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Literary World Records for Books and Authors

In this post, Don Vaughan reveals literary world records. Ever wonder which author sold the most books? Or which book has been translated the most times? How about which author has signed the most copies of their book on a single day?

World records tend to celebrate extremes: The largest, smallest, oldest, youngest, rarest. Such records can apply to just about anything—including books. In fact, Guinness World Records devotes an entire section to extraordinary book- and author-related achievements. 

Let's explore a few of them.

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Book World Records

Size is always an impressive world record, whether we're talking about the world's tallest man (currently Sultan Kosan of Turkey, 8-feet, 2.8 inches) or the world's largest book. The latter record is held by a tome titled This the Prophet Mohamed, which measures a massive 16.40 feet by 26.44 feet and weighs 3,306 pounds. It was produced by Mshahed International Group of Dubai, EAU, and debuted in February 2012.

On the other end of the spectrum, the smallest reproduction of a printed book is Teeny Ted from Turnip Town, by Malcolm Douglas Chaplin. Researchers at Canada's Simon Fraser University used an ion beam to etch the book on a pure crystalline silicon page measuring just 70 micrometers by 30 micrometers—a size so small you'll need a scanning electron microscope to read it. Fun fact: Teeny Ted from Turnip Town even has its own ISBN.

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A rather unusual book-related world record was set in October 2015 when staff from Sinners Domino Entertainment in Germany successfully toppled 10,200 copies of Guinness World Records 2016 domino style during the Frankfurt Book Fair. No word on who had to pick them up afterward.

If you thought your book collection was big, consider the personal library owned by John Q. Benham of Acova, Indiana. According to Guinness World Records, Benham's personal collection is the largest in the world with more than 1.5 million volumes. It fills a six-car garage and two-story building, with additional books stored outdoors under tarpaulins.

(The 30-book challenge.)

Not all books end up in collections, of course; many are discarded after reading. A 2010 survey of more than 450 Travelodges in Britain found that the book most commonly left behind by guests was Simon Cowell: The Unauthorized Biography, by Chas Newkey-Burden.

Author World Records

Authors have also set a good number of interesting world records over the years. For example, the youngest commercially published female author is Dorothy Straight of Washington, D.C., who penned How the World Began in 1962 at age 4. The book was published two years later by Pantheon Books. The current holder of the world record for youngest published male author is Thanuwana Serasinghe of Sri Lanka, who was 4 years, 356 days old when his book Junk Food was published in January 2017. The book took Serasinghe three days to write.

It likely will come as no surprise that the best-selling author for fiction is the legendary Agatha Christie, whose 78 novels have sold a combined total of more than two billion copies in 44 languages. However, the record for most books sold in a 24-hour period belongs to J.K. Rowling. Demand for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was so strong that an estimated 8.3 million copies flew off store shelves upon its release at 12:01 a.m. on July 21, 2007. Rowling also is the world's first billion-dollar author.

(12 magical quotes from The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.)

Though Rowling's works are astonishingly popular, she falls far behind Antoine de Saint-Exupéry as the most translated author of a single book. Saint-Exupéry's classic children's tale The Little Prince has been translated into 383 different languages and dialects since its first publication in April 1943.

Of course, writing and selling a book is never easy. To promote their latest works, authors often host signing events. The current king of signings is Indian author Vickrant Mahahan, who signed a staggering 6,904 copies of his book Yes Thank You Universe in Jammu, India, on January 30, 2016.

(Why do authors cross out their name when signing a book?)

If you see that as a challenge, you're not alone—world records are made to be broken. So keep writing. Perhaps someday you'll be recognized by Guinness World Records for a remarkable literary achievement of your own.

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