Essays of Michel de Montaigne – Complete – Michel de Montaigne
Essays of Michel de Montaigne – Complete – The Essays (French: Essais, pronounced [esɛ]) of Michel de Montaigne are contained in three books and 107 chapters of varying length. Montaigne’s stated design in writing, publishing and revising the Essays over the period from approximately 1570 to 1592 was to record “some traits of my character and of my humours.” The Essays were first published in 1580 and cover a wide range of topics.
Montaigne’s Essays are one of the more enjoyable massive tomes of renaissance writing available, and if reading in English, one has two major modern choices of translation, Screech and Frame.
To start with Translation: Both major translations are excellent in their own way, but some differences are of note. When a translation is done, usually the translator will translate the major language of the text, French in this case, and leave quotes by the author from other languages, mostly Latin in this case, untranslated. The translator will provide a note with the translation of the quote, and preferably the source of the quote.
This is where Screech and Frame differ considerably. Screech does what should be done, and Frame just translates everything into English with no significant notations other than the person quoted. This means, however, that one may prefer one translation over the other based on this alone. For example, one that wishes to take a more scholarly look will likely use Screech (or the original), and one that simply wants to read for pleasure may have no problem using the translation by Frame. Also, Screech is British and Frame is American, so one may have other preferences for style.
As for the Physical Copy:
The physical copies of Frame’s translation (Stanford and Everyman’s) are vastly superior to the Penguin Classics Screech version. The Penguin paperback is thick, but in keeping with the generally small form factor, the print is terribly small, and the paper is of a horrible quality, which is the reason I also purchased the Kindle version.
As for the Kindle version:
The Penguin Classics Kindle file is much more pleasant to read and deal with than the paperback alternative. However, there are many errors in the Kindle version that are not present in the paperback version. It appears some items get corrected occasionally, but still, it is not nice to charge so much for the Kindle version, and not have it completely proofread and ready for primetime.
This actually lead me to have a conversation with a Penguin representative about the quality of the Kindle version, and in that conversation, I learned something I had not realized before. Penguin does not produce the Kindle version. Amazon does. So, all of the quality issues I have noticed in the past about Kindle versions essentially are the fault of Amazon rather than the publisher listed. I suppose the publisher only sells Amazon license to produce the Kindle file and sets price limitations, and Amazon does the rest. This needs to change, because there needs to be more quality control.
***EDIT 02/01/2016: SEE COMMENT BELOW BY RAFA. APPARENTLY, IT IS THE PUBLISHER’S FAULT, NOT AMAZON’S.***
However, because of the limitations of the Penguin paperback, I would still recommend the Kindle version if one is to read Screech.
Five stars for Montaigne’s Complete Essays, regardless of which version one chooses to read.
Born in 1533, Montaigne studied law and spent a number of years working as a counsellor before devoting his life to reading, writing and reflection. He died in 1586. Dr M.A. Screech is regarded as the world’s greatest authority on Montaigne.
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