Morgan Library & Museum, New York.
January 26, 2007-May 6, 2007
Bestseller is a relatively recent coinage. It doesnt even appear in the first edition of the OED. The Supplements first citation is from 1911, given an American origin, and pejorative: His book had passed into the abhorred class of best sellers. I think the OED is late by at least twenty years, but this is clearly a case where life cried out for a new word.
The wonderful new exhibit at the Morgan Library officially covers the period from 18371901, Victorias reign, but it sneaks in some forerunners, like the Gothic novelists Ann Radcliffe and Monk Lewis. Their effect can be judged by Gillrays print Tales of Wonder!, in which even the drawing-room ornaments are agog at the thrilling horrors read aloud into the wee hours of the morning to the female audience. Thus the birth of the trashy bes ...
Alexandra Mullen is an advisory editor at The Hudson Review
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