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In 1845, he became professor of literature at the University of Barcelona, and held this post until his death at Vilafranca del Penedès on the July 16, 1884. The type of the scholarly recluse, Milà i Fontanals was almost unknown outside the walls of the university until 1859, when he was appointed president of the jocs florals at Barcelona.
On the publication of his treatise, De Los trovadores en España (1866), his merits became more generally recognized, and his monograph, De la poesía heróico-popular castellana (1873) revealed him to foreign scholars as a master of scientific method.