Extreme Book Facts
November 14, 2018
As a 20+ year employee at Book Depot and an active bookworm, I was thrilled to be asked to write a blog for our website, and more specifically about something I love—books!
There is something unique about the smell and feel of books, and the fact you can take them just about anywhere. They provide a way for us to escape the everyday commotion of the real world. While there is an endless supply of knowledge we can absorb from reading books, there is just as much to be learned about books. Take a look at my top 10 extreme book facts below!
- The first printed books did not feature the name of the author or even the title on their covers. Instead, the covers were works of art, adorned with drawings, leather, or sometimes even gold. It would be almost impossible not to judge the books by their covers …1
- The first ever fully typewritten book sent to a publisher is said to be Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi (1882). What’s even more interesting is that in Twain’s autobiography, he incorrectly states that Tom Sawyer was the first; but according to typewriter historian Darryl Rehr, it was actually Life on the Mississippi.2
- Beatrix Potter’s manuscript for The Tale of Peter Rabbit was rejected by publishers six times because they wanted a larger, more expensive book with color illustrations. However, Potter did not let that stop her. She was so determined to see the book she created in print that she self-published 250 copies in 1901. Since then, Peter Rabbit has sold more than 45 million copies!3
- The longest book to ever be published is Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. Published in 1912, it contains an estimated 9,609,000 characters! As a reference to show you just how many characters that truly is, the Bible contains 3,116,480 characters.4,5
- In 1956 when Dr. Seuss started writing The Cat in the Hat, he expected to knock it out in “a week or so.” Instead, it ended up taking a year and a half to write. However, it was well worth the wait because it became one of his most well-known books, selling approximately 10 million copies.6
- The most expensive book ever sold was for $30.8 million and was purchased by none other than Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates. In 1994, he purchased Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester, which dates back to the 16th century and provides a rare glimpse inside da Vinci’s mind.7
- The longest audiobook in the world is almost five days long. In 2008, Takaaki Yoshimoto, a Japanese poet, literary critic, and philosopher, published the audiobook 50 Lectures that has a total runtime is 115 hours, 43 minutes. While we don’t carry anything this long, we do have a selection of over 200 audiobooks in our inventory.8
- In 2014, it was discovered that a 19th-century book housed in one of Harvard’s libraries was bound in human skin. According to the Anthropodermic Book Project, this book is not the only one. There have been 18 books to date that have been confirmed to be bound in human skin. What’s even more disturbing is that there is actually a term to define the practice—anthropodermic bibliopegy.9,10
- It is estimated that 755,755 new books are published every single year. That brings the total number of unique books in existence up to around 134,021,533 since 2016. That’s a lot of books!11
- The top four most read books in the world are: the Bible (3.9 billion copies), Quotations from the Works of Mao Tse-tung (820 million copies), Harry Potter (400 million copies), and Lord of the Rings (103 million copies).12
This is just a very small list drawn from the plethora of wondrous book facts. Feel free to add your own below in the comments!
1 Shin, Gina. 2015. Did You Know? 10 Fun Facts. December 8. Accessed March 14, 2018. https://www.bookclubbish.com/book-trivia-tuesday-10-fun-facts/.
2 University of Virginia. n.d. MT and the Typewriter. Accessed March 14, 2018. http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/yankee/cymach4.html.
3 Victoria and Albert Museum. n.d. Beatrix Potter: The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Accessed March 14, 2018. http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/b/beatrix-potter-peter-rabbit/.
4 Guinness World Records. 1912. Longest Novel. Accessed March 14, 2018. http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/longest-novel.
5 Word Counter. 2015. How Many Words Are There in the Bible? December 8. Accessed March 8, 2018. https://wordcounter.net/blog/2015/12/08/10975_how-many-words-bible.html.
6 Bay Area News Group. 2007. The story behind the story of Cat in the Hat. February 11. Accessed March 14, 2018. https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2007/02/11/the-story-behind-the-story-of-cat-in-the-hat/.
7 Stone, Madeline. 2015. Look inside the rare Leonardo da Vinci notebook that Bill Gates paid more than $30 million for. July 13. Accessed March 14, 2018. http://www.businessinsider.com/look-inside-the-codex-leicester-which-bill-gates-bought-for-30-million-2015-7.
8 Guinness World Records. 2008. Longest Audio Book. August 1. Accessed March 14, 2018. http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/longest-audio-book.
9 Mullen, Jethro. 2014. Reader warning: Harvard experts say book is bound with human skin. June 5. Accessed March 14, 2018. http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/05/us/harvard-book-human-skin/index.html.
10 Rosenbloom, Megan. 2016. “A Book by its Cover: Identifying & Scientifically Testing the World’s Books Bound in Human Skin.” Newsletter of the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences XXXIX: 22.
11 Panganiban, Roma. 2016. How Many Books Have Ever Been Published? September 9. Accessed March 14, 2018. https://mentalfloss.com/article/85305/how-many-books-have-ever-been-published.
12 Chapman, James. 2015. 10 Most Read Books In The World. March 20. Accessed March 14, 2018. https://hubpages.com/literature/mostreadbooks.