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In Montaigne's age hardly anyone made a living through writing. This book examines the practical world in which he and his peers wrote in order to suggest that works like the Essays, for all the status they enjoy today as classics, neither originated in detached pursuits nor flourished as self-contained activities. From where did his wealth come? How did he spend his days at home on the family estate? How did he publish his book? Following Montaigne from his wine presses to the printing press reveals that he may have expended much more time and effort managing his family's property than has been thought, that publishing demanded he perform professional tasks such as financing, proofreading, and revising for his publisher, and finally that rather than an alternative to a political career, writing may have played an integral role in his political ambitions.