I have a few miscellaneous bits of publishing news that might be of interest to readers of this blog. First, the URL for my website has changed. It used to have a “www” at the beginning, but it is now simply mgpiety.com. Simpler is better, I think. Unfortunately, the new URL is not the only change to the website. The site used to be hosted on Apple’s Mobile Me, but when Mobile Me closed down at the end of June, I had to move it to another host and the move resulted not only in the name change, but in the loss of several features of the site, such as the one that allowed people to post comments to the entries on my blog Reading Notes. There were quite a few comments, but they were all lost and it appears there’s no way to get them back. My plan is to create an entirely new website. I will probably move it to WordPress, the host of this blog. WordPress is fantastic.

I made another discovery relating to Ferrall and Repp’s excellent Danish-English dictionary from 1845. Not only is it available as an ebook that can be downloaded for free from Google Books, it is now available in actual physical book form. That is, it can be printed on demand for $28.69! Here is a link to the page on Amazon with the details.

Finally, I received and email recently from a journalist at Jyllands-Posten in Denmark. He said they were doing a series on important books published in the last 50 years and planned to include a piece on Garff’s biography of Kierkegaard. He said he’d noticed that I was writing a book on the biography and asked me how I saw the issue today, “almost ten years later.” He said the whole controversy had been largely forgotten in Denmark.

I responded that that was, unfortunately, what I had feared would happen and precisely why I was doing a book on the controversy. Everyone involved tried to cover the thing up. The Danish publisher GAD issued a corrected paperback edition of the book without indicating anywhere that it was a corrected edition. It has the same copyright date as the original uncorrected edition. This information was in the newspapers, of course, in fact Garff was effectively forced to promise in print to produce such a corrected edition, but who is going to read eight-year old newspaper articles, let alone ten or twenty-year old newspapers articles.

The situation is even worse with the English translation of the book. When I wrote to Peter Dougherty, the head of Princeton University Press, to inquire whether the new English paperback edition incorporated the corrections that had been made to the Danish paperback edition, he said he didn’t know what had been done to the Danish edition, but that the new English paperback incorporated 52 pages of corrections. Fifty-two pages–that’s a lot. We’re not talking typos here. We’re talking 52 pages of corrections of factual errors. Just as was the case with the Danish edition, however, there is nothing to alert readers to the fact that the English paperback is a new edition. It too has the same copyright date as the original uncorrected English edition. But where many Danes still remember the controversy, most readers of the English edition don’t know anything about it because the only piece that appeared on it in what could generously be called the popular media in the U.S. was a whitewash in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The controversy over Garff’s biography of Kierkegaard was not merely an indictment of scholarly publishing, it was a particularly ugly chapter of intellectual history more generally. It’s one we can all learn a great deal from though–if we don’t forget it.


  1. Did you see that there is a similar controversy (except an American philosopher) regarding a biography of Nietzsche? The defenses there are pretty absurd too.

    1. No, I didn’t know about that controversy. Can you send me a link to some info about it? I’d really like to learn more about it. I could even mention it in my book. Too many people thought I was going after Garff by defending Tudvad’s criticisms of his book. I never had anything against Garff though. I’ve known him for years and have always found him to be a very pleasant person. The problems with Garff’s book reflected larger problems with the tradition of biographical work on Kierkegaard. That was Tudvad’s point, but Danes love a scandal so they presented it as a personal feud. It would help me to put the whole thing in a better perspective if I could refer to other similar controversies. I do refer to a similar controversy in Denmark, but it would be even better if I could include a reference to a controversy outside Denmark.

      1. I posted the link below (feel free to delete it): http://chronicle.com/article/When-One-Biographer-Borrows/132705/?key=HT4nJAY8ZHEXMXFmMzYSZmlUa3BoN0h7MXYeP3RyblxWGQ==. This article cites the journal article by Anderson on the topic.

        Are you referring to the controversy regarding Kearns Goodwin’s biography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doris_Kearns_Goodwin#Plagiarism_controversy ? That could help too. This issue for both of those works is the plagiarism rather than plagiarism+factual errors. But you’re likely to get factual errors when you don’t do original research!

      2. No, I wasn’t referring to the Kearns Goodwin controversy. I was referring to the controversy over a biography of Henry Kissinger that was done by a Danish scholar, but which turned out to have been largely plagiarized from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Kissinger.

    1. Thanks for the ref. the the Chronicle piece. I have to say though that I lost a lot of faith in the Chronicle when the piece they did on the Kierkegaard controversy turned out to be a whitewash. I spoke to the reporter for more than an hour, but it appeared that someone convinced him that I was some kind of quack, so he completely ignored everything I said. Hopefully, this piece is better. At least it will give me a place to start. Thanks again!

      1. It isn’t much better. A rough paraphrase of the defense: “Sure he plagiarized… but the philosophy is original.”

  2. Thanks for the great post. I must confess I was previously unaware of the Ferrall (you misspelt this!) and Repp dictionary. I immediately downloaded the epub version from the Internet Archive (http://archive.org/details/adanishenglishd00reppgoog) onto my desktop screen; and I won’t have to rely on the recent Glydendal dictionary I must confess has been my primary resource.
    The Nietzsche biography controversy has been covered in a way very critical of the English language author, accused of plagiarising from a German book, at the NewAPPS group philosophy blog. Go to http://www.newappsblog.com/2012/07/julian-young-case-makes-the-chronicle-of-higher-education.html, and then follow links from there.

    1. Thanks for alerting me to the misspelling of “Ferrall.” You’ll love the dictionary. The preface is particularly interesting. Thanks also for the link to the piece on the Nietzsche controversy!

  3. Reblogged this on Stockerblog and commented:
    A post anyone interested in Kierkegaard, and in particular studying Kierkegaard in Danish would profit from reading. I stick my oar in amongst the comments at the bottom.

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