Michel de Montaigne

Montaigne, who died in 1592, was one of the world’s great essayists(you can buy his complete essays, which run to nearly 1400 pages of print, on Amazon Kindle for 89c-which has to be one of the great bargains of all time). He was reared as a minor French aristocrat by a pedantic father who raised him speaking only Latin. He didn’t speak French, his native language, until he was a teen. By the time he was a young adult, he had read every book that was in print at the time (quite an accomplishment, even though the number of books by modern standards was quite low. Milton was said to have done the same thing). The beauty of Montaigne’s essays are that not only are his insights into human nature sharp and poignant, but that his profound learning allows him to draw on 2000 years of classic and medieval writings to make his points. A modern reader not only reads Montaigne, but he feels like he is reading an explicative commentary on the great Greek and Roman writers who today no one has the time to read and whose minor works are often not available in English. Obviously Montaigne wasn’t a stamp collector. He died 250 years before the first stamp was issued. And yet as I read his essays I feel that I am with a mind that we collectors would be comfortable with and who thinks like us. On any subject he discusses, he makes the obvious points clearly but he sees below the surface and holds his subject to the light, examining it carefully. Philately is both born of and encourages a mind set that is pensive and seeks order in ways that are not always obvious. I am certain that most collectors would find Montaigne’s essays fascinating.

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