On the 18th July 1925, the first volume of Adolf Hitler’s rambling racist manifesto Mein Kampf – which translates as My Struggle or My Battle – was first published. Dictated to his assistant Rudolf Hess whilst imprisoned in surprisingly luxurious conditions at Landsberg Prison, Mein Kampf laid out the blueprint for Hitler’s future plans for Germany, although when it was first published it gained little following outside the ranks of the Nationalist Socialist faithful.

In 1923, Hitler launched an attempted coup to seize power in Munich in Bavaria. Known as the Beer Hall Putsch, it ended in disaster for the Nazis when Hitler was arrested along with other Party leaders and charged with treason. Having been found guilty after a widely publicised 24-day trial, Hitler was sent to Landsberg as a nationally recognised figure.

Imprisonment gave Hitler time to reflect on the future direction of the Nazi Party and dictate Mein Kampf to Hess. It was in this book that Hitler clearly stated his anti-Semitic views, and attempted to justify his hatred. He also outlined his intentions for a future Germany including the destruction of the parliamentary system and the first reference to aggressive eastward expansion in order to gain Lebensraum “at the expense of Russia”.

Despite its initially poor reception, Mein Kampf became a popular book with hundreds of thousands of copies sold each year after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, even though he increasingly distanced himself from it. Winston Churchill believed that, if world leaders had read it, they could have anticipated the full scale of Nazi domestic and foreign policy.

On the 23rd February 1455, tradition dictates that Johannes Gutenberg published his printed Bible – the first book to be produced with moveable type in the West. Although there is no definitive evidence for this publication date, numerous secondary sources state it and therefore it is accepted by most people.

Gutenberg was not the first person in the world to use moveable type, and nor was the Bible his first foray into printing with it. He didn’t even produce that many copies, with estimates ranging from 160 to 185 Bibles of which only twenty-three complete copies survive. However, the process with which Gutenberg printed his Bible revolutionised the production of books and is viewed by many as crucial to the developments that followed in the Renaissance and the Reformation.

The earliest examples of moveable type – the use of individual components that can be ordered to produce a printed document – date back to China’s Northern Song Dynasty at the turn of the last millennium, but the enormous number of characters in scripts based on the Chinese writing system made the system unwieldly. Gutenberg therefore benefited from the much smaller number of characters in the Latin alphabet, but also invented a reliable way to cast large numbers of individual metal letters using a device called the hand mould. Furthermore, he developed an oil-based ink that was optimised for metal-type printing onto paper.

With 1,286 pages a complete copy of the Gutenberg Bible is now estimated to be worth up to $35 million dollars, but the value of the printing press itself is immeasurable. Gutenberg’s creation was responsible for an intellectual revolution.

On the 21st February 1848, The Communist Manifesto was anonymously published in London although the text by Karl Marx, supported by Friedrich Engels, was in German. Officially called The Manifesto of the Communist Party, the original pamphlet was just 23 pages long but went on to become a highly influential political document alongside the more substantial Das Kapital.

Marx was born in Prussia in 1818, but was living in Brussels when the Communist League’s Second Congress commissioned him and Engels to write the League’s manifesto in December 1847. However, it wasn’t until the League’s Central Committee sent him an ultimatum to submit the completed manuscript by 1 February that he did any significant work on it. It was modelled on Engels’ 1847 Draft of the Communist Confession of Faith but Engels had little input to the manifesto itself.

Ending with the now-iconic words, “Workers of the world, unite!” publication of the Manifesto coincided with the outbreak of the 1848 revolution in France the next day. The revolution spread across Europe, but the Manifesto had little connection to this: only in Cologne did the Communist League play any major role.

The Manifesto gradually drifted into obscurity until its resurgence in the 1870s after Marx formed the First International. An updated edition was printed in 1872 and translated into six languages. The standard English text was first published in 1888 with a translation by Samuel Moore, although Marx himself had died penniless four years previously. However, his ideas lived on and directly led to 1917’s Bolshevik revolution in Russia, the world’s first socialist state to be founded according to Marxist ideology.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, under his pen-name Mark Twain, had previously published the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in which the character of Huckleberry “Huck” Finn is introduced for the first time. Eight years after its release, the sequel was published in the United Kingdom in December 1884 and was followed by the American version two months later.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was originally published without the definite article at the start of its title, is set in the antebellum South when the economy was fuelled by plantations using slave labour. The novel follows Huck’s journey down the river Mississippi with Jim, a slave who ran away from his owner Miss Watson.

