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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 ...


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 ...


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. ...


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 ...


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

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 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 ...


9

Consider this doctoral dissertation: The hammer and the crescent: Contacts between Andalusi Muslims, Franks, and their successors in three waves of Muslim expansion into Francia, available at https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9112639/ It is based on an analysis of the original source material. You can preview the introductory chapter for free.


8

You could try A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman. Strictly speaking, it's not a biography, as much as a tour of the 14th century in France, with sections on all the important events of the day: the Black Death, the Hundred Years' War, peasant revolts, the papal schism, and such. But most of the narrative is structured around ...


8

To ameliorate some of the western bias among these answers, there's an entire genre of Lei Feng biographies based on his purported diary and others' remembrances of him that have been read by far more people and been far more important to more people than any of the others mentioned here. A billion plus Chinese kids have been raised reading about him as a ...


6

There is a vast amount of literature covering the period you are interested in. What follows is but a small sample, but it should set you on your way. The following ancient sources cover 5th century BC Athens. They are not specifically about the daily lives and culture of Athenians but there is much to be gleaned from them. Plutarch's Parallel Lives, ...


5

Most of the symbols you will encounter in that way are based on editing conventions more or less agreed upon through tradition in usage. Most of these will either follow the Leiden convention for symbols or have to be explained somewhere in the footnotes or glossaries of the editions you'll read. They are used almost universally for the transcription, ...


5

Your criteria for exclusion seem quite flexible, so I am not sure if any of the following really count: There are several works by holocaust and WWII survivors who are more notable for their post-war lives, e.g. Imre Kertesz, Marcel Reich-Ranicki, Inge Deutschkron. There are also works about victims of the war, e.g. about Tanya Savicheva. 1587 Year of no ...


4

A famous novel trilogy is Alexandre Dumas' story about D'Artagnan, Porthos, Athos and Aramis: The Three Musketeers in 1844 Twenty Years After in 1845 The Vicomte of Bragelonne in 1847-1850 I won't pretend it is the oldest one, but it may well be the most read trilogy ever.


4

Walter Scott's work Kenilworth, 1821, is an early example of the form called three-volume novel. James Fenimore Cooper published the first three of his Leatherstocking Tales between 1823 and 1827, with more volumes arriving in the 1840s. Note that for novel sequences in general, "There is no useful, formal demarcation between novel sequences and multi-part ...


4

Wikipedia has a category Literary trilogies. The oldest novels in the list seem to date from central Europe: Henryk Sienkiewicz's Trilogy (1884-1888), Alois Jirásek's Mezi proudy (1891-1909), and Jerzy Żuławski's Lunar Trilogy (1901-1911). I have no idea whether this reflects a bias in Wikipedia contributors or is historically accurate. The oldest listed in ...


4

Robert Folkestone Williams wrote a trilogy of novels about William Shakespeare: 1838: The Youth of Shakespeare, 1839: Shakespeare and his Friends, 1844: Secret Passion. At around the same time, Edgar Allen Poe wrote three short stories with C. Auguste Dupin, an amateur detective, as the main character: 1841: The Murders in the Rue Morgue, 1842: ...


4

This is a matter of taste. And "so bad, it's good" is an 'acquired taste'. As a more or less mass phenomenon it is indeed a recent one, although slightly older thatn the question presumes. Tastes differ. Tastes develop. And not all people have the same opinion on what's good, and certainly not all at the same time. It's also quite the difference to see an ...


4

Christian Weston Chandler is an absolute nobody, yet has a complete wiki (https://sonichu.com/) that documents his whole life, pretty much every email or Facebook post he wrote, every piece of art, video and music he produced. There's also an extensive web of relationships with people he encountered, be they real or not. Mr Chandler is pretty much the most ...


3

We can't really say for sure what his daily reading habits are like (and he almost surely maintained different schedules over the course of his life - certainly blindness must have had a significant impact). In this case, however, I suspect your professor was referring to Milton's reading of the bible, which he could do in the original Hebrew and Greek. ...


3

Yes. To just quote Robert Nedoma fantastic page on this: Runenprojekt Kiel … Database of runic inscriptions in older Fuþark Danske Runeindskrifter … 'Runesproject Kopenhagen', gute Fotodokumentation Nationalmuseets samlinger online: Runer … photos of mainly Danish origin Samnordisk runtextdatabas Sveriges Runinskrifter ... pdfs, is Swedish ...


3

It is not one kind of book but a collection of around 20 texts, all covering the life and death of the virgin Mary, but quite different from each other. It is more properly called Transitus-Mariae-literature, part of a large medieaval tradition. Compared to other apocryphal books they are commonly dated quite late, but the exact dates or even order of dates ...


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