July 11th 1960: To Kill a Mockingbird published

On this day in 1960, the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee was published by J.B Lippincott & Co. The novel tells the story of the trial of a young African-American man in Alabama in the 1930s, and is told from the perspective of the daughter of the defendant’s lawyer, Scout Finch. Lee was partly inspired by events she recalled from her own childhood growing up in Alabama in the days of Jim Crow segregation. 'To Kill a Mockingbird’ was released during a turbulent time for American race relations, as the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement was beginning to get underway with sit-ins and Freedom Rides in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The novel was originally going to be called 'Atticus’ for Scout’s father and the moral centre of the story, but was renamed for one of Atticus’s iconic lines. The novel was an immediate success, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. In 1962 it was adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck and featuring the film debut of Robert Duvall as the elusive Boo Radley. Harper Lee never published another novel and remains reclusive from the press, though she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007. The influence of 'To Kill a Mockingbird’ has never faded in the 54 years since its release, and is a favourite of many for its warmth and humour while tackling some of the most troubling issues of its day.

“Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”

A Babylonian Princess Poet

Enheduanna, the daughter of King Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BCE), composed numerous poems and hymns, such as the one above written in Sumerian and dedicated to the goddess Inanna (the Sumerian counterpart to Ishtar). During her lifetime, Enheduanna served as a high priestess of the moon god, Nanna, in the city of Ur. A genuine creative talent, she is also remembered as one of the first named authors in history. Although the tablet above is somewhat damaged, it provides a good example of a later copy of one of her hymns, which shows that her work continued to be read and taught in scribal schools well into the second millennium BCE. (Source)

Schoyen Collection, MS 2367/1.

This is so great, I'm stealing it from Warren to make it rebloggable

printedvelvet asks:

“Aside from stuff Phillip K. Dick and Neal Stephenson, what’s on your must-read cyberpunk novels and comics list?”

Warren says

Okay.  Deep breath.

Cyberpunk, also known as Radical Hard SF or The Movement, was born around 1980 and didn’t survive that decade.  (Some people map the end to 1992, with Neal Stephenson’s SNOW CRASH.)  Philip K Dick had no affiliation with the movement, and was dead by 1982, two years before William Gibson published NEUROMANCER.  People tend to associate Dick with cyberpunk because of BLADE RUNNER, particularly its visuals, which had nothing to do with the novel, but were so strikingly of the speculative zeitgeist that in 1982 William Gibson had to get out of his cinema seat and leave the screening because it looked too much like what was in his head.

Phil Dick was pre-cyberpunk.  He, JG Ballard and Alfred Bester were major touchstones for the movement.  Ballard’s CRASH and Bester’s STARS MY DESTINATION and THE DEMOLISHED MAN are essential.  Also John Brunner’s STAND ON ZANZIBAR, THE SHEEP LOOK UP, and, most importantly for cyberpunk’s ancestry, THE SHOCKWAVE RIDER.

Of the cyberpunk period itself, you will need William Gibson’s first trilogy, NEUROMANCER, COUNT ZERO and MONA LISA OVERDRIVE.  Also, Bruce Sterling’s THE ARTIFICIAL KID and ISLANDS IN THE NET.  Richard Kadrey’s METROPHAGE.  Rudy Rucker’s SOFTWARE and WETWARE.  Pat Cadigan’s TEA FROM AN EMPTY CUP.  That should keep you going for a bit.

FWIW, I agree with all of what Warren says, and please consider this another vote for METROPHAGE, which is amazing.

Today is the birthday of Beatrix Potter, born on this day in British history, 28 July 1866. She is most remembered for her work as an author and illustrator of children’s books. Her most famous creation, Peter Rabbit, is still a popular and well loved character today.


Dante’s Divine Comedy

Nearly two hundred years after its original publication, Dante’s Divine Comedy was republished in 1502 with Italian Renaissance flair. The Renaissance brought about a greater desire for erudite texts; individuals who collected such works were seen as worldly and refined. To meet this growing demand, books became smaller and less cumbersome, which explains why this edition of Divine Comedy almost fits in the palm of your hand.

The first illustration above is the title page of Divine Comedy, and the second illustration is an introduction the Inferno section that serves as the starting point of Dante’s journey. Dante then travels to purgatory and paradise. Much scholarship has focused on Inferno, which has proven to be the most captivating of the three realms Dante visits.

