December 1 in Literary History: Project Gutenberg Launched

The most significant events in the history of books on the 1st of December

1723: Susanna Centlivre dies. She was a popular playwright during the early eighteenth century, working closely with the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Her belated Restoration comedy, The Basset Table (1705), is probably her most famous play, although A Bold Stroke for a Wife (1718) has remained well-known too.

1847: Julia Ann Moore is born Julia Davis. This American poet, nicknamed the ‘Sweet Singer of Michigan’, is often described as a female American version of the Scottish poet William McGonagall, often described as the world’s worst poet. Here she is on the Great Chicago Fire of 1871: ‘The great Chicago Fire, friends, / Will never be forgot; / In Susanna Centlivrethe history of Chicago / It will remain a darken spot. / It was a dreadful horrid sight / To see that City in flames; / But no human aid could save it, / For all skill was tried in vain.’

1895: Henry Williamson is born. Williamson is best known for creating Tarka the Otter, in the 1927 novel Tarka the Otter: His Joyful Water-Life and Death in the Country of the Two Rivers. Williamson was also the recipient of the last telegram that T. E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, ever sent, shortly before his motorcycle accident in 1935.

1971: Michael S. Hart launches Project Gutenberg, choosing the American Declaration of Independence as his first text. This digital archive of noteworthy texts – whether of literary or other cultural significance – was started up using ARPANET, the original version of the internet. In October 2015, ‘PG’ (as it’s known for short) archived its 50,000th text.

2014: Here at Interesting Literature we launched our ‘Advent Calendar of Literature‘: 24 daily December posts, each containing a Christmas-themed literary fact. We compiled a bumper post containing all 24 facts (in shortened form) here.

Image: Early 18th-century engraved print of Susanna Centlivre, via Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Gutenberg is a really great and worthwhile project.

  2. Reblogged this on Vauquer Boarding House and commented:
    1971 – Project Gutenberg!