December 1 in Literary History: Project Gutenberg Launched


1971 – Project Gutenberg!

Interesting Literature

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.

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Honoré de Balzac – May 20, 1799



Today is the anniversary of the birth of an author whose works have given me much pleasure over the years, Honoré de Balzac.

I first discovered Balzac around 1977 when a neighbor loaned me her much-used paperback copy of Le Père Goriot. The book was literally falling apart. It was only held together with a rubber band. Yet, my neighbor wanted it returned after I read it. I suspected this meant it was a great read. I was not disappointed.


So began my quest to read more books by this author in the days before online searches. Eventually I was given a complete set as a birthday present by a wonderful person who means the world to me. It is the Saintsbury edition largely translated by Ellen Marriage. Working from this set and with John in New Zealand using the Katherine Prescott Wormeley translations, we made the entire Human Comedy plus five plays available at Project Gutenberg in time for the 200th anniversary of Balzac’s birth.

A number of years ago the small Yahoo group devoted to Balzac read the complete Human Comedy. The discussions can be found in the archives. The La Comedie Humaine blog was started by Lisa and with the aid of Pamela and others, summaries for all the stories and other information are now available to all.