On June 25, 1900, tens of thousands of important historical manuscripts were found in a secret room within the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas in Dunhuang, China, where they had been hidden for nearly a millennium.
The 2001 novel Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn depicts a town in which a totalitarian government begins banning letters – from the town and from the novel itself.
We know how Chinese was pronounced 1400 years ago thanks to the world’s oldest surviving rhyming dictionary.
The Ship of Theseus is a classic philosophical thought experiment. L. Frank Baum’s Tin Woodman took it some place rather gruesome.
The Quran contains 114 chapters, but they are arranged neither chronologically nor thematically. Instead, they go from longest to shortest.
George Forster was executed for murder in 1803. Later that same day his corpse was dancing, thanks to Luigi Galvani’s nephew.
Italian publisher Franco Maria Ricci, inspired by fabulists Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino, built the largest maze in the world.
The classic horror film Nosferatu was nearly lost forever because of Bram Stoker’s widow.
Through sophisticated mnemonics and error-checking mechanisms the Vedas, the canonical religious texts of Hinduism, have been transmitted orally for three and a half thousand years with shocking precision in both word and sound.
The hymn Amazing Grace was set to its current tune more than fifty years after it was written. Because it was written in common metre, it can also be sung to Mack the Knife, Sympathy for the Devil, the Pokemon theme, and the Gilligan’s Island theme.
Lewis Carroll’s ninth rule of letter writing was to never cross your letters. But many people did it anyway.
In Norse mythology, Ask and Embla were the first humans of this world. After Ragnarök, Líf and Lífþrasir will be the first humans of the next world.
Chinese wuxia (and derivative Western) fiction describes the touch of death, a single blow that can kill an opponent. Surprisingly, this is actually possible.
The Epic of Sundiata, describing the rise of the first ruler of the Mali Empire, was passed down by griots – West African bards – for over six hundred years before it was written down.
The United States motto, e pluribus unum, appears in several classical sources. In one of them, it’s part of a recipe for pesto.