The most significant events in the history of books on the 14th of November
1851: Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick is published in the United States, nearly a month after it had gone on sale in the UK. The novel sold badly (it now sells more copies in a year than it sold during Melville’s whole lifetime) and, after several more attempts at writing, Melville gave up fiction in his later years. The novel is now regarded as an American classic.
1883: Treasure Island is published as a one-volume book. It was Robert Louis Stevenson’s first great success, though not his first book. The character of Long John Silver, as we’ve previously discussed, was inspired by Stevenson’s friend W. E. Henley, whose daughter also served as the model for J. M. Barrie’s creation Wendy Darling (who, contrary to widely held belief, was not the first ever Wendy). Stevenson’s book would spur aspiring novelist H. Rider Haggard to try his hand at writing an imperial adventure romance; the result of his labour would be King Solomon’s Mines, which in turn was his first great success. Between them, Stevenson and Haggard would help to inspire a renaissance in storytelling at the end of the nineteenth century, with Haggard’s novels helping to establish a new subgenre of adventure fiction, the ‘lost world’ novel (later practitioners of which would include both Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and, more recently, Michael Crichton).
1907: Astrid Lindgren is born. The Swedish Lindgren is best known as the creator of Pippi Longstocking, whose full name (in one English translation) is Pippi Longstocking’s full name is Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim’s Daughter Longstocking. Longstocking? Long name. After Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, Lindgren is the most translated children’s author in the world. She is estimated to have sold 144 million books worldwide.
1910: Norman MacCaig is born. He would be one of the leading Scottish poets of the twentieth century, and was awarded an OBE in 1979 and, in 1985, the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. You can read some of his poems over at the Poetry Foundation website.
Image: Stevenson’s map of Treasure Island, via Wikimedia Commons.