does, and does in constantly superlative fashion. One answer to this mystery, I believe, is that few people in the world have as much sheer fun doing what they do as Tony Grafton. He brings an infectious level of delight to every component of the life of a scholar and a teacher, and he never tires of new travels, whether literal, metaphorical, or both.

I’d like to recount but one example of Tony’s zest for scholarly adventure. Although Tony’s research has led him to mine numerous European libraries, often during summer travels, he is constantly on the lookout for materials closer to home, many of which are hiding in plain sight, as it were. In the spring of 2014 he found out that St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers possessed a heavily annotated copy of Erasmus’ edition of the Opera omnia of Jerome. Tony quickly proposed an expedition, and so one Friday in late April he and I and another Graftonian, Maddy McMahon, caught an 8am train from Grand Central and embarked upon an annotation expedition. From Metro North to a cab ride we finally arrived at the seminary, and armed with laptops and cameras we set to work flipping through the many volumes of Erasmus’ Jerome. The annotations did not disappoint, and we found our anonymous reader eagerly digesting everything from Erasmus’ vita of Jerome to the humanist’s mini-treatise on how to recognize a forged or spurious text. Since there was no place for lunch in walking distance, we ate in the seminarians’ refectory, and then we worked until closing time, before beginning our long peregrination back to NYC. From there we headed to dinner at an Italian cafe and ended up talking late into the night. Tony makes “work” feel not like work at all, but rather a constant adventure. Whether such adventures take him to London or Leiden, New Jersey or Yonkers, he constantly marvels at the many remnants of the past he uncovers, and never tires of sharing that deep sense of wonder with others.

Reading Jerome in Yonkers

FROM DEBORAH KROHN  (AB Princeton 1983, MFA Art History 1987, PhD Art History Harvard 1992)

My first memory of Tony is at a freshman event at Princeton in the fall of 1979. We were sitting around the fountain at the Woodrow Wilson School on an early September evening and he regaled me – though no doubt there were others listening – with tales of his early years growing up in New York City, attending Trinity and the University of Chicago, and arriving at Princeton. His warmth and humor, and the fact that I had a similar background, helped me to adjust to the very different social and academic world that I had just entered, rather unwittingly. Over the years, he has been teacher, mentor, friend and quasi-mythical figure, magically appearing before us in Manhattan, Florence, Berlin, Rome, and Oxford, where he taught the kids to punt while feeding legions of ducks that followed us as we progressed to a riverside pub. His influence on my work through his books and articles has been immense, in ways that are impossible to quantify, as is the case for so many students who passed through his classes and have continued to follow him, but I have been supremely fortunate to have shared many family meals over the years, and through these conversations have been inspired and delighted beyond words.

from deborah krohn

FROM TAMARA GRIGGS (PhD Princeton 2003)

When I first met the renowned Scaliger scholar back in the mid 1990s, I was expecting something like the “poor learned gentleman” from Edith Nesbit’s story of the amulet. Instead, I found myself in the genial hands of an intellectual omnivore who wore Cosby-style sweaters embroidered with German-speaking penguins. I had arrived at Princeton after a long year in a San Francisco law firm counting billable hours and engaging in the smallest of talk with insurance litigators. I had forgotten what a real conversation felt like until I walked into Tony’s office at Dickinson, which at that time resembled a hoarder’s paradise. Tony graciously leaned back in his chair and nodded soothingly as I made my own small talk about the campus services and amenities of Princeton. Then he gently and improbably steered this inane patter to Castiglione’s Cortegiano, the subject of my long-forgotten senior thesis, and ever so slowly he turned the mental gears I had let rust back into something resembling movement.

One day in our History of Rhetoric seminar Tony stopped in the middle of a discussion to ask, offhand, “does anyone recall the extraordinary moment when the pope almost expelled the Jews from Rome?” We looked down and then at each other to see if we were alone in our ignorance. Tony took that as a “no” and launched into what we expected to be a remedial lecture on a well-known episode in early modern history — one that had somehow escaped us as we were furiously preparing for our General Exams. We began taking notes, but soon the story took some strange turns and one by one each of us gradually put our pens down and leaned back in our chairs. The relief in the room was palpable. Tony was telling a joke – and a great one at that — all about a wordless debate of gestures in which the friendly and bewildered chief Rabbi crosses the Tiber and shows the pope and cardinals his lunch consisting of oranges and matza bread. To this day I can never get the order of this joke right. It figures. Even Tony’s jokes are inimitable.

Confucius once asked (or was it Bob Hope?), “Isn’t it a pleasure to study and practice what you have learned?” Then he added, “Isn’t it also great when friends visit from distant places?” Doesn’t that sound like Tony?


When I arrived at Princeton as an undergraduate, I remember feeling somewhat out of place and even considered transferring to another school. Luckily I found myself in Tony’s own precept for his lecture course on Western civilization. When I spoke to him about my misgivings, he invited me out for lunch at Nassau sushi and patiently talked with me for what seemed like hours. I think there are very few people in the world so generous with their time and attention as Tony, and I am deeply grateful to him for being such a remarkable teacher and mentor.

I am also deeply grateful to him for introducing me to the cinematic masterpiece that is The Crimson Pirate.

