A Safire classic:
The first to suggest a nominee is Joseph Felcone, an antiquarian bookseller in Princeton N.J.. In his most recent catalogue of books for sale, he lists under the headline “The First Blogger?” a book by Plinius Caecilius Secundus, Gaius, better known to all of us as Pliny the Younger, a consul of the Roman empire. The book (a 1518 edition of which, lightly dampstained on a few leaves, is offered for 1400 depreciating U.S. smackers) is titled “Epistolarum libri X. Panegyricus”. We all recognize “epistle” as a letter; according to the Oxford English Dictionary, panegyricus is a “public eulogy”.
Thus, young Pliny’s book, one of nine he published between A.D. 99 and 109, would be titled if published today: “Letters in Praise of Great Friends”. The bookseller notes that this Roman consul commented “on political events, social life in Rome and the provinces, and the domestic events of the day. Some letters are paeans of praise for particular friends, whereas others are requests for support of his own agenda…Unlike many of the existing letters of Cicero, Pliny’s letters were intended for public consumption, and are well-crafted from a literary perspective.”Is this not the definition of the pre-blogger, especially one touting a particular candidate for office or seeking support for his own altruistic ideas or nefarious schemes?
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