- Though famous for his novels, he wrote and taught philosophy
- "I am a philosopher; I write novels only on the weekends," he told the Guardian
Eco was 84.
"Umberto Eco was one of the great novelists and scholars of our time. Yet even more than for his timeless works, we will remember him for his exuberance, his vitality, his intense loyalties, and his wonderful company," said Bruce Nichols of publishing house Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Eco was the recipient of the Premio Strega, Italy's most prestigious literary award, was named a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by the French government, and is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, according to his publisher.
He was born in Alessandria in northwest Italy and studied medieval philosophy and literature at the University of Turin.
Though Eco was probably best known for his novels, he wrote and taught philosophy for many years, exploring such disciplines as semiotics and linguistics, among others.
He held positions at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Northwestern, Cambridge, Oxford and the University of Bologna, according to his website.
"I am a philosopher; I write novels only on the weekends," Eco told Britain's Guardian newspaper last year
. "As a philosopher I am interested in truth. Since it is very difficult to decide what's true or not I discovered that it's easier to arrive at truth through the analysis of fakes."
His book "The Name of the Rose" was adapted into a movie starring Sean Connery.