When the famous Royal Professor of Philosophy and Eloquence Petrus Ramus (1515-1572) gave a lecture, one of his most promising pupils stood by, ready to tug on his coat if he made a mistake.
That pupil was Ramus's future biographer, the much less famous Nicolas de Nancel (1539-1610), who recounted this anecdote in hisVita Rami (1599).
Nancel's insertion of himself into his life of Ramus is typical of early modern biographies of men of letters.
As biographer, the humanist man of letters situated himself within the same cultural field as his subject, thereby accrediting himself as a fellow man of letters by his display of humanistic competence.
The first study of monograph lives of men of letters in sixteenth-century France, this ground-breaking book offers valuable insights into biography's role as a form of social and cultural negotiation geared to advance the biographer's career.