Montaigne's Essays

  • 1.1 The First Booke
  • 1.2 The Second Booke
  • 1.3 The Third Booke

Table of Contents

  • Florio's Preface
  • To the curteous Reader
  • Dedicatory Poems
  • The Author to the Reader

The First Booke

  • Chapter I. By divers Meanes men come unto a like End
  • Chapter II. Of Sadnesse or Sorrowe
  • Chapter III. Our Affections are transported beyond our selves
  • Chapter IV. How the Soule dischargeth her Passions upon false objects, when the true faile it
  • Chapter V. Whether the Captaine of a Place Besieged ought to sallie forth to Parlie
  • Chapter VI. That the Houre of Parlies is dangerous
  • Chapter VII. That our Intention judgeth our Actions
  • Chapter VIII. Of Idlenesse
  • Chapter IX. Of Lyers
  • Chapter X. Of Readie or Slow Speech
  • Chapter XI. Of Prognostications
  • Chapter XII. Of Constancie
  • Chapter XIII. Of Ceremonies in the enterview of Kings
  • Chapter XIV. Men are punished by too-much opiniating themselves in a place without reason
  • Chapter XV. Of the punishment of Cowardise
  • Chapter XVI. A tricke of certaine Ambassadors
  • Chapter XVII. Of Feare
  • Chapter XVIII. That we should not judge of our Happinesse untill after our Death
  • Chapter XIX. That to Philosophise is to learn how to die
  • Chapter XX. On the force of Imagination
  • Chapter XXI. The profit of one man is the dammage of another
  • Chapter XXII. Of customs, and how a received law should not easily be changed
  • Chapter XXIII. Divers events from one selfsame counsell
  • Chapter XXIV. Of Pedantisme
  • Chapter XXV. Of the Institution and Education of Children; to the Ladie Diana of Foix
  • Chapter XXVI. It is follie to referre Truth or Falsehood to our sufficiencie
  • Chapter XXVII. Of Friendship
  • Chapter XXVIII. Nine and twentie Sonnets of Steven de la Boetie, to the Lady of Grammont
  • Chapter XXIX. Of Moderation
  • Chapter XXX. Of the Caniballes
  • Chapter XXXI. That a Man ought soberly to meddle with judging of Divine Lawes
  • Chapter XXXII. To avoid Voluptuousnesse in regard of Life
  • Chapter XXXIII. That Fortune is oftentimes met withall in pursuit of Reason
  • Chapter XXXIV. Of a Defect in our Policies
  • Chapter XXXV. Of the Use of Apparell
  • Chapter XXXVI. Of Cato the younger
  • Chapter XXXVII. How we weepe and laugh at one selfe-same thing
  • Chapter XXXVIII. Of Solitarinesse
  • Chapter XXXIX. A consideration upon Cicero
  • Chapter XL. That the taste of Goods or Evils doth greatly depend on the opinion we have of them
  • Chapter XLI. That a Man should not communicate his Glorie
  • Chapter XLII. Of the Inequalitie that is betweene us
  • Chapter XLIII. Of Sumptuarie Lawes, or Lawes for moderating of Expenses
  • Chapter XLIV. Of Sleeping
  • Chapter XLV. Of the Battell of Dreux
  • Chapter XLVI. Of Names
  • Chapter XLVII. Of the uncertaintie of our Judgement
  • Chapter XLVIII. Of Steeds, called in French Destriers
  • Chapter XLIX. Of ancient Customes
  • Chapter L. Of Democritus and Heraclitus
  • Chapter LI. Of the Vanitie of Words
  • Chapter LII. Of the Parcimonie of our Forefathers
  • Chapter LIII. Of a saying of Cæsar
  • Chapter LIV. Of vaine Subtlities, or subtill Devices
  • Chapter LV. Of Smels and Odors
  • Chapter LVI. Of Praiers and Orisons
  • Chapter LVII. Of Age

