Top 10 Books Lost to Time

A Latin professor once told me that the number of texts that have survived from antiquity to modern times may be likened to a single cup of sand from a beach. But it's not just major works from classical Greece and Rome that are lost. Some books by modern authors, too, have not survived the ravages of time. Megan Gambino of Smithsonian magazine has a roundup of ten books that are mentioned in various places, but have never been located. Among them is Cardenio, a play that William Shakespeare may have written:

There is evidence that Shakespeare’s company, the King’s Men, performed the play for King James I in May 1613—and that Shakespeare and John Fletcher, his collaborator for Henry VIII and Two Noble Kinsmen, wrote it. But the play itself is nowhere to be found.

And what a shame! From the title, scholars infer that the plot had something to do with a scene in Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote involving a character named Cardenio. (A translation of Don Quixote was published in 1612 and would have been available to Shakespeare.)


A lost book that I would love to read is an account by Pytheas of Marseilles, a Fourth Century BCE Greek explorer. He is thought to have explored Britain and the Baltic Sea long before other Greek explorers reached these areas. Alas, his manuscript survives only in quotation by other ancient authors.

Link -via Marginal Revolution | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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