[23 November 2009]
Public libraries can be a treasure trove of semi-forgotten texts. Recently I was wandering through the Classics section (800s, poetry, philosophy, that sort of thing) and an unusual volume caught my eye.
Winnie ille Pu. Something didn’t seem right. The classic story in Latin. Why else would A.A. Milne, sorry, A.A. Milnei be shelved near the ancient Greeks and other dead languages?
Now, I can’t read Latin, but I was so charmed by this 1960 volume that I took it out. Sometimes an old book needs a bit of fresh air, right? The pictures are all there, and the story I know, but can’t pronounce in this case. A few minutes investigation online told me that you can still buy the paperback version on Amazon, and this translation was actually a New York Times bestseller for 20 weeks following publication, reprinted 21 times!
A 1984 story by Edwin McDowell in the NYT Books section elaborates on the strange series of events that brought this beloved story back into print in a dead language. I’m glad it caught my eye, or I would never have known about what is possibly the only book without a word of English in it to be a NYT bestseller.