The Second Booke

  • Chapter I. Of the inconstancie of our Actions
  • Chapter II. Of Drunkennesse
  • Chapter III. A Custome of the Ile of Cea
  • Chapter IV. To-morrow is a New Day
  • Chapter V. Of Conscience
  • Chapter VI. Of Exercise or Practice
  • Chapter VII. Of the Recompenses or Rewards of Honour
  • Chapter VIII. Of the Affections of Fathers to their Children: To the Lady of Estissac
  • Chapter IX. Of the Parthians Armes
  • Chapter X. Of Bookes
  • Chapter XI. Of Crueltie
  • Chapter XII. An Apologie of Raymond Sebond
  • Chapter XIII. Of Judging of others' Death
  • Chapter XIV. How that our Spirit hindereth itself
  • Chapter XV. That our Desires are encreased by Difficultie
  • Chapter XVI. Of Glory
  • Chapter XVII. Of Presumption
  • Chapter XVIII. Of giving the Lie
  • Chapter XIX. Of the Liberty of Conscience
  • Chapter XX. We taste nothing purely
  • Chapter XXI. Against Idlenesse, or doing Nothing
  • Chapter XXII. Of Running Posts, or Couriers
  • Chapter XXIII. Of Bad Meanes emploied to a Good End
  • Chapter XXIV. Of the Roman Greatnesse
  • Chapter XXV. How a Man should not Counterfeit to be Sicke
  • Chapter XXVI. Of Thumbs
  • Chapter XXVII. Cowardize the Mother of Cruelty
  • Chapter XXVIII. All Things have their Season
  • Chapter XXIX. Of Vertue
  • Chapter XXX. Of a Monstrous Child
  • Chapter XXXI. Of Anger and Choler
  • Chapter XXXII. A Defence of Seneca and Plutarke
  • Chapter XXXIII. The Historie of Spurina
  • Chapter XXXIV. Observations concerning the meanes to warre after the maner of Julius Cæsar
  • Chapter XXXV. Of Three Good Women
  • Chapter XXXVI. Of the Worthiest and Most Excellent Men
  • Chapter XXXVII. Of the Resemblance betweene Children and Fathers

The Third Booke

  • Chapter I. Of Profit and Honesty
  • Chapter II. Of Repenting
  • Chapter III. Of Three Commerces or Societies
  • Chapter IV. Of Diverting and Diversions
  • Chapter V. Upon some Verses of Virgil
  • Chapter VI. Of Coaches
  • Chapter VII. Of the Incommoditie of Greatnesse
  • Chapter VIII. Of the Art of Conferring
  • Chapter IX. Of Vanitie
  • Chapter X. How one ought to governe his Will
  • Chapter XI. Of the Lame or Crippel
  • Chapter XII. Of Phisiognomy
  • Chapter XIII. Of Experience

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Guide to the classics: Michel de Montaigne’s Essays

montaigne's essays pdf

Associate Professor in Philosophy, Deakin University

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Matthew Sharpe is part of an ARC funded project on modern reinventions of the ancient idea of "philosophy as a way of life", in which Montaigne is a central figure.

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When Michel de Montaigne retired to his family estate in 1572, aged 38, he tells us that he wanted to write his famous Essays as a distraction for his idle mind . He neither wanted nor expected people beyond his circle of friends to be too interested.

His Essays’ preface almost warns us off:

Reader, you have here an honest book; … in writing it, I have proposed to myself no other than a domestic and private end. I have had no consideration at all either to your service or to my glory … Thus, reader, I myself am the matter of my book: there’s no reason that you should employ your leisure upon so frivolous and vain a subject. Therefore farewell.

The ensuing, free-ranging essays, although steeped in classical poetry, history and philosophy, are unquestionably something new in the history of Western thought. They were almost scandalous for their day.

No one before Montaigne in the Western canon had thought to devote pages to subjects as diverse and seemingly insignificant as “Of Smells”, “Of the Custom of Wearing Clothes”, “Of Posting” (letters, that is), “Of Thumbs” or “Of Sleep” — let alone reflections on the unruliness of the male appendage , a subject which repeatedly concerned him.

