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Fast facts about the arts

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Art and literature

In 1961, Matisse’s Le Bateau (The Boat) hung upside-down for 2 months in the Museum of Modern Art, New York – none of the 116,000 visitors had noticed.

Picasso could draw before he could walk and his first word was the Spanish word for pencil.

Sumerians invented writing in the 4th century BC.

The first book published is thought to be the Epic of Gilgamesh, written at about 3000 BC in cuneiform, an alphabet based on symbols.

The first history book, the Great Universal History, was published by Rashid-Eddin of Persia in 1311.

The first novel, called The story of Genji, was written in 1007 by Japanese noble woman, Murasaki Shikibu.

William Shakespeare wrote his first play The Taming of the Shrew in 1593.

The German PJ Reuter started a foreign news agency in 1858. Today Reuters is one of the biggest news agencies in the world.

The oldest surviving daily newspaper is the Wiener Zeitung of Austria. It was first printed in 1703.

The Bible still is the world’s best selling book. More

In 1097, Trotula, a midwife of Salerno, wrote The Diseases of Women – it was used in medical schools for 600 years.

The world’s longest nonfiction work is The Yongle Dadian, a 10,000-volume encyclopaedia produced by 5,000 scholars during the Ming Dynasty in China 500 years ago.

Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote Meteorologica in 350 BC – it remained the standard textbook on weather for 2,000 years.

The first illustrated book for children was published in Germany in 1658.

Barbara Cartland completed a novel every two weeks, publishing 723 novels.

The word “novel” originally derived from the Latin novus, meaning “new.”

A 18th century London literary club was called Kit-Cat Club.

Ian Fleming’s James Bond debuted in the novel “Casino Royale” in 1952.

Johannes Gutenberg is often credited as the inventor of the printing press in 1454. However, the Chinese actually printed from movable type in 1040 but later discarding the method. More

The Statue of Liberty is the largest hammered copper statue in the world.

The largest statue in the world is Mount Rushmore, the heads of four US Presidents carved into the Black Hills near Keystone. The heads are 18 m (60 ft) tall.

The largest horse statue in the world, the Zizkov Monument in Prague, stands 9 metres (30 ft) tall.

It is said that if a statue of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle; if the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle; if the horse has all four legs on the ground, like the Zizkov Monument, the person died of natural causes.

The words “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” were penned in the 17th century by English philospher John Locke.

To save costs, the body of Shakespeare’s friend and fellow dramatist, Ben Jonson, was buried standing up in Westminister Abbey, London in 1637.

The first novel sold through a vending machine – at the Paris Metro – was Murder on the Orient Express.

Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French journalist suffering from “locked-in” syndrome, wrote the book “The Driving Bell and the Butterfly” by blinking his left eyelid – the only part of his body that could move.

When Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in 1912, 6 replicas were sold as the original, each at a huge price, in the 3 years before the original was recovered.

When Auguste Rodin exhibited his first important work, The Bronze Period, in 1878 it was so realistic that people thought he had sacrificed a live model inside the cast.

Rodin died of frostbite in 1917 when the French government refused him financial aid for a flat, yet they kept his statues warmly housed in museums.

Vincent van Gogh, the world’s most valued painter, sold only painting in his entire life – to his brother who owned an art gallery. The painting is titled “Red Vineyard at Arles.”

Ernest Vincent Wright’s 1939 novel Gadsby has 50,110 words, none of which contains the letter “e.” See below

In 1816, Frenchman J.R. Ronden tried to stage a play that did not contain the letter “a.” The Paris audience was offended, rioted and did not allow the play to finish.

The shortest stage play is Samuel Beckett’s “Breath” – 35 seconds of screams and heavy breathing.

There are more than ten billion web pages on the internet.

The world’s libraries store more than a 100 million original volumes.

The largest web bookshop, Amazon.com, stores almost 3 million books.

The Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, stores 18 million books on approximately 850 km (530 miles) of bookshelves. The collections include 119 million items, 2 million recordings, 12 million photographs, 4 million maps and 53 million manuscripts.

2 billion people still cannot read.

The problem of missing teeth was first discussed at length in 1728 by Pierre Fauchard in his book The Surgeon Dentist.

The first colour photograph was made in 1861 by James Maxwell. He photographed a tartan ribbon.

The first English dictionary was written by Samuel Johnson in 1755.

Noah Webster, who wrote the Webster Dictionary, was known as a short, pale, smug, boastful, humourless, yet religious man.

The first Oxford English Dictionary was published in April 1928, 50 years after it was started. It consisted of 400,000 words and phrases in 10 volumes. The latest edition fills 22,000 pages, includes 33,000 Shakespeare quotations, and is bound in 20 volumes. All of which is available on a single CD.

When Jonathan Swift published ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ in 1726, he intended it as a satire on the ferociousness of human nature. Today it is enjoyed as a children’s story.

 

Don’t believe that a novel could be without any e’s? Here’s an excerpt from page one of Wright’s Gadsby:
“If youth, throughout all history, had a champion to stand up for it; to show a doubting world that a child can think; and, possibly, do it practically; you wouldn’t constantly run across folks today who claim that “a child don’t know anything.” A child’s brain starts functioning at birth; and has, amongst its many infant convolutions, thousands of dormant atoms, into which God has put a mystic possibility for noticing an adults act, and figuring out its purport.”
- Gadsby by Ernest Vincent Wright. Published 1939