The full article about Dante’s Divine Comedy can be read at:


September 21st 1937: The Hobbit published

On this day in 1937, J.R.R Tolkein’s fantasy novel The Hobbit, or There and Back Again was published in the United Kingdom. The novel follows the adventures of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, as he assists a group of dwarves to reclaim their homeland, and tries to claim a share of treasure guarded by the fearsome dragon Smaug. Tolkein, an academic at Oxford University, found inspiration for the novel in his studies of Old Norse mythology and language. Upon completion, Tolkein had several notable literary friends, including C.S. Lewis of Narnia fame, read the manuscript. The novel was published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. in September 1937, with an initial run of 1,500 copies, which quickly sold out. The Hobbit was a great success, popular among adults and reviewers despite its childlike tone, and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal. The popularity of The Hobbit led Tolkein’s publisher to request a sequel, which became The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), the first book in The Lord of the Rings series. His work on these novels led Tolkein to amend certain portions of The Hobbit to accommodate Middle Earth lore introduced in the new books. The Fellowship of the Ring was followed by The Two Towers and The Return of the King, and the trilogy - along with its precursor The Hobbit - remain immensely popular literary classics.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
A Literary History of the Siren

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The siren’s wail is as pervasive and deceitful in modern life as it was in ancient literature—the nymphs that nearly ensnared Odysseus’ wandering heart are more like the caterwauling devices atop police cruisers than you might assume. Both distract to the point of danger, yet evoke a titillating allure. “The question of the nature of the siren’s face and of the siren’s true role in human affairs,” writes Cabinet’s George Prochnik in an intriguing literary history of man’s relationship with sirens, “haunts both the mythological creatures from which the mechanical sirens derive their name and the history of siren technology alike.” Read more …


First Edition of The Hobbit is Published

21 September 1937

The first edition of The Hobbit was published on this day in British history, 21 September 1937. Published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. of London, the first edition was printed in a run of 1,500 copies, all of which had sold by December 1937. This first printing was illustrated in black and white by Tolkien, who designed the dust jacket as well.


The Chapbook: Jack the Giant Killer

The story of Jack the Giant Killer (or Slayer) has been told for several centuries. Published in London, this chapbook edition is undated.

“Jack, the valiant boy, who had made up his mind to rid the land of Giants, was one day in search of adventures; when he fell asleep by the wayside, and was surprised by the Giant Blunderbore, who carried him home to his Castle.”


October 7th 1849: Edgar Allan Poe dies

On this day in 1849, the American poet and writer Edgar Allan Poe died in Baltimore. Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1809, the young Poe barely knew his parents, with his father leaving the family and his mother passing away when he was just three years old. He lived with another couple as foster-parents, and was forced to gamble to pay for his tuition at the University of Virginia, which he had to drop out of due to financial difficulties. Poe soon joined the army and was even accepted into West Point, though he was expelled a year into his studies. After leaving the academy, Poe turned his full attention to his longstanding hobby of writing. He then traveled around Northern cities, including New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore; it was in Baltimore, in 1836, that he married his young cousin Virginia. In Richmond, Poe worked as a critic for various magazines, occasionally publishing his original work which included short stories and poems. In 1841, Poe published his ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’, which many consider the beginning of the genre of detective fiction. His most famous work, the poem ‘The Raven’, was published in 1845 to critical praise. Sadly, his wife died from tuberculosis two years later, leaving the writer grief-stricken and nearly destitute, as he never had great financial success.  On October 3rd, he was found ill in Baltimore and taken to hospital, where he died on October 7th aged 40. It is still unknown what his precise cause of death was, but alcoholism is widely believed to have played a part. While not appreciated in his lifetime, Poe is now considered one of the great American writers.

“Lord, help my poor soul”
- Poe’s last words

C.S. Lewis’ Birthday

29 November 1898

Today we remember the birthday of author and theologian C.S. Lewis. Clive Staples Lewis was born on 29 November 1898 in Belfast, Ireland. He is best remembered for his children’s fiction series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Among numerous other works, Lewis also wrote several famous works of Christian apologetics, including Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain. Lewis was close friends with fellow author J.R.R. Tolkien.

In thinking about whether women, as outsiders, might be best placed to oppose war she reveals the systemic and structural inequalities in public life. Each issue she raises seems uncannily prescient: access to higher education and the role of the university as a democratic space of intellectual freedom; the number of women in public life; violence against women and girls; women in the church; working motherhood; pay inequality.
—  Anna Snaith, author of Virginia Woolf: Public and Private Negotiations, on Virginia Woolf and the relevance of her writing in the twenty-first century

September 21st 1937: ‘The Hobbit’ published

On this day in 1937, 75 years ago, J.R.R Tolkein’s 'The Hobbit’ was published. It tells the story of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins who tries to claim treasure guarded by the fearsome dragon Smaug. He originally wrote the fantasy adventure book for his children, but upon publication it became popular with adults as well. The novel was a great success, and Tolkein’s sequel became his most famous work: The Lord of the Rings trilogy.