French philosopher Jacques Rancière has recently argued that modernism began with the opening up of the mundane, private and ordinary to artistic treatment. Modern art no longer restricts its subject matters to classical myths, biblical tales, the battles and dealings of Princes and prelates.

montaigne's essays pdf

If Rancière is right, it could be said that Montaigne’s 107 Essays, each between several hundred words and (in one case) several hundred pages, came close to inventing modernism in the late 16th century.

Montaigne frequently apologises for writing so much about himself. He is only a second rate politician and one-time Mayor of Bourdeaux, after all. With an almost Socratic irony , he tells us most about his own habits of writing in the essays titled “Of Presumption”, “Of Giving the Lie”, “Of Vanity”, and “Of Repentance”.

But the message of this latter essay is, quite simply, that non, je ne regrette rien , as a more recent French icon sang:

Were I to live my life over again, I should live it just as I have lived it; I neither complain of the past, nor do I fear the future; and if I am not much deceived, I am the same within that I am without … I have seen the grass, the blossom, and the fruit, and now see the withering; happily, however, because naturally.

Montaigne’s persistence in assembling his extraordinary dossier of stories, arguments, asides and observations on nearly everything under the sun (from how to parley with an enemy to whether women should be so demure in matters of sex , has been celebrated by admirers in nearly every generation.

Within a decade of his death, his Essays had left their mark on Bacon and Shakespeare. He was a hero to the enlighteners Montesquieu and Diderot. Voltaire celebrated Montaigne - a man educated only by his own reading, his father and his childhood tutors – as “the least methodical of all philosophers, but the wisest and most amiable”. Nietzsche claimed that the very existence of Montaigne’s Essays added to the joy of living in this world.

montaigne's essays pdf

More recently, Sarah Bakewell’s charming engagement with Montaigne, How to Live or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (2010) made the best-sellers’ lists. Even today’s initiatives in teaching philosophy in schools can look back to Montaigne (and his “ On the Education of Children ”) as a patron saint or sage .

So what are these Essays, which Montaigne protested were indistinguishable from their author? (“ My book and I go hand in hand together ”).

It’s a good question.

Anyone who tries to read the Essays systematically soon finds themselves overwhelmed by the sheer wealth of examples, anecdotes, digressions and curios Montaigne assembles for our delectation, often without more than the hint of a reason why.

To open the book is to venture into a world in which fortune consistently defies expectations; our senses are as uncertain as our understanding is prone to error; opposites turn out very often to be conjoined (“ the most universal quality is diversity ”); even vice can lead to virtue. Many titles seem to have no direct relation to their contents. Nearly everything our author says in one place is qualified, if not overturned, elsewhere.

Without pretending to untangle all of the knots of this “ book with a wild and desultory plan ”, let me tug here on a couple of Montaigne’s threads to invite and assist new readers to find their own way.

Philosophy (and writing) as a way of life

Some scholars argued that Montaigne began writing his essays as a want-to-be Stoic , hardening himself against the horrors of the French civil and religious wars , and his grief at the loss of his best friend Étienne de La Boétie through dysentery.

montaigne's essays pdf

Certainly, for Montaigne, as for ancient thinkers led by his favourites, Plutarch and the Roman Stoic Seneca, philosophy was not solely about constructing theoretical systems, writing books and articles. It was what one more recent admirer of Montaigne has called “ a way of life ”.

Montaigne has little time for forms of pedantry that value learning as a means to insulate scholars from the world, rather than opening out onto it. He writes :

Either our reason mocks us or it ought to have no other aim but our contentment.
We are great fools . ‘He has passed over his life in idleness,’ we say: ‘I have done nothing today.’ What? have you not lived? that is not only the fundamental, but the most illustrious of all your occupations.

One feature of the Essays is, accordingly, Montaigne’s fascination with the daily doings of men like Socrates and Cato the Younger ; two of those figures revered amongst the ancients as wise men or “ sages ”.