FROM JOHN RAIMO ( BA Princeton ’08)

Where does one begin with anecdotes about Tony? His unfailing humor, erudition, and culinary adventures would vie for the honor. Dinner tables might nevertheless prove the missing link. My career as a historian truly began in Tony’s kitchen at Oxford, where he very graciously hosted former Princeton students and others to chew over Gibbon, early modern history, and historiography. The joy of those talks never left me; indeed, none of our conversations with Tony ever do seem to come to an end, do they? Years later, we met for dinner at a Paris steakhouse before wandering into nearby bar (where Tony’s experiences in German academia quickly put me to shame). We then navigated several closed metro lines to find our respective ways home. It was only the next morning that I realized that we had somehow stumbled into “Decline and Fall,” Marc Bloch, and Begriffsgeschichte again somewhere underground at Châtelet – Les Halles.

There was also the one time that I and Adam Flynn (one of Tony’s BA advisees) published a ninety-five point indictment of him as a wizard and necromancer in the main undergraduate magazine. Tony had it posted outside his office door the very next morning.

FROM TINE LUK MEGANCK (PhD Art History at Princeton 2003)

In 2006 I received the wonderful news that Tony had been awarded an honorary degree from the University of Leiden. I surfed to the university website and found this picture of Tony, in full lecturing furor. At the time I was collaborating at the exhibition  “Rubens, A Genius at Work” in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels. I had just studied the oil sketch of a Head of a philosopher as well as Rubens keen interest in physiognomy and I could not resist seeing similarities between both men. While times and customs change (“O tempora, o mores”), some inner essence remains, I was thinking, maybe a little much influenced by both (?) masters. The encounter of images reminded me of Tony’s simple response, when, as a doctoral student in art history at Princeton, I was hit by a moment of doubt. Was it really possible to understand neo-Latin philosophy, early modern-cartography and religious polemics, all in order to make sense of some sixteenth century artworks? “If they could know it all, we can know it all,” he said, and I have never forgotten.

Rubens, Study of Two Heads, MMAgrafton_2


I found my dissertation topic thanks to Tony.  I had planned for years to write on Rome during Avignon as I thought that the assumption that, in the Common Era, the history of the papacy and the history of the city were coterminous was responsible for the fourteenth century being shortchanged in the history of the Urbs.  I planned to fill this gap using unedited notarial protocols and papal letters.

I arrived in Rome in October 2006 and realised to my dismay that no-one had told me that finding the right dissertation topic was just like dating.  One had to have chemistry with the sources and with the person one hopes to date.  It turned out that working with my sources was just like dating DF (a perfectly lovely guy): I couldn’t, alas, get it up for either!

While preparing for my Rome Prize interview under the eaves of Palazzo Farnese at the Ecole Française, I had a coup de foudre while reading the chapter on the 14th century in the Storia dell’Italia Religiosa: four pages on a Pisan Dominican who had translated Latin texts and penned devotional treatises all in the vernacular.  I realised that his oeuvre might shine light on that most elusive of creatures, lay piety.  I decided then and there that I would break my engagement with Popeless Rome and instead write my dissertation on Domenico Cavalca (c. 1270-1341). Shortly thereafter, I returned for a short visit to Princeton confused about how to proceed.

Tony has a marvellous ability to match a student’s interests with historiographical lacunae. When he heard that Cavalca had translated Acts, Jerome’s letter to Eustochium, Gregory’s Dialogues and the Liber Vitaspatrum, as well as composed nine devotional treatises, and, more importantly, that I had no idea where to begin, he said, “You know Manu, no-one has really worked on vernacular hagiography.  Scholars have focused instead on Latin hagiography.”  That was enough for me.  Tom Head had instilled a love of hagiography at the GC, I had long felt the siren call of Late Antiquity, Cavalca’s Vita dei Santi Padri was a late medieval “bestseller” whose success was unexplained, andecce agnosco novae praesentiam flammae.  This time there was abundant chemistry and I eventually produced a dissertation.


I like to imagine that I was adopted into Tony’s intellectual family in the fall of 1999, on a sunny afternoon at the Strada cafe in Berkeley. I didn’t know it at the time, or at least before I sat down at the table. But afterwards — after Tony gave me notes on a still creaky dissertation, and after I ran to the library to start chasing down the new ideas that we had drawn up over coffee, and long after that too—I realized that I had found the conversations that mattered to me. Over the next fifteen years, the conversations went on. Around different tables to be sure. A table in Princeton, another in Wolfenbüttel, in Berlin, in Utrecht, joined by different members of the many tribes that Tony gathers together. The conversation topics have shifted over the years, and new people come to the table all the time — the family is alive and well. I still have the notes from that first meeting on a shelf, my scribbles of new names, books, questions, and ideas, but also an entry-ticket into a vibrant intellectual world. Long may it continue to thrive!


Even before I came to Princeton in 1977, I knew I wanted to study with Tony Grafton. Debby Silverman, a family friend, had raved about him in trying to persuade me to attend Princeton, and I already knew that I wanted to major in history. So during my first freshman semester, I took History 345, Renaissance and Reformation.

Although I was lucky enough to have Tony as my preceptor, and I remember (I think) having precept in his office, I can’t say I remember much that was actually said or discussed in the class. (Years later, I learned that I was 30% deaf and probably had been ever since I had the measles at six months.) But I do remember doing reading for the class outside 1915 Hall, my freshman dorm, overlooking what used to be the tennis courts. Also, I have the rough draft, dated November 23, 1977, of my first (and only?) paper for that course, which was called In Search of Security: Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis and Thomas Campanella’s City of the Sun, with Tony’s comments:

“Jessica – this is already very neatly written though you indulge bit too much in the passive voice. What it needs, is a bit more reflection on motives-why these two men agree so strongly on the potential of man’s control over nature and yet disagree so completely about how that control was to be attained.?) How do you account for this? By the transitional nature of the science of the time? By inclusion of magical and empirical elements that we see as contradictory but these men did not? By the men’s backgrounds? By their social positions? The consideration seems needed just because so much of your paper deals with the differences.

