the gret anon


Today, in virtually any Waterstone’s, Smiths or Borders, the piles of Nigellas, McEwans, Clarksons and Russell Brands seem to demonstrate one simple equation: books equal celebrity. Actually, as John Mullan shows in this provocative little volume, writers used to go to extraordinary lengths to remain anonymous.

With good reason. Books were a matter of life and death. For the first three centuries after the introduction of the printing press, writers who challenged religious or political orthodoxy (and what is the use of a book that does not risk a contrary opinion?) were in mortal danger. Translations of the Bible, especially, offered a short route to immortality. Tyndale was burned at the stake. Lower down the slopes of Parnassus, even so fine a poet as Shakespeare published anonymously, after first circulating his work in private. Anon remains the star contributor to most dictionaries of quotations.

more from The Guardian here.