The oldest surviving poem is the Epic of Gilgamesh, from the 3rd millennium BC in Sumer (in Mesopotamia, now Iraq), which was written in cuneiform script on clay tablets and, later, papyrus.
The Indian epic poem the Mahabhrata is eight times longer than the Iliad and the Odyssey combined.
Only seven poems by Emily Dickinson were published during her lifetime.
General Lew Wallace's Ben-Hur, published in 1880, was the first work of fiction to be blessed by a pope.
Books on religion outnumbered works of fiction by a 2 to 1 margin in 1870 England. Sixteen years later, novels surpassed religious works.
There are 48 Gutenberg Bibles still in existence. Two of them were in Germany during World War II and are missing, but many book collectors believe them to be in private collections.
The Bible is the best selling book of all time with approximately six billion books sold. The second-best selling book is Quotations from the Works of Mao Tse-Tung with about 800 million sales.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was the first novel ever to be written on a typewriter. Mark Twain typed it himself on a Remington in 1875.
Sigmund Freud's major work, The Interpretation of Dreams (1899), garnered him only $209. It took eight years for the entire first printing of 600 copies to sell.
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, originated from a game he played with his stepson. Drawing a treasure map for his stepson on a rainy day, Stevenson was urged by the child to make up stories to go along with the drawings. Stevenson liked the stories so much that he wrote them down, and they became the basis for his novel.
There are no female characters in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island because he was following the instructions of his stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, for whom he wrote the book. Llyod wanted a story "about a map, a treasure, a mutiny and a derelict ship...No women in the story."
Washington Irving got his idea for Rip Van Winkle from the story of the Cretan poet Epimenides, who lived around 600 B.C. While hunting for sheep at his father's behest, Epimenides took a nap in a cave and awoke 57 years later. On awakening, he began looking for sheep again. When he came home, he found his younger brother had become an old man.
William Shakespeare used a vocabulary of 29,066 different words. By way of comparison, the average person uses about 8,000 different words.
The word "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," from the movie Mary Poppins, was added to the Oxford dictionary in 1964
According to L. Frank Baum, the name Oz was thought up when he looked at his filing cabinet and noticed one drawer marked A-G, a second tagged H-N, and a third labeled O-Z.
Rudyard Kipling was fired as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. His dismissal letter was reported to have said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language. This isn't a kindergarten for amateur writers."
There really was a Cyrano de Bergerac. He lived from about 1620 to 1655, had a big nose and dueled. He was also a science fiction writer who was the first person in history to suggest that a rocket could carry someone into space.
On April 25, 1889, The Kansas Times and Star was the first newspaper to use the phrase “bestseller.” On that day the newspaper listed six books as the “best sellers here last week.”
D. H. Lawrence enjoyed taking off his clothes and climbing mulberry trees.
George Orwell, author of Animal Farm and 1984, wrote under a pen name. His real name was Eric Blair.
Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, has been translated into more languages than any book outside of the Bible.
The most expensive book or manuscript ever sold at an auction was The Codex Hammer, a notebook belonging to Leonardo da Vinci. It sold for $30.8 million.
In literature, the average length of a sentence is around 35 words.