You might say a bit more about the scientific techniques mentioned by Bacon (esp. the blueprint for collaborative experimentation and theorizing).  Then the contrast with Campanella’s magico-mathematico-astrological science would emerge even more clearly. As it is, you say more about the results of science in the two states (?) than about the nature of science as an activity. ”

Although I am sure that these substantive comments were very helpful at the time, it was his first comment within the draft,” don’t split infinitives,” that burned itself into my brain. Even now that it apparently is acceptable to split infinitives, I have a hard time breaking that rule and each time I do, I think of Tony. (I also think of Tony’s admonition each time I watch an old episode of Star Trek and hear, “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”) The comment about the passive voice also stayed with me, and I have made it many times in commenting on papers written by own children and on contracts that I review in my work as a lawyer. On the final paper, I got an A-, with the comment, “Very good piece of work, clear, coherent, and pretty exhaustive,” although where I had written “[Bacon’s] Utopia, New Atlantis, centers around a continuous, collaborative effort to achieve human dominion over nature,” over the words “centers around,” he had noted, “a physical impossibility.”

I also have my final exam booklets from that course. The only comment over both exam booklets appeared in the first essay, which was about Petrarch’s “Letter on the Ascent to Mount Ventoux,” where I referred to the Quattrocento. The comment consisted of one word: “No!”

Tony became my academic advisor, and senior year, he became my thesis advisor. My thesis was an extension of my second junior paper, which, like my first one, had been written about a document that a professor wanted someone to write about. In this case, the professor had been Natalie Davis, and the document had been a pamphlet that accused Catherine de’ Medici of being a witch. Of course, there was much more to it than that. For my thesis, I decided (or perhaps Tony and Natalie did) that I would compare the court pageantry devised for and by Catherine de’ Medici with that devised for and by Elizabeth I and analyze how effective each queen was at getting the populace to accept the political messages that she sought to convey through the pageants. Tony had me working with a two-volume set of books written by John Nichols in 1788 entitled The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, which was a key source since it supposedly contained eyewitness accounts of Elizabeth’s pageants. The only problem was that Princeton didn’t seem to have the second volume. But Mount Holyoke did, so in December 1980, Tony arranged for the history department to send me to Mount Holyoke, where I sat in a dark library for three days copying the information I needed. I felt like a professional scholar, having to travel to study the necessary sources. (Later, I discovered that Firestone had had the second volume after all.) In May 2010, almost 30 years later, while at Princeton for the day with my son Aron on a college visit, I was having lunch with Tony while Aron attended a class. We were talking about my thesis. “I remember when you sent me to Mount Holyoke to get some book,” I said. I couldn’t have remembered the name of the book if someone had offered me a million dollars. “Ah yes,” he said, without missing a beat, “the Nichols.”

After that same lunch, Tony walked me to meet up with Aron for a campus tour. I introduced them, and somehow it came out, as it always did, that Aron intended to join the Israel Defense Forces after college. Tony told him all about how his own son, Sam, had become a Marine pilot after attending the University of Chicago. (This was hard to grasp, since I have photos of Sam at the age of one, toddling on the grass outside Dickinson Hall.) Since most people at that time tried to discourage Aron from joining the military, I really appreciated Tony’s sharing this story.

Between 1981 and 2010, I visited with Tony a few times, including in 2001 and 2003, when I served on the History Department Advisory Council at Tony’s and Bill Jordan’s recommendation. It was a real thrill to serve on the Council and to meet with Tony and Bill no longer as a mere undergraduate student, but as a professional equal. But some of my fondest memories of Tony involve Aron, who came to Princeton in the fall of 2011 as a member of the Class of 2015.

When Aron started at Princeton, of course I encouraged him to take a class with Tony, but he informed me early on that it probably wouldn’t happen because he wanted to take so many politics courses. So I was thrilled when he told me that he would be taking Tony’s History 448 (An Introduction to the Discipline) this past fall. But, he warned, “you can’t say anything [to Tony].” (Aron and I have different last names, so it wouldn’t have been obvious from our names that he was my son.) I was pretty sure that Tony would remember Aron, not just from the visit, but because I had e-mailed Tony to tell him that Aron had been admitted, and I had also asked Tony what he thought of a particular professor whose course Aron was thinking of taking; but as instructed, I said nothing.

Aron was as impressed by Tony as I had been back in 1977: “If only every professor at Princeton were as good as he is,” he said. One day, Aron called me and said, “I think Grafton mentioned you in class today.” I asked what he meant. Aron said that Tony had been talking about former students who had come back to visit and that he had mentioned “one woman who brought her son, who had won a prize for her thesis.” That may have been a subtle hint to Aron, because of course, Tony knew who he was the whole time, but he didn’t let on until the end of the course.

This past January, when I was at Princeton for a class event, I had the privilege and pleasure of spending three hours with Tony while I waited for Shabbat to end and he waited for students to complete an exam in one of his courses. We had planned just to meet for coffee, but the time just flew. He showed me the library renovations, and I got to see his secret office, and we talked about all kinds of things, from Princeton past to Princeton present to his post-Princeton future to what happens to our children when they grow up. It was just wonderful.

