A delightful book browsing pleasure


I received a terrific gift recently, a copy of the latest edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. (18th ed., 2012). It’s a behemoth of a book, clocking in at just over 1,500 pages.

It’s also a browser’s delight, a history lesson and time machine, and an exemplar for writers in how to turn a phrase. Here’s a very random sampling:

  • “Every human being is an archeological site” (Luc Sante, The Factory of Facts, 1998)
  • “A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody” (Irving Berlin, Ziegfeld Follies, 1919)
  • “Books, the children of the brain” (Jonathan Swift, A Tale of the Tub, 1704)
  • “Nobody’s as powerful as we make them out to be” (Alice Walker, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, 1970)
  • “You will find rest from vain fancies if you perform every act in life as though it were your last” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)
  • “If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom shall we serve?” (Abigail Adams, Letter to John Thaxter, 1778)
  • “Uncommon valor was a common virtue” (Chester Nimitz, Of the Marines at Iwo Jima, 1945)
  • “It is far, far better and much safer to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled seas of thought” (John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society, 1958)
  • “Man, if you gotta ask you’ll never know” (Louis Armstrong, Reply when asked what jazz is)
  • “O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!” (Edna St. Vincent Millay, God’s World, 1917)

…and so, so much more. Buy, borrow, or be gifted a copy and enjoy.


Many thanks to Tom and Phyllis Schaaf for the kind gift that inspired this blog post!

3 responses

  1. I grew up on this at my grandmother’s!

    1. You’re lucky! I’ve never before spent quality time with this book. What fun!

  2. when you’re an only child you tend to spend a lot of time with a book and that’s what she had – I don’t think I even realized they still made them but I found one – or some – that day – hm…maybe need to go back and get another one, don’t know what happened to hers and as many as I got of hers surely, but don’t think I’ve seen it; somebody else may have gotten it

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