• Joe Pace

Favorite Non-Fiction Books, #27: Bartlett's Familiar Quotations


Some unfamiliar ones too.

I've always enjoyed collecting quotations. Since the advent of writing, humanity has managed to articulate just about every concept, thought, emotion, or aspiration imaginable, often with a poetry or pith that I know I struggle to attain. I love quotations so much that I even began my own collection of them in high school, which some of my contemporaries will recall with mixed approval. So one of my most cherished volumes is this 1955 edition of Bartlett's famous aggregation of "passages, phrases, and proverbs traced to their sources in ancient and modern literature". This edition marked the 100th anniversary of Bartlett's original 258-page effort. This version runs to nearly 1600 pages, including helpful indices by author and topic.

I've loved this book as long as I can remember, and have referred to it frequently in writing fiction, essays, and speeches alike. Sometimes I'll pick it up and scan through the musty pages, taking a stroll through the thoughts of long-dead philosophers and princes, prophets and and poets. It's a collection of the deeply familiar and the charmingly anachronistic or obscure, especially this nearly 65-year old edition. One of the things I particularly love about this book is that it belonged to my mother's father, Tom Faulkner. He passed when I was young, maybe six, and I never really knew him well. But I know he loved quotations too, and I know that he added his own to this volume on the frontispiece. Of all the wisdom in this voluminous tome, my grandpappy had the right of it. "Love is all that counts."

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