But the best part happened completely by chance. As Tony and I sat in Frist opposite the coffee bar, Aron happened to come around the corner. He wasn’t looking for me – he had no idea I was there at that particular point in time – so it was totally by chance. Of course, he stopped to talk with us. We all love to share experiences with our kids when we can, and it had been a really special treat to have Aron talk to me during the semester about his experiences in Tony’s class. But it was another thing entirely to see him and Tony actually talking together. Those few minutes of live conversation with the two of them meant more to me as a former student and current parent than I can possibly explain. I will cherish that memory for the rest of my life.


Tony is a dear friend and a brilliant and generous scholar. I would just like to mention a small example of his great influence on my own scholarship. His volume two of his Joseph Scaliger study, published by Oxford in 1993, which is a masterpiece, contains numerous quite lengthy Latin quotations (which Oxford miraculously allowed to stay in along with his English translations). These translations are incredibly fluid and beautifully accurate – each one is a small masterpiece in itself, and they have become models for my own (with Chiara Bariviera) translation of a piece by another sixteenth-century Latin writer, Agostino Steuco, who also, like Scaliger, loved long sentences. Which is to say, Tony’s presence is always there, even when he is somewhere else!

Pam Long and Tony in Rome by the Ponte Rotto, Nov. 2007
Pam Long and Tony in Rome by the Ponte Rotto, Nov. 2007


FROM CATHERINE S. ABOU-NEMEH (Victoria University of Wellington; PhD Princeton 2012)

Professor Grafton is an extraordinary teacher. He shows by example that teaching is a mutual contract between teacher and student. When I, then a graduate student at Princeton, first precepted for his survey course on European history, I noticed he had a special morning practice. Every lecture he would arrive early and personally greet each student, as he gave her or him a lecture handout. When I asked Tony why he did that, he told me he liked to get to know each student. His practice of personally handing students a lecture outline, taken deeper, shows how he believes teaching and learning are, at their basis, democratic, participatory, and intimate. This first step of acquaintance and gesture towards a sustained dialogue means teaching is a shared journey of learning rather than a professorial lecture to a hall of nameless students.




It is a great pleasure to take a moment to cast my mind back across the innumerable acts of human generosity and scholarly fellowship received at the hand, lip, and pen of Anthony T. Grafton over the last twenty-five years. Where to begin? Perhaps with the memory of those many Friday mornings during my junior year as a Princeton undergraduate, those Friday mornings when, promptly at 7am, my (landline) telephone would ring — my wakeup call from Professor Grafton, a kindly agreed-upon indication that we were shortly to meet for our weekly tutorial in early modern Latin. It is uncommon for a chaired professor to condescend to a private reading class with an undergraduate — it is something closer to unheard of for said professor to extend the intimacy of his pedagogical ministrations all the way to the bedside table, so as to make absolutely certain that his sleepy pupil missed not a moment of the appointed lesson!

And then there is the matter of that particular micro-cassette recording. For a time, this object made a small circuit among a coterie of cult-like devotees of Grafton’s power: in the recording (I made them of our translation sessions because it was so difficult to keep up) one can hear clearly that Grafton is both:

  • reading directly into English from the Latin text a highly technical passage on the construction of a lens-grinding machine with multiple-geared axels set at oblique angles (a perfectly incomprehensible passage in any language);
  • and…typing an email at the same time.

This in itself is pretty impressive, but what was comical/stupefying was the moment where I, the confused student, interrupt to ask how it is that the professor has construed a particular word beginning “uu…”. One can hear my plaintive, beleaguered, Friday-morning-before-9am, undergraduate voice bleat despairingly, “but Professor Grafton, that word is not in the dictionary.” To which one hears Grafton (still typing an email, his voice obviously directed toward the screen of his computer) explain patiently, “for sure — that’s because the first ‘u’ is an ‘n’ printed upside-down.”

It was a moment of great importance to me as a young scholar. Yes, there was the simple mastery that it reflected; but there was also what it implied about what it would mean to become a genuine interlocutor in the world of erudition before which I sat. Things as yet beyond my conception would have to become matters so obvious as to be entirely unremarkable. And that was remarkable. The distance between me and what it would be to be truly learned had just been measured in a 180-degree rotation. The letter had been turned upside-down. But so too, in a way, had been my understanding.

All of this was the Grafton sometimes spoken of on C floor of Firestone Library as “stupor mundi.” But in truth the moment that stays with me to this day as the most dramatic example of Tony’s magnificent generosity is that afternoon in 1996 when I chanced to check a cubbyhole assigned to me as an ABD adjunct instructor at Yale. I was, in that year, hanging on by a fragile thread: recently moved back to the US; completely confused about my dissertation; out of funding for my Ph.D. program; personally and academically unsettled. I hadn’t interacted with Tony in months, and had no reason to think he even remembered that I existed — much less was aware that I was struggling in a tender and transitional phase of scholarly maturation. The cubbyhole of an adjunct never receives any mail other than departmental flyers and periodic communiqués from the registrar’s office. But there, in the box, in an business-sized envelope of laid paper in an ivory hue, lay a one-page, typed personal letter, the contents of which may be summarized as simple and totally gratuitous encouragement: encouragement that I keep my wits about me, and my head down in my archival sources, and get my dissertation finished. It was, and remains, one of the very most remarkable moments of supportive fellowship I have been graced to receive across my ongoing education.

