Full Title: The Great Thoughts
Author: George Seldes (1891 – 1995)
Published: April 1985
Publisher: Ballentine Books
“Upon its publication, George Seldes’s The Great Thoughts instantly took its place as a classic–a treasure house of the seminal ideas that have shaped the intellectual history of the world down through the ages. Seldes, a pivotal figure in the history of American journalism and a tireless researcher, spent the better part of his extraordinary lifetime compiling the thoughts that rule the world, casting his net widely and wisely through the essential works of philosophy, poetry, psychology, economics, politics, memoirs, and letters from the ancient Greeks to the modern Americans.”
I first encountered this book in the late 1980’s and it has proven to be a great resource. Seldes does a remarkable job of research into the origin of famous phrases and sayings we hear and often misattribute to the speaker.
The book is organized by Individual and indexed by thought and person. This takes a little bit of orientation because the book is a reference and not read from front to back. I find it best to start with the index and then reference back to the person or thought.
But when you need to know the origin of a quote this is remarkably accurate and informative. This work was the culmination of decades of research by Seldes. The work represents a core understanding of the power of free thought and our language. It is in my writings as important as a dictionary or thesaurus.
George Seldes passed away in 1995 at the ripe old age of 104, but this book has remained in print and is available readily from any number of sources at very reasonable prices. He was a vocal critic of censorship and wrote for many prominent publications.
If you are a writer and or just curious about the origin of famous quotes, this is a must.