Their wisdom, he suggests , was chiefly evident in the lives they led (neither wrote a thing). In particular, it was proven by the nobility each showed in facing their deaths. Socrates consented serenely to taking hemlock, having been sentenced unjustly to death by the Athenians. Cato stabbed himself to death after having meditated upon Socrates’ example , in order not to cede to Julius Caesar’s coup d’état .

montaigne's essays pdf

To achieve such “philosophic” constancy, Montaigne saw, requires a good deal more than book learning . Indeed, everything about our passions and, above all, our imagination , speaks against achieving that perfect tranquillity the classical thinkers saw as the highest philosophical goal.

We discharge our hopes and fears, very often, on the wrong objects, Montaigne notes , in an observation that anticipates the thinking of Freud and modern psychology. Always, these emotions dwell on things we cannot presently change. Sometimes, they inhibit our ability to see and deal in a supple way with the changing demands of life.

Philosophy, in this classical view, involves a retraining of our ways of thinking, seeing and being in the world. Montaigne’s earlier essay “ To philosophise is to learn how to die ” is perhaps the clearest exemplar of his indebtedness to this ancient idea of philosophy.

Yet there is a strong sense in which all of the Essays are a form of what one 20th century author has dubbed “ self-writing ”: an ethical exercise to “strengthen and enlighten” Montaigne’s own judgement, as much as that of we readers:

And though nobody should read me, have I wasted time in entertaining myself so many idle hours in so pleasing and useful thoughts? … I have no more made my book than my book has made me: it is a book consubstantial with the author, of a peculiar design, a parcel of my life …

As for the seeming disorder of the product, and Montaigne’s frequent claims that he is playing the fool , this is arguably one more feature of the Essays that reflects his Socratic irony. Montaigne wants to leave us with some work to do and scope to find our own paths through the labyrinth of his thoughts, or alternatively, to bobble about on their diverting surfaces .

A free-thinking sceptic

Yet Montaigne’s Essays, for all of their classicism and their idiosyncracies, are rightly numbered as one of the founding texts of modern thought . Their author keeps his own prerogatives, even as he bows deferentially before the altars of ancient heroes like Socrates, Cato, Alexander the Great or the Theban general Epaminondas .

montaigne's essays pdf

There is a good deal of the Christian, Augustinian legacy in Montaigne’s makeup. And of all the philosophers, he most frequently echoes ancient sceptics like Pyrrho or Carneades who argued that we can know almost nothing with certainty. This is especially true concerning the “ultimate questions” the Catholics and Huguenots of Montaigne’s day were bloodily contesting.

Writing in a time of cruel sectarian violence , Montaigne is unconvinced by the ageless claim that having a dogmatic faith is necessary or especially effective in assisting people to love their neighbours :

Between ourselves, I have ever observed supercelestial opinions and subterranean manners to be of singular accord …

This scepticism applies as much to the pagan ideal of a perfected philosophical sage as it does to theological speculations.

Socrates’ constancy before death, Montaigne concludes, was simply too demanding for most people, almost superhuman . As for Cato’s proud suicide, Montaigne takes liberty to doubt whether it was as much the product of Stoic tranquility, as of a singular turn of mind that could take pleasure in such extreme virtue .

Indeed when it comes to his essays “ Of Moderation ” or “ Of Virtue ”, Montaigne quietly breaks the ancient mold. Instead of celebrating the feats of the world’s Catos or Alexanders, here he lists example after example of people moved by their sense of transcendent self-righteousness to acts of murderous or suicidal excess.

Even virtue can become vicious, these essays imply, unless we know how to moderate our own presumptions.

Of cannibals and cruelties

If there is one form of argument Montaigne uses most often, it is the sceptical argument drawing on the disagreement amongst even the wisest authorities.

If human beings could know if, say, the soul was immortal, with or without the body, or dissolved when we die … then the wisest people would all have come to the same conclusions by now, the argument goes. Yet even the “most knowing” authorities disagree about such things, Montaigne delights in showing us .

The existence of such “ an infinite confusion ” of opinions and customs ceases to be the problem, for Montaigne. It points the way to a new kind of solution, and could in fact enlighten us.

Documenting such manifold differences between customs and opinions is, for him, an education in humility :

Manners and opinions contrary to mine do not so much displease as instruct me; nor so much make me proud as they humble me.