All of us who have worked closely with Tony have experienced, I think, the exquisite tincture of admiration and despair that such intimacy can occasion: admiration for a scholar so pure, so brilliant, and so spectacularly generous with his gifts; despair at the seemingly insurmountable challenge of aspiring to be the kind of thing that Tony so compellingly exemplifies — to be a true scholar and a true teacher, in the deepest possible sense.

Anthony Grafton embodies these ideals in ways that have changed many lives.


In the 70’s and 80’s of the last century, when Tony was working on his Scaliger I, he regularly spent some time in Leiden to do research at the University Library. Several times he stayed with us, then a young couple with small children. At about 8.30 in the morning, Tony would leave the house and walk to the library, where, by the way, he had also discovered the cafeteria and in particular a Dutch delicacy, sold at coffee time and called “gevulde koek”, sort of an almond paste cake, for which he soon took a fancy. The most surprising part of Tony’s stays, however, was that during breakfast he engaged in conversation in Dutch with my sons of 3 and 4 years old. Thus, one could hear Tony tell them, in the low and slow voice of a friendly bear: “Nu ga ik naar de bibliotheek, boeken eten en gevulde koeken lezen.” – “Now I am going to the library, to eat books and read ‘gevulde koeken’.”

One other amusing aspect of Tony’s stays with us was the way he continuously combed the different rooms of the house in search of books to read at night, or in the washroom, or after dinner, or during other spare moments. From the bookcases and bookshelves on every floor, in every room and study, he drew the volumes that interested him: novels, scholarly monographs, text editions, dissertations, early printed works, catalogues, off-prints, whatever; Tony’s interest in and appetite for reading knew no bounds. He took the volumes wherever he happened to find a place in the house to sit (or lie) down and to skim them. It was of course impossible for him to remember where precisely he had found each book, especially since, as he himself observed, my library was already “growing out of control.” So when, after some days, Tony left Leiden, we could begin to collect our books and to put them back in their places on the shelves. We found them back in the guest-room, in the living room, in the attic, in the hall, in the corridor, on the steps of staircases, on the landing, in the bathroom, in the garden, and in other places. Interestingly, several volumes preserve the manuscript annotations Tony made in them during his stay at my place. One day I will edit and publish these, as Graftoniana Leidensia, and show how they reflect a particular stage in Tony’s intellectual career.


Before I took Tony’s seminar in historiography my senior year, in 2006, Tony existed in my mind as only a by-line, a campus legend. I wrote for The Daily Princetonian and avidly read Tony’s op-eds, somehow both staggeringly erudite yet entirely comprehensible. (A model I long ago stopped trying to emulate.) Then there were his essays for The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New Republic, all publications I first discovered in college, and quickly became obsessed with. That I could take a class with the person who wrote them seemed one of the greatest gifts a Princeton education had to offer. To be sure, the actual topics he wrote about—Renaissance humanists, Italian architects, footnotes—were, on the surface, of little interest to me. But that wasn’t beside the point; it was the point: Through his writing, he made these things all seem worth knowing about. His work opened up intellectual worlds for me that—as a suburban kid from South Florida, who cared far more about sports than Sophocles—would have otherwise remained shut. If I could figure out how to do that myself, write like that, and learn it from the man who did it so prolifically, I figured I better jump on the opportunity before my time at Princeton ran out.

Then I arrived at class, in the basement of Firestone. The legend, the by-line, suddenly made flesh. Intimidated? You bet. And not least because the dozen other students in the class were the smartest kids I ever met, far above my pay-grade. But Tony’s trick was to leave any intellectual pretensions at the door. He never made you feel dumb for not getting his references. Instead he made whatever esoteric topic he might be discussing completely accessible through the colorful anecdote, humor, clear description. Tony would be the first to bemoan the assault on the humanities, and especially the Western tradition. But at risk of offending, I’d say that at least some of the blame lies with scholars who guard that knowledge as if it were a secret recipe; the barriers built high with jargon, pretension, a general disdain for the popular. Not Tony, and not the authors of the books he had us read: Carlos Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms, Natalie Zemon Davis’s The Return of Martin Guerre, Robert Darnton’s The Great Cat Massacre (still a favorite). Here were intellectual models I could follow, people who carried deeply about the past, yet made it come alive through riveting prose.

When Tony’s historiography seminar ended, it was the last semester of my senior year and I was at a crossroads—or rather, a cliff.   At least that’s how I felt. I wasn’t prepared to go the Ph.D. route, even though Tony’s seminar lodged the idea in my head. But I somehow felt that the normal journalism road wasn’t quite what I wanted either: I wasn’t a beat reporter type guy. I wanted to write about intellectual life, about the arts, books, ideas. And if I wasn’t able yet to contribute to the academic world as a peer, at least I could try to distill what scholars were doing for a lay audience, not unlike what Tony did in his own journalistic work. Not many of the publications I wrote for right after college valued that kind of stuff—or, if they did, I simply wasn’t that good at it. But I did manage to drop Tony’s name to get some memorable stories into print. Tony helped me get an interview with Natalie Zemon Davis, in her home in Toronto, which led to story about a project she had been working on about Jewish slave-owners in 16th century Suriname. Mentioning his name got me interviews with several other giants of history for a popular history I naively thought I could write (but long ago abandoned) about the changes in the historical profession. After several more years in journalism, though, I became convinced that what I really wanted to do was not just write about history, but actively contribute to it, just like Tony did.

