January 04, 2005

Curiosities of Literature

I think it was in one of Arthur Machen’s memoirs that I first learned of Isaac D’Israeli’s book Curiosities of Literature. If I recall correctly, Machen mentioned it as one of the volumes in which he had found solace during his first, unhappy years in London. Several years later, during mine & my wife’s first trip to Stockholm, I stopped at an Antikvariat who just so happened to have a one-volume edition—bound in rather garishly-marbled boards trimmed with red leather—of the Curiosities on their shelves. I bought it and took it back to the cottage we were renting at Stavsnäs.

Title-page of the one-volume Routledge edition of D'Israeli's 'Curiosities.'

The first volume of Curiosities of Literature was published in 1791, and, over the following thirty-odd years, five further volumes appeared. The completed work comprises (if I counted them right) some two hundred and eighty-five separate essays, most of them quite brief, covering all manner of miscellaneous topics, such as, just to give some examples: Men of genius deficient in conversation; On the custom of saluting after sneezing; Metempsychosis; History of gloves; Literary blunders; and Drinking customs in England.

Engraved portrait of D'Israeli from the frontispiece of the Routledge 'Curiosities.'

It’s such a richly diverting book, and one not to be found (to the best of my knowledge) anywhere on the internet, so I have decided to start up a separate weblog at this site specifically dedicated to serially re-publishing the Curiosties on-line, essay by essay. I’ve posted the first three essays already: Libraries, Bibliomania, and Literary Journals, and many more will follow (I hope), to appear at a rate of at least one essay per week (depending on my available time & enthiusiasm.)

Posted by misteraitch at January 4, 2005 08:32 PM | TrackBack

Very interesting. Thank you for making this accessible to others!

"Great collections of books are subject to certain accidents besides the damp, the worms, and the rats; one not less common is that of the borrowers, not to say a word of the purloiners."
- Bibliomania

Posted by: Jari T on January 4, 2005 09:52 PM

Hey, your blog is really cool. I like it :)
Sebastian told me about it.

Posted by: Bibi on January 5, 2005 07:05 PM

Thank you so much for such an appealing presentation of this book - it'll be opened in the same tab folder as the Samuel Pepys diary every morning.

Posted by: bennett epple on January 5, 2005 08:01 PM

Oh, how wonderful that you're making this so widely accessible!

I haven't visited your site in too long, but it's DeLurking Day, so I'm saying hi, as well as reading your typically wonderful fare.

(You knew me as zoetrope at OD, but I've moved sites a few times.)

Posted by: Melissa on January 6, 2005 03:43 AM

Read about this book in Harry Levin's "The Title as a Literary Genre". Your idea is noble! Thank you!

Posted by: Marjan Pungartnik on October 5, 2005 06:37 PM
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