The most significant events in the history of books on the 6th of December
1478: Baldassare Castiglione is born. This Italian soldier and diplomat is best remembered for The Book of the Courtier (1528), a book written over many years in the form of a philosophical dialogue. It sums up Renaissance Europe: when an English translation appeared in 1561 it helped to define the idea of the English gentleman.
1658: Baltasar Gracián dies. A Spanish writer and philosopher, his wisest witticism, for our money, is the following: ‘A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one.’
1718: Nicholas Rowe dies. In 1715 he had been appointed Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, succeeding Nahum Tate in the role. His own poems and plays (he wrote a number of popular works for the stage) are not now much regarded, but he is remembered as the editor of The Complete Works of Shakespeare, the first scholarly edition of Shakespeare‘s work.
1768: The first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica is published. An important legacy of the Scottish Enlightenment, the first edition was overseen by one William Smellie.
1882: Anthony Trollope dies. He had suffered a fatal fit of the giggles several weeks earlier, having been tickled by F. Anstey’s comic novel Vice Versa. Trollope suffered a stroke, probably brought on by the fit of laughter, and died just over a month later. His 1882 novel The Fixed Period features on our top 10 list of the best early dystopian novels.
1953: Vladimir Nabokov completes Lolita. He had begun work on it five years earlier, and composed much of ‘The Kingdom by the Sea’ – as it was initially called – on note-cards while travelling on butterfly-collecting trips in the US.