Notable as one of the first American novels to be written in vernacular English, it is told in the first person by Huck himself. This is said to have revolutionised American literature, with Ernest Hemingway later claiming that “All modern American literature comes from…Huckleberry Finn.”

Despite such later acclaim, the book was greeted with mixed reviews on its release and within just a month it had been banned by the library in Concord, Massachusetts for being “trash…suitable only for the slums.” Other libraries in the late 19th and early 20th century followed suit, and the novel continues to divide opinion due to its frequent use of the n-word and its portrayal of black characters. However, defenders of the book instead interpret Twain’s creation as a masterpiece of American literature that uses satire to present a powerful attack on racism.

On the 23rd December 1823, the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, more commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas” was published anonymously in the New York Sentinel. It is significant for being the first source to give the names of Santa’s reindeer, as well as establishing the image of the jolly fat Santa that we know today. Reprinted a number of times in subsequent years, the poem became attributed to the academic Clement Clarke Moore who eventually acknowledged authorship in 1844. However, debate over the author continues to this day with Major Henry Livingston, Jr. being other potential writer being put forward most regularly.

Legend says that Moore wrote the poem while on a shopping trip, and read it to his children on Christmas Eve 1822. A year later a copy found its way to the offices of the New York Sentinel who published it along with a message in which the editor expressed “his cordial thanks to whoever had sent him these Christmas verses.”

Moore’s reluctance to be associated with the verse apparently stemmed from his career as a professor of ancient languages, since he didn’t want the poem to undermine his academic credentials. It was his friend, Charles Fenno Hoffman, who first publicly attributed the poem to him in the Christmas 1837 edition of the Pennsylvania Inquirer and Daily Courier.

One interesting aside relates to Santa’s reindeer in the poem. When reading it to children, they’re often surprised to find that Rudolph isn’t mentioned. This is because Rudolph didn’t appear until the story by Robert L. May was published in 1939.

On the 21st December 1913, the first modern crossword puzzle was printed in the New York World newspaper. Created by British-born journalist Arthur Wynne, his diamond-shaped puzzle was originally called a ‘word-cross puzzle’, but due to a typesetting error the name was accidentally changed to a ‘cross-word puzzle’ and the name stuck.

Although examples of crossword-like puzzles had begun appearing in the mid-19th Century, Wynne was the first to include various features that we associate with modern crosswords such as a box for entering each letter and a symmetrical design. His first ‘word-cross’ was actually shaped as a symmetrical diamond with a hollow centre, but he soon went on to design other versions. Wynne was even the first to incorporate shaded black squares to allow the creation – and separation – of rows and columns of words that allowed more and more complex designs to be created.

Surprisingly, the ‘word-cross’ was just one of a number of puzzles developed by Wynne for the 21st December issue of the New York World’s ‘Fun’ supplement. However it caused a sensation and, before long, crossword puzzles had spread beyond the New York World to other newspapers in America and beyond. Within less than a decade they had begun to appear in comic strips such as Clare Briggs’ cartoon ‘Movie of a Man Doing the Cross-Word Puzzle’, and in 1924 the first collection of crossword puzzles was published by Simon and Schuster. This is also the same year that the first crossword appeared in a British newspaper, when the Sunday Express printed an adapted Wynne puzzle in November 1924.

On the 19th December 1843, Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol was published in London by Chapman & Hall. Since first being published it has never been out of print and, despite the first run selling out within 6 days, Dickens was disappointed with the amount of money he made from the book.

A Christmas Carol was written in just six weeks from September 1843. Although released by an established publisher, Dickens was unwilling to take a lump-sum fee for the story and so instead published it at his own expense. However, the high production costs meant that the profits were smaller than he hoped for.

Despite this disappointing financial return for its author, A Christmas Carol is said to be responsible for establishing much of the modern interpretation of the Christmas holiday. Historian Ronald Hutton refers to the book’s theme of ‘social reconciliation’, and views the story as establishing the link between individuals, families and their place within the wider community as well as the importance of charitable giving.

Dickens’ tale is also responsible for introducing key terms into the English language of which the name “Scrooge”, and the phrase “Bah! Humbug!” are the most obvious. However, it is also responsible for popularising the phrase “Merry Christmas”. Although this greeting had been around since the 16th Century, by 1843 the meaning of the word ‘merry’ was changing – originally it simply meant ‘pleasant’, but by the time of Dickens’ book it had begun to mean ‘cheerful’ or ‘jolly’ and it is within this context that Scrooge uses the term extensively at the end of the story.

