History of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations Part 3

About the major reference book Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, biography of John Bartlett and history of the book's publication and editions.



The change in the 11th edition was more striking than in any since; still, W.W.II and the advent of the atomic age required an updating of material, and the 12th edition was launched in 1948. Churchill received his due; Stalin, MacArthur, Truman, and Einstein came to the fore; and the Charter of the U.N. joined the Constitution of the U.S. for its share of notice.

The 13th--the centennial edition--appeared in 1955. It has been said that the country slept through the Eisenhower years; if so, the editors of the Quotations would seem to be no exception. By the mid-fifties we might reasonably have expected to find Freud and Jung represented, not to mention Gandhi and Kierkegaard. And, for that matter, Confucius.

The present, enormously expanded edition, the 14th, was published in 1968 under the wise editorship of Emily Morison Beck.

The organization of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations according to the chronology of the authors provides an immediate historical perspective. The reader quickly discovers, for example, that Confucius, Lao-tzu, and Aesop were probably contemporaries, while Dante, Petrarch, and Chaucer were almost contemporaries, and Jefferson, Goethe, and Talleyrand actually were contemporaries. For ease of usage there is an alphabetical index of the 2,250 authors represented with their birth and death dates and a voluminous subject, or "keyword," index, which provides easy access both to quotations on every imaginable topic and to the correct wording (or source) of quotations imperfectly remembered. Thus a reader composing, say, a valentine may select from more than 800 quotations on the subject of love, 500 on the heart, or (if that is his problem) 7 on a broken heart.

In addition, footnotes provide parallel quotes, or indicate by cross-references where such might be found. For example, La Roche foucauld's "The mind is always the dupe of the heart" is footnoted with the similar phrase from Emily Dickinson, "The mind lives on the heart/Like any parasite." Occasionally, previous usages of a particular phrase are also footnoted, as with the term "iron curtain," generally attributed to Churchill, but which actually was employed by at least six others before him. All of which makes browsing through Bartlett's a fascinating pastime.

A last word on John Bartlett himself. This man whose formal education had ended at age 16 was responsible for nine editions of the Quotations, for a highly acclaimed Complete Concordance to Shakespeare's Dramatic Works and Poems, and finally for a thick pamphlet (deposited in the Harvard Library) entitled "A Record of Idle Hours"--an autobiographical account which concluded with a list of the books he had read in his lifetime. Over 1,700 titles were represented, many of which he had read more than once (e.g., Darwin's Descent of Man three times and Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire four). His famous collection of books on angling, totaling well over a thousand, was also donated to Harvard. He lived to 85. As Solon of Athens (6th century B.C.) put it, "I grow old ever learning many things."

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