The eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, also killed the famous author of one of the earliest encyclopedias.
Lord Byron, the Romantic poet and infamous libertine, wrote a book of memoirs that may have set 19th century England aflame with scandal – if they hadn’t been deliberately destroyed within a month of his death.
William McGonagall is widely recognised as the worst poet in history.
Elementals are a common feature of modern bestiaries, video games, and RPGs. We have the 16th century alchemist Paracelsus to thank for thinking them up.
In 1958, surrealism, the Beat Generation, and a decade of civil war in Colombia distilled itself into the Nadaist movement – a rejection of Colombian government, literature, religion, and orthodoxy.
It’s my 200th post! Time to talk about the nature of proof, using 18th century literary hero Baron Munchausen and his horse too.
Flother is another word for a snowflake. It appears only once, in a 1275 CE book. The poison that killed Hamlet’s father in Shakespeare’s play, hebenon, is mentioned nowhere else. These are the hapax legomena, the lonely words.
Existential and spiritual crises seem to appear in the middle of the night – at least, according to various Catholic saints, poets, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse they do.
There are more than 150 million European starlings in North America. We have two men to blame for this: Eugene Schieffelin, and maybe William Shakespeare.
Fleas are not an obvious topic for poetry. And yet it is the core of both the shortest poem in the English language and the dodgiest erotic poem ever written by a cleric of the Church of England.
Batman lives in Gotham City. Where did the name come from? Its history follows a circuitous route via the 19th century equivalent of Mad magazine, smart idiots who hated public infrastructure, goats, and Robin Hood’s King John.
“That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is” – add punctuation, and this sentence transforms from babble to sense. But, depending on which punctuation you add, it can make four different sentences.
In the early 1970s, Frede Møller-Kristensen stole US$50 million worth of rare books from Denmark’s Royal Library – it was one of the most expensive book thefts in history. He was eventually caught, but only because he died.
Some of the most inspired cartoonists of the 21st century all started off in a single studio space in Brooklyn: Pizza Island.
Is modern thought more advanced than the Greeks and Romans? Most people fall on the side of “duh, of course,” but in 16th century France the debate between the Ancients and the Moderns was fierce.