His essay “ Of Cannibals ” for instance, presents all of the different aspects of American Indian culture, as known to Montaigne through travellers’ reports then filtering back into Europe. For the most part, he finds these “savages’” society ethically equal, if not far superior, to that of war-torn France’s — a perspective that Voltaire and Rousseau would echo nearly 200 years later.

We are horrified at the prospect of eating our ancestors. Yet Montaigne imagines that from the Indians’ perspective, Western practices of cremating our deceased, or burying their bodies to be devoured by the worms must seem every bit as callous.

And while we are at it, Montaigne adds that consuming people after they are dead seems a good deal less cruel and inhumane than torturing folk we don’t even know are guilty of any crime whilst they are still alive …

A gay and sociable wisdom

montaigne's essays pdf

“So what is left then?”, the reader might ask, as Montaigne undermines one presumption after another, and piles up exceptions like they had become the only rule.

A very great deal , is the answer. With metaphysics, theology, and the feats of godlike sages all under a “ suspension of judgment ”, we become witnesses as we read the Essays to a key document in the modern revaluation and valorization of everyday life.

There is, for instance, Montaigne’s scandalously demotic habit of interlacing words, stories and actions from his neighbours, the local peasants (and peasant women) with examples from the greats of Christian and pagan history. As he writes :

I have known in my time a hundred artisans, a hundred labourers, wiser and more happy than the rectors of the university, and whom I had much rather have resembled.

By the end of the Essays, Montaigne has begun openly to suggest that, if tranquillity, constancy, bravery, and honour are the goals the wise hold up for us, they can all be seen in much greater abundance amongst the salt of the earth than amongst the rich and famous:

I propose a life ordinary and without lustre: ‘tis all one … To enter a breach, conduct an embassy, govern a people, are actions of renown; to … laugh, sell, pay, love, hate, and gently and justly converse with our own families and with ourselves … not to give our selves the lie, that is rarer, more difficult and less remarkable …

And so we arrive with these last Essays at a sentiment better known today from another philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, the author of A Gay Science (1882) .

Montaigne’s closing essays repeat the avowal that: “ I love a gay and civil wisdom … .” But in contrast to his later Germanic admirer, the music here is less Wagner or Beethoven than it is Mozart (as it were), and Montaigne’s spirit much less agonised than gently serene.

It was Voltaire, again, who said that life is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think. Montaigne adopts and admires the comic perspective . As he writes in “Of Experience”:

It is not of much use to go upon stilts , for, when upon stilts, we must still walk with our legs; and when seated upon the most elevated throne in the world, we are still perched on our own bums.
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book: The Complete Essays of Montaigne

The Complete Essays of Montaigne

  • Michel Eyquem Montaigne
  • Translated by: Donald M. Frame

Please login or register with De Gruyter to order this product.

  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Copyright year: 1958
  • Audience: College/higher education;
  • Main content: 908
  • Published: June 1, 1958
  • ISBN: 9780804780773


Montaigne: Essays

53 pages • 1 hour read

Montaigne: Selected Essays

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

  • Translator’s Preface-Book 1, Chapter 21
  • Book 1, Chapters 26, 28, 31, 39, and 50
  • Book 2, Chapters 6, 11, and 17
  • Book 2, Chapters 18, 28, and 30
  • Book 3, Chapters 2, 12, and 13
  • “Discourse on Voluntary Servitude”
  • Key Figures
  • Symbols & Motifs
  • Important Quotes
  • Essay Topics

Summary and Study Guide

Montaigne: Selected Essays comes from the pen of Michel de Montaigne , a 16th-century French jurist, advisor, and diplomat whose many adventures would make a compelling autobiography. Instead, Montaigne writes a series of short works that examine his innermost thoughts and feelings, attitudes and beliefs, preferences and daily habits. This would seem a dull topic, but Montaigne’s charm, wit, and wisdom shine through and make the mundane seem fascinating. His attitude is tolerant and open-minded for his era, and his ideas and insights remain relevant today. The essays have entertained and enlightened readers worldwide for over 400 years.

