Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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Al Maviva

The first blogger? Samuel Pepys, of course:


I vote for Augustine, combining focus on Confessions and The City of God.


Sissy Willis

Pliny the Younger, no question (Caius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (63 - ca. 113), whose letters are "a unique testimony of Roman administrative history and everyday life in the 1st century C.E.. . Pliny was the initiator of a new particular genre, the letter written for publication."


Who is the godfather of blogging?

One could easily make an argument for Saint Paul. His letters, many of which appear in the New Testament portion of the Bible, were occasioned by specific situations, engaged conflicting opinions, and were relatively short in length, characteristics shared by the very best blog posts today. His letters weren't meant to be treatises like those appearing in scholarly volumes, but down-to-earth communication, the application of Christian faith to pressing questions surfaced by everyday living.

One could argue that Martin Luther is the godfather of blogging. Luther was, by common consenus, the first media superstar, his work, long and short, scholarly and popular, cranked out with prolific ferocity, and mediated by the blog of its day, the printing press. Mr. Gutenberg's machine was relatively new and just gaining currency in Europe, representing a happy confluence of technology with Luther's reforming message, each feeding off of each other, bringing greater success to each.

An argument could be made also for Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin as the godfathers of blogging. Paine's 'Common Sense,' that classic pamphlet advocating American revolution, was hugely important. To inspire and to underscore the reason they were at war, Washington had 'Common Sense' read to his army in its entirety. It's estimated that 2-million people lived in the thirteen original states when 'Common Sense' was published. Something like 500,000 copies were sold!

Franklin, of course, like the best bloggers of today, had a knack for phrasing that people enjoyed and that wormed its way into people's consciousness.

Every accomplished essayist since Montaigne is in the blogging world's family tree, as are newspaper columnists and radio and TV commentators.

Historically though, the group of people who most remind me of the vast throng of us engaged in blogging today, is the loosely-federated group called the Committees of Correspondence. They operated mostly under the radar of accepted popular culture, growing in stature and importance as they surreptitiously passed along the virus of freedom to all the thirteen colonies that became the United States.


I think you know you're caught up in the birth of a genuinely new medium when you can look back down history like that and have it light up, with new understanding and a sense of intimate kinship, so many other moments of critical paradigm change when a new form of communication coincided with a particularly strong need to communicate.

Richard Lawrence Cohen

There are many ancestors, of course, but the most directly comparable is the Japanese "pillow book" genre, best represented by THE PILLOW BOOK OF SEI SHONAGON (born c. 966). In Heian Japan, only men were allowed to write in Chinese, the official literary language, so women invented Japanese vernacular literature, which reached its height in Murasaki's TALE OF GENJI, the world' first domestic novel.

According to my encyclopedia, Sei Shonagon's pillow book is "a collection of anecdotes, reflections, aesthetic assessments, and anecdotes of court life." It's in print from Penguin, and it's the greatest. I've consciously adapted aspects of it, such as a list of exaspering types of people, in my blog.


This is sending me back to read some of these people again with new eyes, or to read others for the first time. And I have a feeling they will seem like contemporaries in a way they wouldn't have five years ago -- liberated from their entombment in time (as we are from our isolation from one another in space) by the strong feeling that you could almost reach out and trade links with them. Fellow-members of the cross-temporal fraternity/sorority of bloggers!

Richard Lawrence Cohen

Another protoblogger is the German Enlightenment mathematican and scientist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), who kept a journal of aphoristic observations, entitled THE WASTE BOOKS, that were not published till after his death. They've been reprinted recently by New York Review Books Classics. A sampling of the briefest:

"Among the greatest discoveries human reason has made in recent times is, in my opinion, the art of reviewing books without having read them."

"Man loves company, even though it is only that of a smoldering candle."

"There are people who believe everything is sane and sensible that is done with a solemn face."

"A man who owes his entire reputation to the desire of men to read something bad about their acquaintances."

David Leftwich

I would add Samuel Johnson to this list, especially his essays from THE RAMBLER & THE IDLER. And there is always Orwell - in particular his AS I PLEASE pieces.



First to break out of the epic tradition (="Homer") which together told one big meta-narrative, and whose poets hid behind the persona of a detached, inspired bard.

Hesiod introduced the personal voice. He wrote not (only) about a mythical heroic world, but about politics and plow-based agriculture (the cutting-edge technology of the 8th century BCE).

His structure is also bloglike: little bursts, ranging from a line or two to 100-line mini-stories, with an inscrutable arrangment - except for chunks which are in **calendar form** ["Works and Days"].


OK, he's not Pliny, Montaigne, or Hesiod, but what about Larry King? His old column in USA Today was a string of daily observations and trivia worthy of any blogger today. He was writing that for 20 years - we all probably soaked up his influence.


I just checked out a book about blogs, from the university library, last week or so. I was wanting Hugh Hewitt's more-recent book, but not being able to find it, I got this one, which was published in 2002, and contains a compilation of different writers' essays and articles, regarding blogging. Some are from 1999, so it seems out of date... I guess I didn't realize that blogging was being discussed and written about, at that time, as well.

I actually was thinking about the roots of blogging, but I guess I hadn't yet thought about the roots going this deep. This is a very interesting topic!! - Thanks for your guys' contributions; it's neat to think about the origins of the medium that we're now so involved in.

And to think - When I saw the title of this entry listed on your sidebar, I was thinking that it was about Glenn Reynolds!!

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