The Montaigne Library of Gilbert de Botton

The Montaigne scholar and financier Gilbert de Botton (1935–2000) first read the Essais in his mother’s Pléiade edition: ‘A most unstuffy great … who would draw me in deeply, as he has countless unwavering admirers since 1580’.* The motivation behind his extraordinary collection was a desire to recreate Montaigne’s library—either by buying Montaigne’s personal copies, where available, or other copies of works known to have belonged to or been read by him.

The ten personal copies make this the third largest collection of Montaigne’s books after those of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Bibliothèque municipale, Bordeaux. They include Montaigne’s heavily annotated copy of Lucretius’ De rerum natura (1563), discovered as recently as 1989. The collection also has a fine set of early printed editions of Montaigne’s works, including copies owned by Ben Jonson and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as well as modern editions and criticism, making this an outstanding resource for scholars of Montaigne.

* Foreword, in M. A. Screech, Montaigne’s annotated copy of Lucretius: a transcription and study of the manuscript, notes and pen-marks (Geneva, 1998), p. xvi.