This edition of his book features eighteen of Montaigne’s 107 essays, along with a well-known and influential discourse by Montaigne’s dearest friend, Étienne de la Boétie . The essays were first published as three Books; those chosen for this edition are organized by Book. Most of the essays discuss several topics, but each contains a central theme.

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In Book 1, the first essay, “By Differing Means We Attain the Same End,” describes two ways to win mercy after defeat in battle. The second essay, “Idleness,” explores the problem of a wandering mind. The third, “Through Philosophy We Learn How to Die,” suggests a proper attitude toward death. “The Power of the Imagination” shows how superstitions can kill, self-consciousness can defeat, and a doctor’s reassurance can cure.

“The Education of Children” lists Montaigne’s surprisingly modern ideas for how kids should be taught. In the process, we learn his prescription for how to help a young person grow into someone who will lead a worthwhile life.

“Friendship” explores the difference between ordinary companions and true friends. “The Cannibals” suggests that so-called “barbaric” tribes have lessons to teach Europeans. “Democritus and Heraclitus” finds common cause with famous pessimists.

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In Book 2, “Practice” gives tips on how to prepare for death; “Cruelty” talks about how hard it is to be virtuous; “Being Presumptuous” attacks vanity and putting on airs; “Correcting” rails against lying. In “To Everything There Is a Season,” Montaigne scoffs at old men who try to stay young. “A Malformed Child” opines that everything, even the strange or deformed, is part of Nature’s plan.

Three selections come from Book 3: “Repenting”, on the folly of apologizing for who you really are; “Physiognomy,” on the wars and plagues that visit Montaigne’s neighborhood; and “Experience,” which touts the virtues of common sense over fancy ideals.

The final section is the essay “Discourse on Voluntary Servitude,” a call to arms against tyranny that influences revolutionaries and philosophers for centuries. It also affects Montaigne’s thinking, as it comes from the man Montaigne loved most in the world, Étienne de la Boétie.

Montaigne’s style is direct, lively, humorous, and sometimes bawdy and coarse. He wanders from topic to topic in the style of a lively conversation. Though he cites frequently the sayings of ancient philosophers, he also trusts his own judgment, and the gist of the essays is that we, too, should trust ourselves—that life isn’t so much a problem to be solved as an experience to be enjoyed for what it is.

The book’s original French is translated into English for modern Americans; it contains extensive footnotes, many of which provide historical background and serve as annotations well worth consulting.

Editor’s note: This guide refers to the 2012 Hackett Classics edition, translated by James B. Atkinson and Martin Sices.

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  • Published: 05 November 2009

Effect of the quenching temperature on the structural state of high-speed steels

  • D. I. Doronin 1 ,
  • A. D. Rusakov 2 &
  • Yu. A. Lukina 1  

Russian Metallurgy (Metally) volume  2009 ,  pages 329–333 ( 2009 ) Cite this article

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The effect of the temperature of heating for quenching on the temperatures of the onset of intense grain growth and the onset of melting of grain boundaries is studied for high-speed steels of six grades. The mechanical properties of the tool are shown to be controlled with allowance for its design and operating conditions.

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V. I. Baranchikov, A. V. Zharikov, N. D. Yudina, et al., Advanced Cutting Tools and Metal Cutting Conditions: A Handbook (Mashinostroenie, Moscow, 1990) [in Russian].

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JSC Elektrostal Heavy Engineering Works (JCS EZTM), Elektrostal’, Moscow oblast, Russia

D. I. Doronin & Yu. A. Lukina

Baikov Institute of Metallurgy and Materials Science, Russian Academy of Sciences, Leninskii pr. 49, Moscow, 119991, Russia

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Original Russian Text © D.I. Doronin, A.D. Rusakov, Yu.A. Lukina, 2009, published in Metally, 2009, No. 4, pp. 63–66.

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Doronin, D.I., Rusakov, A.D. & Lukina, Y.A. Effect of the quenching temperature on the structural state of high-speed steels. Russ. Metall. 2009 , 329–333 (2009).

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Received : 18 February 2009

Published : 05 November 2009

Issue Date : August 2009


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