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For of old
Rome said to me — “Your readers are your gold.
By them the stream of Lethe you’ll survive,
By them the better part of you will live.”
The wild fig splits Messalla’s marbles through,
And Crispus’ steeds are shattered quite in two :
But books are helped by time nor hurt by thieves,
Memorials that death uninjured leaves.

[Quem cum mihi Roma dedisset.
“Nil tibi quod demus maius habemus” ait.
“Pigra per hunc fugies ingratae flumina Lethes
Et meliore tui parte superstes eris.
Marmora Messallae findit caprificus, et audax
Dimidios Crispi mulio ridet equos:
At chartis nec furta nocent et saecula prosunt,
Solaque non norunt haec monumenta mori.”]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 10, epigram 2 (10.2) (AD 95, 98 ed.)[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Reader, my wealth; whom when to me Rome gave,
Nought greater to bestow (quoth she) I have.
By him ingratefull Lethe thou shalt flye,
And in thy better part shalt never dye.
Wilde Fig-trees rend Messalla's Marbles off;
Crispus halfe-horses the bold Carters scoffe.
Writings no age can wrong, no thieving hand.
Deathlesse alone those Monuments will stand.
[tr. May (1629)]

When Fate to me a constant reader gave;
Receive, she said, the greatest boon I have.
By this beyond oblivion's stream arrive;
And in your better party by this survive.
Statues may moulder; and the clown unbred
Scoff at young Ammon's horse without his head.
But finish'd writings theft and time defy;
The only monument, which cannot die.
[tr. Hay (1755)]

Reader, our riches! Well, said, Rome, I know,
A blester boon I have not to bestow.
By this though thro' Lethean streams shalt strive,
And in thy better part shalt still survive.
The wilding may Messala's marble cleave,
The speaker silence, and the sculptor reave.
The mule's pert driver may reproachless laugh,
At Crispus' coursers dwindled down to half.
Wit's labors onely rape or age defy:
His monuments alone can never die.
[tr. Elphinston (1782)]

When Rome gave you [readers] to me, she said, "I have nothing greater to give you. By his means you will escape the sluggish waves of ungrateful Lethe, and will survive in the better part of yourself. The marble tomb of Messale is split by the wild fig, and the audacious muleteer laughs at the mutilated horses of the statue of Crispus.1 But as for writings, they are indestructible either by thieves or the ravages of time; such monuments alone are proof against death."
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

For when Rome had given you to me, she said: We have nothing greater to give you. By him will you escape unthankful Lethe's sluggish stream, and will in your better part survive. Messalla's marble the wild-fig sunders, and boldly the mule-driver laughs at Crispus' steeds broken in two. But writings thefts do not injure, and time befriends them, and alone these monuments know not death."
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Rome can tell how dear,
Who gave thee, saying, "Take my best; 'tis here;
By him ungrateful Lethe thou shallt flee
And thy best parts have immortality."
The fig-tree splits Messala's marble blocks,
And the rough drover draggled Crispus mocks.
Verses grow great with Time and Fate defy;
Such monuments alone can never die.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), ep. 508]

When Rome gave you to me, she said: "I have nothing greater to give you. through him you will escape ungrateful Lethe's idle waters and survive in the better part of yourself. The fig tree splits Messalla's marble, the bold muleteer laughs at Crispus' halved horses. But thefts do not harm paper and the centuries do it good. These are the only memorials that cannot die."
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

Reader, Patron, willed to me by Rome
saying: "No greater gift! Through him
You'll flee neglectful Lethe's stagnant flood --
the better part of you survive.
Wild-fig rives the marble, heedless muleteers
deride the busted steeds of bronze.
But verse no decrease knows, time adds to verse,
deathless alone of monuments."
[tr. Whigham (1985), "Rome's Gift"]

