In academia, a Festschrift (German pronunciation: [ˈfɛstʃrɪft]; plural, Festschriften [ˈfɛstʃrɪftən]) 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 (literally 'party-writing'; cognate with 'feast-script'). A comparable book presented posthumously is called a Gedenkschrift (memorial publication). Sometimes, the Latin term liber amicorum (literally: “book of friends”) is used for a Festschrift. The German word Festschrift has been incorporated into the English language.
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, for example, began in 1972 as a Festschrift to commemorate the 75th birthday of Joseph Vogt, a German classical historian. Four volumes were planned, but it has since reached 89 volumes (including several which were planned for the next years, but put on hold in 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 usually retained from German. Its plural may be either the original "Festschriften" or anglicized as "Festschrifts". Festschriften are often titled something like Essays in Honour of... or Essays Presented to...
A Festschrift compiled and published by electronic means on the internet is called a Webfestschrift (pronounced either [vɛp-] or [wɛb-]), a term coined by the editors of the late Boris Marshak's Webfestschrift, Eran ud Aneran, published online in October 2003. The corresponding "Webgedenkschrift" does not appear to be in frequent use as of July 2015.
Unusual Festschriften and feats concerning Festschriften
- Jagdish Bhagwati has been honored with six Festschriften, an extraordinary number. Three were presented in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States, the latter two on Bhagwati’s 60th birthday and the former during a scientific conference held at Rotterdam at the time of the award of an honorary degree. On Bhagwati’s 70th Birthday, two Festschrift conferences were organized. The sixth and final Festschrift was organized on 5 August 2005.
- James D. McCawley Two Festschriften, the earlier one (1972) subtitled Defamatory essays presented to James D. McCawley on his 33rd or 34th birthday and anthologizing pseudonymous articles. Some are by McCawley himself, notably the opening paper. The Festschrift was reprinted two decades later.
- Musicologist 's Festschrift would already be worthy of note just for being presented on his fortieth birthday (most being for 65th or later birthdays). What makes it especially stand out is the content: a set of articles by eminent scholars discussing a fictional composer Otto Jägermeier—a joke carried to a high extreme.
- A review of a Festschrift in honor of MIT's philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson ("Fact and Value") began with a list of thirteen conditions that must be satisfied by any adequate Festschrift ("conditions of adequacy"). The review was written by Drexel University philosopher Alan Soble.
- Though Isaac Asimov was best known for his long and illustrious career as a science fiction author, his writing came second to his academic career early in his life. In 1989, a number of his colleagues assembled an anthology which they called a Festschrift to honor the scientific contribution Asimov had made through his fiction, such as the many scientific terms he had coined. The anthology, entitled Foundation's Friends, included tributes to Thiotimoline, a fictional substance Asimov wrote about during his Ph.D. studies, as well as many tributes to robotics, a term coined by Asimov in the 1941 short story Liar!
- Irving Kristol, an American intellectual and founder of The Public Interest, was honored on his 75th birthday in 1995 with The Neoconservative Imagination (AEI Press), edited by Christopher DeMuth and Kristol's son, William Kristol, editor and publisher of The Weekly Standard (ISBN 0844738999)
- Charles Williams – Essays Presented to Charles Williams was already planned by its editor (and fellow Inklings member) C. S. Lewis when Williams unexpectedly died in 1945. Long in print, the book contains essays by Lewis himself ("On Stories"), J. R. R. Tolkien ("On Fairy-Stories"), Dorothy Sayers on Dante, and essays by , Owen Barfield and Warren Lewis.