That's a for the Books. Turn-Up; Some Strange Facts about Writers and Their Works

The Mirror (London, England), October 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

That's a for the Books. Turn-Up; Some Strange Facts about Writers and Their Works


Byline: ROD McPHEE

Between the covers of every book hides an abundance of adventure, romance, information and drama.

But the world of the authors is also fertile ground for fascinating facts as revealed by a new book, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers' Journey Through Curiosities of History.

University lecturer Oliver Tearle reveals that Franz Kafka dreamed up the hard hat, Mark Twain invented one of the first bra straps and an Aussie computer geek was the first person to buy a book from Amazon...

Franz Kafka is credited with inventing the hard hat as part of his day job working as an accident claims insurance clerk in Prague. He also attended nudist camps but refused to drop his trousers.

As a young girl Virginia Woolf had pets including a marmoset, a squirrel and a mouse she named Jacobi. And one of her first published writings was an obituary for the family dog... called Shag.

Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl is probably the most famous diary ever kept. Anne's father Otto survived the concentration camps and published his daughter's inspirational journal in Amsterdam in 1947. Getting an English translation into print proved trickier. It was rejected by 10 publishers before it eventually appeared in 1952. One editor wrote: "The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level." It is now thought to have sold in excess of 30 million copies in over 60 languages.

Sci-fi author Isaac Asimov is credited with coining the word "robotics" in 1941.

Stronger swear words could not be found in English dictionaries until the 1960s. The Penguin English Dictionary admitted 'f***' in 1965, 170 years after it had last been included in an English lexicon.

The Great Gatsby sold no more than 25,000 copies in F. Scott Fitzgerald's lifetime. But the popular novel has now sold more than 25 million. Fitzgerald's father was the first cousin, once removed, of Mary Surratt, hanged in 1865 for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

Jules Verne is the most translated French author and the second-most translated author in the world, after Agatha Christie and ahead of Shakespeare

When staying in hotels Hans Christian Andersen always carried a coil of rope in case he needed to escape from a fire.

Poetry genius TS Eliot - who wrote The Waste Land and Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats - taught future Poet Laureate John Betjeman when he was a teacher at Highgate School, North London.

Say "Wisden" to most people and they'll think of a vast tome detailing the results of cricket matches and stats.

The first issue of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack would, therefore, come as something of a surprise. Out in 1864, it was just 112 pages and included an account of the trial of King Charles I and was padded out with the rules of quoits and the length of Britain's canals. It cost one shilling. You can expect to pay PS20,000 for a copy of this inaugural edition.

The first London theatre, the Red Lion, was built in 1567 when William Shakespeare was three. …

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