Friday, November 9th, 2012

Who Was The World's First Blogger?

Sei Shōnagon, b. 966: "Her writings were eventually collected and published in The Pillow Book (public library) in 1002. An archive of pictures and illustrations, records of interesting events in court, and daily personal thoughts, many in list-form, this was arguably the world’s first 'blog' by conceptual format and Shōnagon the world's first blogger."

Michel de Montaigne, b. 1533: "It's been said—by Bakewell, with reservations, and others—that Montaigne was the first blogger. His favorite subject, as he often remarked, was himself ('I would rather be an expert on me than on Cicero'), and he meant to leave nothing out ('I am loath even to have thoughts which I cannot publish')."

William Shakespeare, b. 1564: "Shakespeare writing the first blog ever created."

Samuel Pepys, b. 1633: "When chocolate spread to London, renowned diarist Samuel Pepys (history’s first blogger) drank hot chocolate as his hangover cure after Charles II’s coronation."

Sir Richard Steele, b. 1672: "Ben Hammersley in a talk called Etiquette and the Singularity delivered in Copenhagen, stated that the first blogger was Sir Richard Steele back in 1709. Steele who wanted to circulate his views and opinions did so by writing a letter three times a week. This letter—The Tatler—was distributed to its readers by street urchins."

Benjamin Franklin, b. 1706: "Self-published, self-guided and self-promoting, Poor Richard’s Almanack was the world’s first blog."

Paul Revere, b. 1734: "He excitedly retells Gladwell's (inaccurate) version of Paul Revere's ride and turns Revere into the first blogger, since the latter uses 'blogging software instead of a horse to spread [an] idea virus.'"

Thomas Paine, b. 1737: "Thomas Paine was in effect the first blogger, and Benjamin Franklin was essentially loading his persona into the MySpace of the 18th century, Poor Richard's Almanack."

Charles Dickens, b. 1812: "Scholars are confidant [sic] that punchy opinion pieces, penned anonymously by Dickens in response to the social ills of the day, reveal him to be the first 'blogger.'"

Mark Twain, b. 1835: "Mark Twain expert Robert Hirst had this to say about Mark Twain's posthumously published memoir, which goes on sale Nov. 15th: 'Partly a journal, partly a diary, and partly recollection. So yeah, I think of it as a kind of blog, a blog without a web!'"

Mary MacLane, b. 1881: "Excited that Melville House is republishing Mary Maclane, who invented blogging in 1902."

George Orwell, b. 1903: "Held at Wellesley College, an elite American college for women, the conference featured panels that described him as the conscience of his generation, a prophet, a rebel, a misunderstood Christian, an early gay rights advocate, a latter-day Tocqueville, possibly the first blogger, and an obvious misogynist."

Diane Vreeland, b. 1903: "Vreeland immediately launched her 'Why Don't You…?' column on the pages of Bazaar. These aphoristic musings—which to me made Vreeland the first blogger—coaxed readers out of their quotidian existence and dared them to dream."

I.F. Stone, b. 1907: "His putative claim to the title 'first blogger' has become a cyberspace cliché."

Marshall McLuhan, b. 1911: "Jacobs points out that McLuhan’s writing style— frustrating to those trying to wring out an argument—may have been ahead of its time, resembling the assertion-based, quote-heavy, quick riffs that characterize much internet-based writing."

Hunter Thompson, b. 1937: "Dr. Hunter Thompson (the honorific came from a mail-order divinity school) was our first blogger , a skilled journalist who wrote funny, vivid opinion pieces about his time and place—Nixon's America—in the magazines of his day: The Nation, Scanlan's Monthly and, his most frequent stomping ground, Rolling Stone."

Harvey Pekar, b. 1939: "'He was the original blogger,' said Dean Haspiel, a comics artist who collaborated with Mr. Pekar on The Quitter, a hardcover autobiography released in 2005."

Michael Musto, b. 1955: "'Do you think if you were a kid now, you would be a blogger?' I asked. "Yeah," Musto said. "I mean, it's like in a way I was the original blogger. But now everyone in the world is a blogger, which means everyone on earth is a gossip columnist. I used to compete with maybe five people, now you're competing with like five billion people.'"

Doogie Howser, b. 1989: "Doogie Howser has been jokingly referred to as the world’s first blogger. But the kid doctor’s quasi-poignant, ellipsis-laden insights more closely resemble Twitter updates."

Related: What Famous People Smell Like

Elon Green is a contributing editor to Longform.

15 Comments / Post A Comment

#56 (#56)

Montaigne would have totally had a tumblr:

"When I play with my cat, who knows whether she is not making me her pastime more than I make her mine?"

"since i scatter a word here and a word there, samples torn from their piece and separated without plan or promise, i am not bound to answer for them, or to keep to them, but can change them when it suits me. i am free to give myself up to doubt and uncertainty, and to my predominant quality which is ignorance."

barnhouse (#1,326)

Great freaking call OMG. There is a list somewhere in the Pillow Book as I recall of "sordid things" that includes "the inside of a cat's ear."

And how much too much can we say of the Parmazan Cheese of Pepys!!

Well done.

BadUncle (#153)

So, "blog" has become a generic term to signify any chronologically-organized thinking? I figured "diarist," "essayist," and "journalist" were good enough.

Cheruth (#13,134)

Well by these standards Witold Gombrowicz should absolutely be on the list. He would have loved a blog. And exiled in Argentina he began to get some of his worldwide fame by publishing his diaries in European journals. And his diaries are a true collection of the bizarre.

I thought it was Ken Layne?

Binne (#231,278)

To believe that blogging is a new thing is to be foolishly stuck in the present tense. People have been writing journals, diaries, essays, almanacs, all of it, for centuries, if not millennia. Now it's called blogging, and the only difference is that such musings can be published without the intermediatory benefits of editing or even proofreading, and the writings of people with no talent for it and essentially nothing to say are read by millions.

Mr. B (#10,093)

A case could totally be made for Tacitus, i.e. history in the form of unverifiable anecdotes.

Suetonius was the pro to- gossip blogger

barnhouse (#1,326)

@Ron Mwangaguhunga and Herodotus!! Remember about the black sperm??! "This I know."

Walter Benjamin and The Arcades project.

Sam Meyer@facebook (#239,350)

Walter Winchell? Marcus Aurelius? St. Augustine?

Ambrose Bierce would have been one helluva blogger.

cassylights (#239,372)

@Sam Meyer@facebook Ambrose Bierce

Tulletilsynet (#333)

The Babylonian Chronicles have a Facebook page. Just saying.

Great list. But who really WAS the first blogger? (As in person who posted continuous journal updates on a webpage.) Do we know?

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