Artinian, Artine, 1907-2005Alternative names
Bulgarian/Armenian scholar of French literature and manuscript collector.
From the description of Artine Artinian Collection, 1785-1963. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 84696378
Artine Artinian was a distinguished scholar of French literature, as well as an astute manuscript collector. He was infected with the collecting "virus," as he put it, when as a young high school student, he bought twenty books from a friend who was moving out of town, among which were three volumes by Guy de Maupassant. Little did he know that from then on all his allowance would be destined to the purchase of Maupassant's works, first in English, then in French. As both his taste and his pocketbook matured, he followed the usual slippery slope of the collector, by buying first editions, progressing to numbered editions, and finally to accumulating Maupassant manuscripts and correspondence, as well as the literary output of other French writers from the Belle Époque, such as Proust, Flaubert, and Verlaine.
Of Armenian descent, Artine Artinian was born on Dec. 8, 1907 in Pazardjik, Bulgaria. As an adolescent, he worked as a shoe-shiner in Attleboro, Mass., after his family emigrated there in 1920. He was able to attend Bowdoin College (1931) with support from his loyal shoe-shining customers, and in later years, he returned the favor by establishing a scholarship fund for needy students there. He received a diploma from the Université de Paris in 1932, an A.M. from Harvard the following year, and a PhD from Columbia in 1941. His dissertation, Maupassant Criticism in France, 1880-1940, with an Inquiry into His Present Fame and a Bibliography, was published the same year. He also edited The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant (1955), which expurgated sixty-five inauthentic works from the Maupassant canon, and remains authoritative, even after half a century. In 1964, Artinian retired from his post as Chairman of the Division of Languages and Literature at Bard College, where he had been teaching since 1935. His collecting did not stop with retirement, however, as he continued to amass manuscripts and artwork, especially portraits, including artist self-portraits.
Professor Artinian believed that teaching was an art, and used his manuscript collection to motivate his students. In an article that he wrote for the Modern Language Journal in 1952, he encouraged teachers to enliven their lectures with the use of original documents in the classroom, and gave advice on how to accumulate them judiciously--even on a teacher's salary. My own collection has developed to its present size and scope over a period of many years. The story of its growth is full of memorable adventures, my life has been considerably enriched by associations with other collectors in this country and abroad, and contacts with autograph and book dealers have frequently developed into highly pleasant personal relations.
Artinian's legacy was not solely of the scholarly sort, however. Mary McCarthy used him as a template for her character Aristide Poncy in The Groves of the Academe (1952), after she was hired to teach at Bard in 1945. McCarthy portrayed Poncy as genial and innocent, if a trifle absent-minded, often returning from trips to France minus a student, and with a taste in dress that suggested Sherlock Holmes. Additionally, Gore Vidal used his name for the minor role of a psychiatrist in his play The Best Man (1960). In 1992, Artinian helped David Lehman flesh out the deconstructionist Paul de Man's chaotic years at Bard for the paperback edition of his book Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man.
Artine Artinian died on November 19, 2005. His wife Margaret Woodbridge Artinian, whom he met while at Columbia, preceded him in death earlier the same year. They are survived by two daughters and their son Robert, with whom Professor Artinian updated his earlier work in Maupassant Criticism: A Centennial Bibliography, 1880-1979 (1982).
From the guide to the Artine Artinian Collection TXRC06-A10., 1785-1963, (The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center)
- Book collectors--France
- Book collectors
- Europe--Civilization--19th century
- Authors, French--20th century
- French literature--19th century
- Europe--Civilization--20th century
- French literature--20th century
- Authors, French--19th century
- Europe (as recorded)
- France (as recorded)