Friday, July 26, 2013
Ten Fun Facts About Books
By OFW editor: Renée Miller
Published: May 09, 2013

Who doesn’t love book facts? No, not facts you find in books, but facts about books. This industry has a rich history. Authors are interesting characters, many of them full of psychoses that rank them off the weirdness meter. Books themselves are also fascinating. Here are ten fun book facts you might not know. 
1. The word “book”
Liber is the Latin word for book, which comes from the Romans, who used the thin layer found between the bark and the wood (the liber) before parchment came along. The English word for book is derived from the Danish word “bog,” which means birch tree. That makes sense because early writers in Denmark wrote on birch bark.
2. How much is that book?
If you think today’s book prices are retarded, consider this: An original copy of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales sold for a record 7.4 million (in US dollars) at Christies in London in 1998. The book was printed in 1477 though, so unless you plan on living another 500 or so years, you’re not likely to see a royalty from that kind of sale.
3. Diving Through the Looking Glass and Into the Pocketbook
Children’s fiction seems to age well. A rare first edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland sold for 1.5 million at auction in New York. This makes it the most valuable children's book ever sold. It was Carroll's own working copy, so that probably contributed to the inflated price. There are only 22 copies of the 1865 first edition known to exist today, and only five made it to some private owner’s hot little hands. So we know that there are at least five people in the world with more money than brains.
4. When digital looks real good.
The Buddhist Bible was originally engraved on 729 white marble tablets. These tablets are regarded by Myanmar Buddhists as orthodox texts. The tablets are kept in a square, each protected by its own temple. Each marble tablet is about 3 inches wide and 4 inches long. Try to carry that around in your bag.
5. Bigass Library
The Library of Congress (Washington DC) contains 28 million books and has more than 500 miles of shelving. It would take you eight hours to pass every single book, if you were driving in a car at 70 mph. I’d hate to be the one in charge of dusting.
6. Everyone loves a good mystery.
Who’s the bestselling commercial fiction author of all time? Not Meyer. Not Rowling. Not even King. No, the bestselling author of all time is Agatha Christie. Since 1920 her books have sold over a billion copies in the English language, and another billion in more than 45 other languages. She is outsold only by the Bible and William Shakespeare.
7. But are they good?
We like to toss around the term “prolific” when a writer publishes more than say, two books a year. Honey, you don’t know prolific. Between 1986 and 1996, Brazilian author Jose Carlos Ryoki de Alpoim Inoue published 1,058 novels in the western, science fiction and thriller genres. But are they any good?
8. Poe is creepier than you think.
Edgar Allan Poe wrote about death and all other things dark and macabre. His life itself is a pretty dark story. But his themes and his life are not the most creepy details about Mr. Poe. He wrote a short story in 1838, titled "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket." In the story, three shipwreck survivors in an open boat kill and eat the fourth man, named Richard Parker. In 1884, (almost 50 years LATER) three real-life shipwreck survivors in an open boat killed and ate the fourth man, whose name was also Richard Parker.
Source: Alan Vaughan, Incredible Coincidence: The Baffling World of Synchronicity (Lippincott, Philadelphia, PA, 1979).
9. Stop bitching about royalties.
You think it’s tough to make ends meet as a writer today? Consider that William Shakespeare's average annual income as a playwright was under 32 dollars (USD), which works out to about 13 dollars per play. He made about twice as much from writing plays as Ben Jonson.
10. And also, about Shakespeare…
Shakespeare makes Lear, whose character was an early Anglo-Saxon King, mention spectacles. In Macbeth, who dies in 1054, and when writing of King John's reign in 1200, Shakespeare mentions cannons. In Julius Caesar, he has a clock striking three. What’s wrong with these things? Spectacles, cannons and clocks were not invented until the fourteenth century, long after the times in which he set these tales. The lesson here: Research IS necessary.

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