Sunday, 4 December 2011

An Advent Calendar of the Written Word (1st to 10th)

Over the next three weeks a note for each day of advent. No chocolates or pictures in this calendar but perhaps a snippet of interest to the wordsmith, writer or reader.

1st - the most valuable first edition is the Gutenberg Bible, currently valued at over £30 million but you probably haven't got one of the 21 copies thought to exist. My oldest first edition is a book by Thornton W. Burgess entitled Little Joe Otter. The copy I was given as a child disappeared and I was delighted to receive a 1925 edition for Christmas a few years ago.

2nd - few will be unaware the Bible is the best selling book of all time and outsells the second best seller six or seven times over. Yet few will know that next on the list is Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, most often referred to as his 'little red book'.

3rd - the third most commonly used letter in English writings is 'a', accounting for 8.167% of the total.

4th - the fourth longest English novel ever published is Poor Fellow My Country, a tale set in Australia and written by Xavier Herbert. It is said to contain 850,000 words.

5th - the fifth best-selling fiction author ever has amassed some 600 million copies of an impressive 800 books, and including 3,400 translations. Most of those books appeared under her own name and, although she did sometimes use the pseudonym Mary Pollock, very few can have missed Enid Blyton's work as a child or later as a parent.

6th - the complete works of Shakespeare did not see the light of day until seven years after his death and the publication of his plays certainly does not reflect the order in which they were first performed. As the latter is a better indication of the chronology his 6th play can be said to be Titus Andronicus, first performed in 1593 and appearing in print the following year.

7th - the Guardian newspaper poll to find the Seven Wonders of the Literary World placed Homer's The Odyssey at number seven - Don Quixote topped the list.

8th - in June 2011 John Locke became the 8th person to sell a million copies of an ebook and the first to self-publish and reach this milestone

9th - once it was considered a worthwhile achievement to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica - Richard Byrd taking a copy to the South Pole to help the time pass during his five-months stay - none other than literary giant George Bernard Shaw himself said he had read the 9th edition, although he admitted to skipping the scientific articles (a rather significant chunk to leave out).

10th - I suppose one of the golden rules when editing is to remove 'that' as superfluous. Thus it is interesting to note it is the tenth most commonly used English word and therefore should certainly appear in 'that' dialogue.

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