In academia, a Festschrift (German pronunciation: [ˈfɛstʃʁɪft]; plural, Festschriften, [ˈfɛstʃrɪftən] or Festschrifts), is a book honoring a respected person, especially an academic, and presented during his or her lifetime. The term, borrowed from German, could be translated as celebration publication or celebratory (piece of) writing. A comparable book presented posthumously is called a Gedenkschrift (memorial publication).
A Festschrift contains original contributions by the honored academic's close colleagues, often including his or her former doctoral students. It is typically published on the occasion of the honoree's retirement, sixtieth or sixty-fifth birthday, or other notable career anniversary. A Festschrift can be anything from a slim volume to a work in several volumes. Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt began in 1972 as a Festschrift to commemorate the 75th birthday of Joseph Vogt, a German classical historian; it was planned for four volumes but has reached 89 volumes (several planned for the next years, but paused since 1998). The essays usually relate in some way to, or reflect upon, the honoree's contributions to their scholarly field, but can include important original research by the authors. Many Festschriften also feature a tabula gratulatoria, an extended list of academic colleagues and friends who send their best wishes to the honoree.
In the case of very prominent academics, several Festschriften might be prepared by various groups of students and colleagues, particularly if the scholar made significant contributions to several different fields.
In Germany it is an honor to be designated to prepare such a collection, and being selected by a prominent academic to edit a Festschrift can symbolize the proverbial passing of the torch.
Endel Tulving, a Canadian neuroscientist, proposed that "a Festschrift frequently enough also serves as a convenient place in which those who are invited to contribute find a permanent resting place for their otherwise unpublishable or at least difficult-to-publish papers."
The word has become widely used internationally. Since no English term for such a book had been in use, the German word Festschrift has been incorporated into the English language and typically is used without the italics that designate a foreign term, although the capitalization of the first letter is retained from German. Its plural may be either "Festschriften" or "Festschrifts". However, Festschriften are often titled something like Essays in Honour of... or Essays Presented to...
Increasingly, Festschriften are being compiled and published by electronic means. An electronic Festschrift is often called a Webfestschrift (pronounced either [vɛp-] or [wɛb-]). The first public use of this term was for Boris Marshak's Webfestschrift, Eran ud Aneran, published online in October 2003.
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