Regular visitors may remember that earlier this week I released a podcast about the release of the the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the 6th December 1768. As with all episodes of HistoryPod, I researched this thoroughly and cross-referenced the date against as many sources as I could to ensure reliability.

In the evening of the 6th December I received a message from the editors of Britannica themselves. They thanked me for including the Encyclopaedia in an episode, but also included a correction – Britannica’s was first published not on the 6th December but the 10th. Based on my research, the date of the 6th appears to have come from an advert in an Edinburgh broadsheet newspaper on that day for the new Encyclopaedia. However, in the message from Britannica they revealed that they have only recently determined that the first edition was actually published on the 10th.

Consequently I’m releasing this brief correction to recognise the work of Britannica in confirming the real publishing date, and to ensure that HistoryPod remains an up-to-date and accurate record of significant events from our past. In case you missed it, here’s the story.


Officially titled Encyclopædia Britannica, or, A Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, compiled upon a New Plan, the Britannica was published in three volumes over a three year period. A key part of the Scottish Enlightenment, the Britannica was founded by Edinburgh printers Colin Macfarquhar and Andrew Bell although it was published under the pseudonym “A Society of Gentlemen in Scotland” to reflect the numerous people involved in its production.

Although considerably shorter than the 17-volume French Encyclopédie that inspired it, the Britannica was notable for its “new plan” that saw related topics on major themes grouped together into a single “treatise”. More than forty treatises on topics ranging from surgery to watch and clockwork were inserted in alphabetical order alongside shorter articles and technical definitions. This meant that the Britannica could be used for both quick reference and more comprehensive study.

Edited by 28-year old William Smellie, the first edition was released in weekly instalments known as “numbers” that were later bound into volumes. These included 160 copperplate engravings by Andrew Bell and stretched over 2,500 double-columned pages. An estimated 3,000 copies of the first edition were sold, with the completed set being reprinted twice before work on a second edition began in 1776.

Having gone through fifteen editions that grew to 32 volumes, the last printed version of the Britannica was released in 2010. It is now exclusively distributed through digital mediums including a subscription-based website.

Charles Dodgson, better known as the author Lewis Carroll, told a story to the sisters Alice, Lorina and Edith Liddell that was to develop into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Dodgson was a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church College in Oxford University where, alongside his academic work, he also wrote poems and short stories that were published in national publications under his pseudonym. He became close friends with the family of Henry Liddell, the Dean of Christ Church, from 1856 and was known to take the children on rowing trips along the Thames.

On 4 July the Reverend Robinson Duckworth joined Dodgson and the children for a trip along the river for a picnic in the village of Godstow. During the journey Dodgson entertained the three Liddell girls with a story about a girl called Alice who fell into a rabbit hole. It is said that Alice Liddell enjoyed the story so much that she asked him to write it down for her. Dodgson eventually gave her an expanded handwritten and illustrated copy of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground two years later, on 26 November 1864.

In the meantime he had approached the publisher, Macmillan, with an early version of the manuscript. He had already tested his drafts on the children of his friend George MacDonald, who reportedly adored the story. Macmillan committed to publishing the novel on its completion, and so Dodgson approached the celebrated artist Sir John Tenniel to provide illustrations.

Tenniel rejected the first print as he was unhappy with the print quality so the first UK edition, published at the end of 1865, was actually the second print. The book was an immediate success, and brought Dodgson – or at least his Lewis Carroll – enormous attention. It has remained in print ever since.

On the 26th May 1897, Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror novel Dracula was first published.  Although not the first vampire novel, Dracula was certainly responsible for defining modern ideas of vampires and for forever associating them with Romania.

Vlad III was king of Romania before it was Romania, and he had such an enormous bloodlust that he was given the epithet ‘the Impaler’.  However, during his lifetime he also had another name.  He was known as Dracula.  Many people therefore believe that Stoker based his character on a real historical prince.  But he didn’t.

Vlad III’s father, Vlad II, was a member of the Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order charged with fighting the enemies of Christianity.  In the case of Vlad, this meant the Turks on his southern border.  As a member of the Order of the Dragon, Vlad added the Romanian word for dragon – dracul –to his name, and so he became known as Vlad Dracul.  As son of the dragon, Vlad III was known as Vlad Dracula.  However, the word dracul also has another meaning in the Romanian language: it means devil.

We know from his notes that Bram Stoker read the 19th Century British Consul William Wilkinson’s book about life in Romania, the snazzily titled, Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia”, and that he came across various references to the term Dracula.  However, Stoker’s only interest in the word Dracula was that it was associated with people who portrayed devilish or cruel behaviour.  The name fitted his literary creation perfectly.