Tony’s guidance has been crucial ever since. He’s been a steady source of references—but far more importantly, mentorship—ever since the moment I decided to go back to graduate school. I still find it remarkable that, after a decade since I was last his student, he still has time for me. Every email I write him receives a response, paragraphs long, and in less than a day. He still meets with me for lunch, coffee, whatever, whenever there’s time in the city. That he manages to do so with the academic, journalistic and family obligations he has is nothing short of stunning. But even if Tony’s role in my life ended in college, he would have left an indelible mark. Through his teaching, and through his writing, he taught me what it really means to be a humanist—to not only “appreciate” the arts and ideas, but to scrutinize them, to find meaning in them, to live with them, and to even live by them.

I hesitate to call Tony my personal and professional role model if only because of the fear that saying so would be setting a bar too high for myself. Achieving one-third of what he has would be achievement enough.

FROM SARAH GWYNETH ROSS (Postdoctoral Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, 2006-2008)

Ladies and gentlemen: Grafton Unplugged! It is early in the autumn of 2006. A new postdoc in Princeton’s Society of Fellows sits in East Pyne’s auditorium for a class meeting of HUM, a course that it is her (daunting) pleasure to team-teach this semester with three colleagues from other departments. But today the instructors have a reprieve: a guest lecture on Herodotus and Thucydides. As most teachers know and most doctoral students will learn in time, early-career lecturing usually constitutes less an act of pedagogy than a rite of passage, to be sweated through (one prays) competently, even if inelegantly. Imagine, then, the bedazzlement of watching The Grafton lecture. 
Before his first words, The Grafton abandons the lectern and the mic. He takes five paces from that little wooden rostrum to which the new instructor so desperately clings. He stops, throwing wide his arms in a gesture of commencement and benediction and laying bare one of his famously amusing ties. He has found his mark, from which he will not move for fifty minutes. And now the words. Clio sings in this history of history – these peculiar characters, distant centuries, and still strangely familiar priorities and problems and possibilities. Deft rhetoric now bends around thorny turns of erudition, now soars toward pinnacles of our common humanity, now steps aside for a learned jest. (Isocrates and Quintilian, Demosthenes and Cicero, must be somewhere hugging themselves, and maybe each other, with joy!) Not a laptop; not a book or a page; no, not so much as a PostIt before him. 
This was my first experience of Grafton Unplugged, and this example of how to teach – how to communicate as a teacher – comes often to my mind when I step into the classroom. We all need impossible models; this is one of my favorites.


The Sing-Song of the Graftonian Grad Student 

By Suzanne Marchand, with debts and apologies to Rudyard Kipling. (Note: though never technically a grad student of Tony’s, as a junior colleague of his at Princeton in the years 1992-9 I felt I received a second grad school training, and I greatly envied the lucky people who were his true students! This is a tribute then, to him, and to them.)

Not always, dearly Beloved, was the Graftonian Grad Student as now we do behold him, but he was a different animal, with 20/20 vision, and a banal vocabulary. He was bright but he was bland and his reading was pedestrian. He sat in his café in the middle of New England, and he wrote to the Great God Graf.

He wrote to Graf at ten before dinnertime, saying, ‘Make me different from all other grad students; make me learned in all things Latinate by six this afternoon.’

Up jumped Graf from his den in Dickinson, and shouted: ‘Yes, I will!’

Graf called up Reading List—Running Dog Reading List—starting with the ancients, veering into Asia, basking in the Renaissance, tearing through the post mod, and tossed her to Young Grad Student. Graf said, ‘Now List, to work! Do you see that gentleman, idling in the café? He wants to be different from all other grad students; he wants to be wise, and a learned Latinist. List, let’s make him so!’

Up spoke Reading List—Running Dog Reading List—and said, ‘What, that normal Joe?’

Off ran Reading List—Running Dog Reading List—always growing, grinning like a codicil, ran after Young Grad Student.

Off went Grad Student, reading like a lazy fly, writing like a baggy coat, chased by Running Dog Reading List.

Thus, O Beloved, ends the first part of our tale!

He read through his Wheelock; he read through his Homer; he read through his Virgil and the sources of Eusebius. He read ‘til his eye-sockets ached.

He had to!

Still ran Reading List—Running Dog Reading List—always growing, grinning like a book wheel, never getting simpler, always getting longer, chasing Young Grad Student.

He had to!

Still read Grad Student, Young Man Grad Student. He read through the Thomists; he read through the Donatists. He read through his Valla and his Marsiglio of Padua. He conjugated verbs and he spiffed up his syntax. He wrote ‘til his lower back froze.

He had to!

Still ran Reading List—Running Dog Reading List—longer and longer, grinning like a footnote, never getting shorter, never getting simpler, and they came to the Prelim Gap.

Now there wasn’t any Wiki and there wasn’t any cheat-sheet; and Grad Student’s laptop crashed. But he choked down a Wawa dog and pulled out a legal pad; he nested in the Firestone–and he wrote.

He had to!

He wrote about Plato; he wrote about Cato; he wrote about Gibbon and the essays of Arnaldo. He wrote through the question on the origins of the Miniscule. He wrote like a half-baked Hobbes.

And he passed!

But still ran Reading List—Running Dog Reading List—ever getting longer, ever getting stranger, and sinking into Grad Student’s dreams.

