The Stack Overflow podcast is back! Listen to an interview with our new CEO.

Hot answers tagged

110

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 way to describe the social environment of 19th century France, collecting as much data as possible about Pinagot, his family, his village, etc. The result was ...


89

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 Isles. If a theatre manager would hesitate to let him show his talents, he would bribe them. Managers, in turn, often called in the police in case things went ...


61

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 deaf to poetic metaphor and unable to scan correctly. His only apparent understanding of poetry was his belief that it needed to rhyme. McGonagall's fame stems ...


48

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." Despite (or perhaps because of) her technical incompetence, she became a prominent musical cult figure in New York City during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. At ...


34

There was 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, or hire a scribe if you are rich enough. Then you will send it to a friend, and/or read to your students. Almost all books in mathematics and astronomy begin ...


30

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 the self delusions of our enemies) Sadly, the Emanuel Lasker Gesellschaft should have this, but their site is currently "under construction". Secondary mentions ...


30

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 story of a real man, a novel by Boris Polevoy, is a biography of Alexey Maresyev (Meresyev in the book), a Soviet pilot who was shot down behind the frontline, ...


28

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 accounts and letters had been preserved and discovered in 1870.


24

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, which was intended as a Portuguese–English conversational guide or phrase book, but is regarded as a classic source of unintentional humour, as the given ...


23

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, '63 Up', has just shown. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_(film_series)


21

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 appears to have been quite random. One fairly well-known group that I'm personally particularly fond of is the so-called animals at war which includes images ...


20

"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, mechanical typesetting, pulp paper mills, and the railway distribution network. These factors allowed the publication of cheap paperback books, which seem to have been ...


19

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 are usually just small fragments). All those books that survived (and specialists estimate that about 1% of the ancient Greek and Roman literature survived) were ...


18

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 1600 a press could output about 3,600 copies a day. The next major advances came with the Industrial Revolution, starting with cast iron presses(in 1800) ...


17

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 Sophocles wrote Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonnos. And some 500 years earlier Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey. All of this is long before James Fenimore ...


16

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 it's really a biography of Hitler and not a history of Nazi Germany. This is serious, because Shirer ignored things that had little to do with Hitler, and blew ...


16

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 Street, where the bankers love to congregate; and Clerkenwell, the district for the watch-makers; and Hatton Garden for the Italian glass-blowers; and the ...


16

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 Pro­gram­ming. When he got the galleys back, he saw that the pub­lisher had switched to a new dig­i­tal type­set­ting sys­tem and was shocked at the poor qual­ity. ...


15

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 booksellers, of whom 211 were also publishers.1 Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, was home to another 120 booksellers, with 30 also publishing. In contrast, the ...


14

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 get them more widely distributed (up to half of Paul's Epistles are thought to have been authored this way). Since there was no printing, and most people were ...


12

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. Papyrus is relatively perishable, so virtually none of these scrolls survived, with only a few isolated exceptions. The works have survived, however, because they ...


12

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 trial of a sixteenth century miller brought before the inquisition twice, tried, and eventually executed. Quite excellent. "The study examines the unique ...


11

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 novels. However, the profitability of these novels led Cooper to revisit the main character and his family several times over. The incentive to publish serially ...


11

The position of "Limited" in relation to "Smallman &" does resemble the "Smallman and Ingram" logo, for example on their catalog. While John Smallman and Lemuel Ingram started their retail store with a specialty in clothing, they quickly expanded to carry other dry goods, as both had experience working in the market. The business was based out of London, ...


10

Be it known that I, WILLIAM STEBBINS BARNARD, of Canton, county of Fulton and State of Illinois, have invented a Book-Support, of which the following is a specification [of] this invention [that] relates to a support or holder for books, engravings, photographs, cards, and other things, which it is desired to stand on edge, and retain upright on flat ...


10

In 4th/5th century (BCE) Athens, documents would have been written on papyrus scrolls. We don't know exactly when the first "books" as we know them (i.e. a bound collection of sheets) were first produced in Europe, or what the first "book" was. It seems to have been at some point between the 2nd and 4th centuries CE. We do know that saint Isidore of Seville,...


10

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 Tanselle: There has never been a single standard convention for the transcription of manuscript texts, and it is not likely that there will ever be one, given the ...


10

The first and foremost example that comes to my mind is the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, written in the early XIV century. This poem, a work of paramount importance for both Italian and World literature, is famously composed of three books, or cantiche: Inferno Purgatorio Paradiso


10

The works of Amanda McKittrick Ros are an example of prose that was so bad it was considered entertaining for its badness. One group who entertained themselves with her work was a group of British literary greats known collectively as the Inklings (J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis were among them). Their main business was to share unpublished works of ...


10

The novelist Vikram Seth wrote Two Lives: A Memoir, which is a biography of his uncle and aunt. His uncle was a dentist, originally from India, who studied dentistry in Germany. His wife was Jewish, from Berlin. They left Germany and settled in England shortly before World War II. The part of the book that I remember best describes the effect of World War ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible