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January 2017

Here's the world's first novel.  Maybe.
No one really knows what the first novel was, in part because experts don't agree on what a novel is.  Is it a fictional story?  Does it have character development?  Individuality of perception?  Psychological observation? If it does, most experts agree that the world's first novel was Murasaki Shikibu's Tale of the Genji from 1010 (or 1025 -- experts can't agree on that, either).  China was ahead of the rest of the world in terms of the spread of printed books at the time, and that led to the evolution of storytelling and consciously fictional novels. 
A few short centuries later, Europe caught up and Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote de la Manca came along in 1605.Again, while some point to Don Quixote as the first Western novel, others say the first European novel was Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, which didn't come along until 1719.  One of the reasons Europe was later than Asia is that paper just wasn't available earlier. While scholars can dispute which came first, no one disputes the enduring popularity of all three novels.  And here, Don Quixote may have an edge:  It has sold more than 500 million copies.

This month's Puzzler

On January 6, 1883, this man was born in Bsharri, Mount Lebanon (then a part of the Ottoman Empire). He grew up in poverty, an unfortunate situation exacerbated by his father's serious gambling problems. When he was twelve, his mother decided to leave her husband and, with three children in tow, follow her brother to the United States.

While being registered in the Boston public school system, his first name was inadvertently misspelled (the letters "ha" were inadvertently transposed to "ah"). By all indications, he accepted the error, for it ultimately become the accepted spelling on all of his later published works. He lived in Boston for three years before returning to Lebanon at age fifteen to deepen his connection to his cultural heritage as he furthered his education.

In 1902, at age nineteen he returned to Boston to continue his studies and advance his career as an artist. Over the next decade, while living in Boston, Paris, and finally in New York City, he became an accomplished artist (especially skilled at portraiture, his subjects included William Butler Yeats and Carl Jung). When Auguste Rodin wanted an official portrait done, he commissioned this week's Mystery Man to do the work.

In addition to his talent as an artist, he was also a gifted writer, noted for a lyrical, poetic style and a reflective, philosophical bent. While he wrote a number of books, he is chiefly remembered for one -- a 1923 literary classic that became one of the best-selling books of all time.

Who is this man?  What was the title of the 1923 book?  (Answers below)

Learn the essentials of book-collecting

in two fun and informative sessions

The winter semester of Printed Page College of Biblio Knowledge starts Thursday, February 17 with a two-hour class from 7 to 9 pm, and concludes with another class on Thursday, February 23, also from 7 to 9.  We teach you what you need to know to be a more informed book collector, including how to identify first editions, how not to be fooled by a book, research resources on books and authors, book terminology, how to protect your collection, book restoration and conservation, how to build your collection, buying online and at auctions and much more.  It's only $40. To reserve your spot, send your check to Printed Page Bookshop, 1416 S. Broadway, Denver, CO 80210.  

Puzzler answer

Kahlil Gibran.  "The Prophet"
Thanks to Dr. Mardy Grothe for the use of his puzzler.  Visit him at
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