First he wrote book reviews; then he wrote essays. His Visa was in hock to the Amazon Marketplace. He typed up a paper on fevers in Byzantium, and stunned three priests at Kalamazoo.

Still ran Reading List—Running Dog Reading List—now adding Greek texts, now adding Hebrew texts, slathering on the German bombast.

Grad Student read like a robot; like a sawmill in a forest; like Mr. Coffee on a Monday morning.

He had to!

He piled up his books; he piled up his notecards; he dashed to the Mall with a prescription for contacts. And he churned out a thousand-page thesis.

He had to!

Still ran Reading List–Running Dog Reading List—getting ever longer, getting ever stranger, ever more polyglot, ever more erudite, now disturbing Grad Student’s sleep.

So he checked his Scaliger, and he checked his particles, he polished up the section on the beards of the patriarchs, and he turned the darned thesis in.

Up jumped Graf from his digs in Dickinson, and said, ‘Ah, it’s six o’clock.’

Down fluttered Reading List—Dog-Eared Reading list—still getting longer, never getting simpler, settled on the desk, and stared.

Down sat Grad Student—Old Man Grad Student—pushed up his spectacles like a man expecting leisure-time, scowled at Reading List, and said, ‘Thank goodness that’s finished!’

Then said Graf, who is always a gentleman, ‘Why aren’t you grateful to Running Dog Reading List? Why don’t you thank him for all he has done for you?’

Then said Grad Student–Tired Old Grad Student—‘He’s chased me ‘til I lost my undergrad vocab; he chased me ‘til I lost by normal guy reference points; he made me think at the pace of a ping-pong game, and he played Simon Says with my eyes.’

Then said Graf, ever the gentleman, ‘Perhaps I am mistaken, but didn’t you ask me to make you different from all other grad students, and to make you a truly learned learned Latinist? And now it is six o’clock.’

‘Yes,’ said Grad Student, snatching up Reading List. ‘I see how you trained me. I thought you would do it by charms and incantations. I thought you would give me the Arcanum for brilliance. I thought I could learn without reading Ovid, without reading Augustine, without dragging my sorry ass through the torments of von Ranke. I must apologize, and express my gratitude to you, and to Reading List.’

Then added Grad Student—Wise Man Grad Student—‘I may be half-blind, and I may be a perfectionist. I may love chronologers and the heirs of Chladenius. I may spout Latinisms at the drop of a Petasus. But now I am different from all other grad students. I am a student of Tony Grafton.’

Up jumped Graf from his nest in the folios, and said, ‘Now this calls for a drink!’

November 26, 2014

FROM ADINA YOFFIE (BA Princeton ’02)

Tony always kept things lively by making (nerdy) popular-culture references. The first time I met Tony, we started walking down the Dickinson Hall hallway to his office. He said, “Walk this way.” So I bent over and shuffled like Igor in Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein. Tony grinned and said, “I’m glad to see you’ve had a classical education.” When I took Tony’s seminar “Art, Magic, and Science in the Renaissance,” he wore a different tie to every class. Each tie “tied” into one or more of the class’s themes. For the seminar on Witchcraft, he wore a wooden tie. I was proud to get and share the Monty Python reference: “Witches are made of wood.” There was nothing quite like the smile from Tony when you got one of his references.

FROM CYNTHIA HOUNG (Graduate Student, Princeton)

(1) Theater is one of Tony’s great loves. Most of us think of Tony as a great speaker, but lurking somewhere inside of that wonderful erudite scholar is another, equally wonderful, playful actor. One late afternoon, around the time of Halloween, we were standing in Dickinson’s gloomy hallways, bidding each other farewell after office hours, when Tony suddenly changed his tone of voice and said, well, you better get out of here before I detach my head and bowl it down the hall at you. As he spoke, he mimed the action of detaching his head and lofting it in the air, as if he were ready to lob it down the hall at me. I swear at that moment he looked for all the world like the very image of Irving’s Headless Horseman.And then he smiled and went back to being Tony Grafton again.
(2) Tony once worked a brief performance of “Tradition” (the song from The Fiddler on the Roof) into a discussion of the classical tradition. We were deliberating, in our usual scholarly way, on this topic, when he decided to change things up a bit and broke out into song. “Tradition!”


Tony hosted a dinner of early modernists sometime last spring. I thought I would be able to go, but realized that I’d overbooked the evening—I had to be at the dress rehearsal for a Greek play I was in. I sent a lengthy email apologizing. Tony shot back a short response: if the play happened to be the Bacchae, Louise had a severed head we could borrow. It was, instead, Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers, but Tony lent further support to my one-time thespian venture and came to opening night. Afterwards, we headed out into the rainy streets with a couple of classicists and wound up talking Vergil late into the night at a bar on the Upper West Side.
Grafton choephoroi

FROM BOB PECK (AB Princeton ‘88)

I had the great fortune of having Tony Grafton as my thesis advisor.  While not yet the global superstar he would become, he was already a revered and intimidating, albeit kind, intellectual.  One of my strongest memories of Princeton is our first meeting.  He disarmingly chatted about the practical burden of reading so fast:  the weight limit of the required amount of novel to get him to Europe! He then threw out in a flash a possible theme for my thesis and made me feel confident in being able to grab it as my own to develop.  The greatest gift Prof. Grafton offered is that I saw up close what expansive and deeply rigorous scholarship looks like.  While I chose not to pursue academics, my lasting respect and appreciation for the enterprise of the academy is grounded in that access to Professor Grafton, something for which I will forever be grateful.