Added on 22-Sep-23 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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That hence arises the peculiar Unhappiness of that Business, which other Callings are no way liable to; they who follow Printing being scarce able to do any thing in their way of getting a Living, which shall not probably give Offence to some, and perhaps to many; whereas the Smith, the Shoemaker, the Carpenter, or the Man of any other Trade, may work indifferently for People of all Persuasions, without offending any of them: and the Merchant may buy and sell with Jews, Turks, Hereticks, and Infidels of all sorts, and get Money by every one of them, without giving Offence to the most orthodox, of any sort; or suffering the least Censure or Ill-will on the Account from any Man whatever.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher, aphorist
“Apology for Printers,” Philadelphia Gazette (1731-06-10)
Added on 3-May-23 | Last updated 3-May-23
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Though so lengthy a book should your taste satisfy,
You have asked me for more: but my household will cry
For some food, and the usurer’s drained me quite dry;
So reader … you see what I mean to imply?
You are silent and don’t understand me? Good bye!

[Quamvis tam longo possis satur esse libello,
Lector, adhuc a me disticha pauca petis.
Sed Lupus usuram puerique diaria poscunt.
Lector, solve. Taces dissimulasque? Vale.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 11, epigram 108 (11.108) (AD 96) [tr. Pott & Wright (1921), “A Hint”]

"To the Reader." (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

With my long book thou well may'st glutted be,
Yet thou more epigrams exact'st of me:
But Lupus calls for use, servants for pay,
Discharge them, reader. Now thou'st nought to say,
Dissemblest, as my words thou could'st not spell.
No riddle thou'rt to me, reader, farewell.
[tr. Killigrew (1695)]

Although, reader, you may well be tired of so long a book, you still want a few more distichs from me. But Lupus demands his interest; and my copyists their wages. Pay, reader. You are silent; do you pretend not to hear? Then, goodbye.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

Although with so long a book you may well be sated, reader, yiou still ask for a few distichs from me. But Lupus requires his interest, and my slaves their rations. Reader, pay me. Do you say nothing, and pretend yuo don't understand? Good bye!
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Contented reader -- I had thought to say,
But something's wanting? Then perhaps you'll pay.
My bailiff's broke, my lads for victuals cry;
What? Silent? Can't afford it? Then good-bye.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), ep. 639, "A Postscript"]

I should have thought you'd had your fill
By now -- this book's too long -- yet still
You clamour for couplets. You forget,
My slaves need rations, I'm in debt,
The interest's due ... Dear reader, pay
My creditors for me. Silent, eh?
The puzzled innocent? Good-day!
[tr. Michie (1972)]

Reader, although you might well be satisfied with so long a little book, you ask me for a few couplets more. But Lupus demands his interest and the boys their rations. Pay up, reader. You say nothing and pretend not to hear? Good-bye.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

Reader, so long a book should satisfy you,
yet still "a few more couplets," you reply.
But boys want food and Lupus wants his interest.
Pay up! You're silent, playing deaf? Goodbye.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

A little book this long could satisfy your appetite, reader, but still you ask me for a few couplets more; but Lupus wants his interest, and my boys, their rations. Reader, clear my slate. Nothing to say? Pretending you're deaf? Get lost!
[tr. Nisbet (2015)]

Added on 5-Aug-22 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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If you’re a cheap tipper, by the way, or rude to your server, you are dead to me. You are lower than whale feces.

Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018) American chef, author, travel documentarian
Added on 23-Jul-21 | Last updated 23-Jul-21
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Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

Elmore Leonard (1925-2013) American novelist and screenwriter
In “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,” The Guardian (20 Feb 2010)

A frequent piece of advice from Leonard, e.g.:
  • "I leave out the parts that people skip." When asked about the popularity of his detective novels. Quoted in William Zinsser, A Family of Readers (1986)
  • "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip." In "Making It Up as I Go Along," AARP Magazine (Jul/Aug 2009).
Added on 30-Jan-14 | Last updated 10-Mar-21
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It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) American computer inventor, entrepreneur
In BusinessWeek (25 May 1998)
Added on 6-Dec-12 | Last updated 27-Aug-20
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