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111 votes

Are there any important biographies of nobodies?

Louis-François Pinagot He was an illiterate shoemaker in western France in the 19th century. French historian Alain Corbin picked Pinagot at random on a town registry, and wrote his biography as a ...
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90 votes
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Are there historical examples of audiences drawn to a work that was "so bad it's good"?

I’ll throw in a vote for Robert “Romeo” Coates, a theatre actor in Britain in the early 1800s. According to Wikipedia (emphasis mine): Despite this ridicule, Coates went on to tour the British ...
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62 votes

Are there historical examples of audiences drawn to a work that was "so bad it's good"?

The poet William McGonagall (born March 1825 and died 29 September 1902) is a famous example. McGonagall has been lampooned as the worst poet in British history. The chief criticisms are that he is ...
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49 votes

Are there historical examples of audiences drawn to a work that was "so bad it's good"?

Florence Foster Jenkins, known as the world's worst opera singer. "No one, before or since, has succeeded in liberating themselves quite so completely from the shackles of musical notation." ...
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42 votes

Why is the late Russian Empire associated with Byzantium while having little in common with it?

I'd say that historically, the ideology in Russia meant it preferred to compare itself to Byzantium, probably similarly to the way you can hear the US is compared to Rome. This was, and still ...
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39 votes
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How were books published in Ancient Greece?

There were no publishers, no royalties, and no copyright. All these things were invented after the spread of the printer press. If you are a scientist/philosopher, you would write your book yourself, ...
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35 votes

What's the meaning of a knight fighting a snail in medieval book illustrations?

This is an example of decorative marginalia, which is quite common on medieval manuscripts. Sometimes the marginalia relates to the context of the subject of that page of the manuscript, but often it ...
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30 votes
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Did Emanuel Lasker write a book declaring that Germany had to win World War I if civilization were to be saved?

It's likely not a book per se, but a brochure, of which he published several during the war. The most likely candidate would be the pamphlet "Die Selbsttäuschung unserer Feinde", Berlin, 1916. (On ...
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29 votes

Are there any important biographies of nobodies?

I think you may look into biographies of war heroes. War is an opportunity for a person to do something notable to attract biographers’ attention and still stay just one of the many. For example, The ...
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28 votes

Are there any important biographies of nobodies?

The Merchant of Prato by Iris Origo (1957) is a biography of Francesco Datini a 14th-century merchant banker. The only distinguishing factor of Datini is that by chance a huge stash of his written ...
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26 votes

Are there historical examples of audiences drawn to a work that was "so bad it's good"?

English As She Is Spoke was so bad it was enjoyable: English As She Is Spoke is the common name of a 19th-century book written by Pedro Carolino, and falsely additionally credited to José da Fonseca, ...
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23 votes

Are there any important biographies of nobodies?

Not a book, but there is a long-running documentary film series in the UK following the lives of ordinary people with a film every seven years from the first when they were seven years old. The latest,...
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22 votes

Were any works completely lost during the Nazi book burnings?

Magnus Hirschfeld, a researcher on sexuality and early advocates for gay rights amassed a huge body of research on homosexuality and transsexuality. In '33, he was heading and institute at the Charité ...
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20 votes
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Where are the ancient books now?

I suppose you are talking about Plato's books. No major classical work from ancient Greece survived in the original. (Exception is some recently found papyri originating from the Roman Egypt, which ...
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20 votes
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When did books first become affordable to the general population?

"Affordable to the poor" is a slippery concept. However, books became much cheaper in the first half of the nineteenth century. Notable causes of this included steam-powered printing presses, ...
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20 votes
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What does this source "IAA iii" mean? Which book?

This is explained — as it should be — as a frequently used abbreviation, on page 559, at the start of section called "Notes": Abbreviations of principal primary sources used in the notes: […...
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19 votes
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Were women allowed to study at the Library of Alexandria?

SHORT ANSWER There is much uncertainty on details but it seems that some female scholars did have access to at least some parts of the library. It is unlikely, though, that anyone - male or female - ...
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18 votes
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Were bookshops 'common' in the late 19th century, and how did they differ from modern ones?

Bookshops were certainly becoming more common in Victorian England. In fact, the entire printed world exploded in the 19th century. Most of it was concentrated in London, which by 1860 housed 812 ...
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18 votes

When did books first become affordable to the general population?

The Gutenberg-style press process initially output about 160 pages a day, which was revolutionary compared to about 12 you could expect out of a human copyist. This got polished to the point where by ...
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17 votes

Origin of the idea of a series of books

Rabelais wrote five consecutive novels about the giants Gargantua and Pantagruel. This was between 1532 and 1564. A bit later Shakespeare wrote Henry VI part 1, 2 and 3. A thousand years earlier ...
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17 votes
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What do these symbols & annotations in medieval and related texts mean?

This question illustrates a perennial problem with manuscript transcription: there is no single book of standards that is universally applied! To quote from David L. Vander Meulen and G. Thomas ...
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17 votes
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Was Donald Knuth the first person to typeset a book using a computer?

No, Knuth was not the first person to typeset a book "with a computer". The TEX project was started in 1978 by Don­ald E. Knuth, while re­vis­ing the sec­ond vol­ume of his Art of Com­puter Pro­...
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  • 75.2k
16 votes
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I'm reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. What should I watch out for?

Haha... the Suetonius of the third reich. Oh dear. It's a history book by a journalist, who had a talent for writing, but no particular ability as a historian. In particular: It's misnamed, because ...
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16 votes

How were books published in Ancient Greece?

No, the original author did not get royalties. In fact, often times original authors of works would not be known, or people would write works and attribute them to more famous authors in an effort to ...
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  • 110k
16 votes

Was there a particular area of Victorian London in which bookshops were concentrated?

This page on London during the Victorian era offers (emphasis mine): Further, there are the streets and districts for particular trades, as Long Acre, where the carriage-makers abound; and Lombard ...
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13 votes

Where are the ancient books now?

In Roman-Greek times (before 300 AD) there were no books in the Roman Empire, just papyrus scrolls, each chapter being one scroll. So a work like the Republic would be divided into many scrolls. ...
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13 votes
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How did pagination come to be used?

Unknown. For first numbering of pages in book or codex form. Around 1470-1499 for printed books made with numbers on pages. The system was known since antiquity, as there we have some fragments that ...
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12 votes

Are there any important biographies of nobodies?

One of my favorite historical accounts is The Cheese and the Worms by Carlo Ginzburg (an Italian historian). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cheese_and_the_Worms It's an account of the life and ...
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12 votes
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Why is the late Russian Empire associated with Byzantium while having little in common with it?

The reason is because of some superficial similarities, mainly of the "headline" variety. After the fall of Rome, the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine Empire claimed the mantle of the new Rome. In the ...
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11 votes
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Origin of the idea of a series of books

James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales are among the earliest examples of serial publishing. This was not originally planned as a series, nor did Cooper set out to publish a set number of ...
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