On one of the many occasions when I went to visit Tony in his office to discuss my senior thesis, I was feeling particularly oppressed by uncertainty with regard to my plans after graduation. As I relayed my progress to him, he must have perceived my mood, because he changed the subject, asking me whether I had ever read one of his favorite pieces of humorist writing. No, I replied, and he promptly printed it out for me, referred me also to an excellent anthology of similar pieces, and regaled me with humorous anecdotes until I left, infused with new good humor and with the sense that my worries were unfounded.

FROM ALEXANDER BEVILACQUA  (former graduate student, PhD Princeton 2014)

As a graduate student I attended Tony’s Western civilization course, which covers antiquity to the Renaissance. The room was large, but Tony managed to make it feel intimate with his eloquent and yet immediate–even urgent–lecturing. Sitting in the back of the room, I admired his ability to paint with precision many different types of historical detail, from the armor of the hoplites to the personality of Charlemagne. Yet even more fascinating was discovering from week to week where he had chosen to lay the stress. While Plato and Aristotle were briefly evoked, it was Socrates who received the bulk of the attention in a lecture on Greek thought. Likewise unforgettable was the lecture on Augustine, which could have been a stand-alone portrait of a great mind. Some of Tony’s sympathies did not come as a shock–Frederic II Hohenstaufen, for instance. Yet others were revelations: for instance, his moving account of the trials of the early Christian martyrs Perpetua and Felicity, delivered at some length and with sincere feeling. Tony’s deep compassion for Christian believers across the ages was perhaps the most striking insight into his historical vision that his lecture course gave me.

FROM JACOB SOLL (mentored by TG as a graduate student, PhD Cambridge 1998)

Never forget, Grafton likes to eat, knows how to eat, and eats often.  He prefers Tuscan food, but can be tempted by les abats traditionnels français.  There is scholarly coherence to this. The photo shows us at Bibou in South Philadelphia, back to family roots, Sept 9, 2009–chef’s tasting menu, 8 courses.

TG & Jake Soll

FROM YUNG IN CHAE (BA, Princeton ’15)

At a dinner for the Berhman Undergraduate Society of Fellows, a student asked Professor Grafton if he’s ever seen anyone reading one of his books. “No,” he replied, “but I have been mistaken for Paul Krugman a few times! Occasionally people will come up to me on the streets of New York and say, ‘Thank you for that last column’…” He then went on to tell us that the evil professor in The Rule of Four was based on him. Clearly, Professor Grafton’s contributions to writing are severely underestimated!

FROM JACOB SOLL (mentored by TG as a graduate student, PhD Cambridge 1998)

When I first met Tony, it was in 1994 in Paris.  He had just presented work from Defenders of the Text at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes where I was doing a DEA.  I had read Defenders and, for the first time, come to believe that the cultural and social history of humanism was fundamental to history of politics.  His paper blew all of us away in the packed amphitheater.  The next day, I was walking to the Hemicycle in the main reading room of the old Bibliothèque Nationale de France and there was the larger than life Professor Grafton in front of me.  I remember clearly, he was wearing a worn, old t-shirt with a Latin inscription.  I introduced myself and and he asked about my work, and then, to be complete disbelief, offered to take me out to coffee (not a usual occurrence for lowly students in Paris).  But I couldn’t go–I had no working papers and had a babysitting gig with which I paid for my groceries.  This was pre-email, so its not like I could shoot him a message.  He told me to send him my work–normally a platitude.  But I did, he started reading it, and when I came to Princeton a year later to visit my not-yet-spouse then girlfriend, I put more work in his box and asked for a meeting.  When we met a few days later, he had read all my work (yes, closely).  And then… I then started working on my Ph.D with him and eventually moved to Princeton.  Not a big deal or anything.  Had Tony and I not met in the BN, I would most certainly not have continued in this business not only due to his professional support, but also due to the inspiration, guidance and teaching he generously provided.  I don’t know where he found the time or the generosity, but it changed everything for me.  It got really fun is his legendary rhetoric seminar–mostly about Erasmus. That was the summum bonum of my and many others’ graduate experience.  But the memory that sticks is that of Grafton, in the library, in his old Latin t-shirt, willing to talk shop with anyone who was doing the work.  That’s what its all about.  Grafton at the BN.

FROM ELIZABETH McCAHILL (former graduate student, PhD Princeton 2005)

My third year in grad school, Tony and I met every week to read Latin. We were sitting early (by my standards) one Friday morning at Small World, and I was dutifully and awkwardly translating from Poggio Bracciolini’s Facetiae, a collection of short jokes and stories. In one story, a boy sells a goose to a woman in exchange for sex. I tried to make him go home to his elders (ad superiores), but Tony, sounding frustrated, said “NO, NO. He flipped her over.” This was only joke # 49. We still had 224 jokes to go…


Princeton, 1996:
The first time I met Tony. His office in the Humanities Centre in East Pyne, not Dickinson. Me, fresh off the plane. Within a couple of minutes he mentioned he’d been enjoying Independence Day. Now in the Fall of 1996 there were two Independence Days: the mid-life crisis novel by Richard Ford … and the sci-fi extravaganza by Roland Emmerich. This had been noticed by a reviewer in the LRB, who had told a funny story about trying to get hold of a copy of the one, and being offered the other. Tony and I had clearly both been reading this review, because without missing a beat we looked at each other and quoted: “With aliens, or without?”