Did you know that…

1. Euclid is the most successful textbook writer of all time. His Elements, written around 300 B.C., has gone through more than 1,000 editions since the invention of printing.

2. Vergil, who is generally accepted as the greatest of the Roman poets, left instructions that, upon his death, his manuscript of the Aeneid should be burned because he had not been able to polish it. Roman emperor Augustus—who may have been the one who requested Vergil to write it—stepped in and countermanded Vergil’s request. He had others polish the work, and ordered it published.

3, The first volume of recipes was published in 62 A.D. by the Roman Apicius. Titled De Re Coquinaria, it described the feasts enjoyed by the Emperor Claudius.

4. As most early literate civilisations were located around the warm Mediterranean region, the first mention of an iceberg in world literature did not appear until the ninth century A.D., when an account of the travels of the Irish monk St. Brendan in the North Atlantic, three centuries before, appeared. It mentioned that he saw a “floating crystal castle.”

5. Paper was invented in China around 105 A.D., by the eunuch Ts’ai Lun. According to the official history of the Han dynasty (3rd century A.D.), Ts’ai Lun was given an aristocratic title after he presented Emperor Ho Ti with samples of paper. In 751 A.D., Chinese papermakers were captured by the Arabs at Samarkand, and by 794 A.D. several state-owned paper mills operated in Baghdad. The Arabs were manufacturing paper in Spain around 1150. It was not until 1590 that the first English paper mill was founded, at Dartford.

6. The story of Cinderella first appears in a Chinese book written in the 850s.

7. The first novel ever written is believed to be The Tale of Genji, written in the first decade of the 11th century by Murasaki Shibuku, a Japanese noblewoman. It contains 54 chapters.

8. In the early 11th century, Persian Sultan Mahmud promised the poet Firdausi one gold dinar (about $4.70) for each couplet of his poem Shah-nama or Book of Shahs (a poem containing the history of the Kings of Persia) upon completion. When Firdausi delivered the poem in 1010, it was 60,000 lines long. Mahmud’s advisors claimed the requisite fee would be exorbitant, and paid Firdausi in silver instead. Firdausi, outraged, left the court. In 1020, Mahmud was struck by the beauty of a couplet that he learned was written by Firdausi. He repented his miserliness and sent a camel caravan with 60,000 gold dinars’ worth of indigo to Firdausi with a letter of apology. Unfortunately, it arrived in the village of Tus as Firdausi’s funeral procession was passing through the streets.

9. The sole surviving written record of Mayan history is three codices written in hieroglyphs on bark paper. All three are now held in European cities.

10. Copernicus’ revolutionary book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, which argued that heavenly bodies move around the sun, ignited a scientific revolution, but was a financial failure. Published in 1543, it was overpriced and went out of print. A second edition was not printed until 1566, and a third edition was not printed until 1617.

11. Shakespeare used around 29,000 different words in his plays. About 6,000 words only appear once. About 10,000 words are not found in any surviving English literature prior to Shakespeare.

12. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a short story in 1838, “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket”, in which three shipwreck survivors in an open boat kill and eat the fourth, a man named Richard Parker. In 1884, in the real world, three shipwreck survivors in an open boat killed and ate the fourth, whose name was Richard Parker.

13. It is estimated that over 7,500,000,000 copies of the Bible have been made.

14. Agatha Christie is the top-selling English-language author of all time. She wrote 78 mystery novels that have sold an estimated 2,000,000,000 copies.

15. The Guinness Book of World Records, first published in 1955, got into itself nineteen years later, in 1974, by setting a record as the fastest-selling book in the world.

16. The largest book in the world, a copy of the Tripitaka, the sacred Buddhist text that includes Buddha’s teachings, is inscribed on 729 marble slabs, each 3.5′ × 5′ × 5″, and occupies a thirteen-acre site on the grounds of the Kuthodaw pagoda in Mandalay, Burma.

17. By the fifteenth century, manuscript copyists had set up mass-production workshops capable of turning out sizable quantities of books. An order in the year 1437 (found at Leyde, the Netherlands) called for 200 copies of the Psalms of Penitence, 200 of Cato’s Distichs in Flemish, and 400 of a small prayer book.



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