The dedication of Orfeo by Monteverdi, 1609
For the first time since beginning to blog, I did not write an entry on consecutive days. The weather was beautiful here in the northwest and the mountains were calling. I appreciate the hundreds of readers who visited the site during the lull in my productivity.
Today I was thinking about book dedications. I have always tried to write meaningful ones and I enjoy reading the other book dedications. The first dedication I wrote was for my master’s thesis in graduate school.
“To my father, who approved of my being inquisitive.”
This honored the memory of a dinner table conversation when I was young (at least as best as I can remember it.) My father told me I was inquisitive, and I asked what the word meant. After he told me, I asked if it was good to be inquisitive. He said yes.
My next one was for my doctoral dissertation.
To my mother and father
whose love nurtured me,
And to Jane,
whose love sustains me …
I suppose this represented the transition from a focus on parental love to the love of my spouse. The next was for a college ethics textbook:
“a lily among the thistles …” (Song of Solomon 2:2)
Anyone who knows me will find it ironic that I quote the Bible, which is, for the most part, a terrible and silly book. But I had recently run across the quote and was trying to capture the sense in which Jane is incorruptible. I dedicated my next book, Piaget’s Conception of Evolution to my graduate school mentor whom I mentioned in my last post.
To Richard J. Blackwell
an exemplar of moral and intellectual virtue
Professor Blackwell was the inspiration for that book so it seemed appropriate. Talking with him years later he told me that I was the only one to have ever dedicated a book to him. He was honored. My recent book The Meaning of Life: Religious, Philosophical, Transhumanist, and Scientific Perspectives bore this inscription:
For my children—Jennifer Emily, Katie Jane, Anne Marie, and Joshua Harrison—that you may live forever in a good, beautiful, and meaningful world;
And for Jane … that together we may somehow join them.
And I dedicated my last book, Who Are We?: Religious, Philosophical, Scientific and Transhumanist Theories Of Human Nature, as follows:
To Jane, who has a beautiful nature.
Finally here are my two favorite dedications, both from two of my intellectual heroes. The first is Will Durant’s dedication to his wife Ariel in his 1926 book, The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers one of the best-selling philosophy books ever published. At the time Durant was in his early forties and his wife was in her late twenties, so clearly he wrote it with the expectation that she would outlive him. As it turned out, they died a few days apart after almost seventy years of marriage. It conveys the notion that others will pick up where we leave off.
Grow strong, my comrade … that you may stand
Unshaken when I fall; that I may know
The shattered fragments of my song will come
At last to finer melody in you;
That I may tell my heart that you begin
Where passing I leave off, and fathom more.
― Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy
And here is the dedication by Bertrand Russell to his wife Edith. It was written when Russell was almost 80 years old, after many attempts at finding love. It is a wistful reminder through struggle and toil … love and peace can be found.
Through the long years
I sought peace,
I found ecstasy, I found anguish,
I found madness,
I found loneliness,
I found the solitary pain
that gnaws the heart,
But peace I did not find.
Now, old & near my end,
I have known you,
And, knowing you,
I have found both ecstasy & peace,
I know rest,
After so many lonely years.
I know what life & love may be.
Now, if I sleep,
I shall sleep fulfilled.