What have you learned from these books?

Outlander book collection
One of the things I've always liked best about Diana Gabaldon's books is the sheer amount of detail (historical, medical, scientific, military, literary and/or musical references, flora and fauna, you name it!) I love it when I pick up some fascinating bit of trivia from these books that I didn't know about before. As some of you know, I spent about 2 1/2 years collecting hundreds of these little bits for a blog series I called Friday Fun Facts. I stopped posting the FFF when the TV series came out (just not enough hours in the day), but I still love it when I encounter something unusual that I've never heard of before. (The Murano glass pen that William sees in BEES chapter 134, for example.)

So I thought it might be fun to share some of our favorite examples of things we've learned from the books.

I'll start off with one of my favorites.

Andrew Bell portrait

In AN ECHO IN THE BONE, we learn that a man named Andrew Bell printed the first edition of his Encyclopaedia Britannica in Edinburgh -- using Jamie Fraser's printing press! I didn't realize at first that Andy Bell was a real historical figure. Judging by his portrait, the description of his nose in ECHO seems accurate. <g>

Andrew Bell had the biggest nose I had ever seen, and in the course of an eventful life, I had seen a number of prize specimens. It began between his eyebrows, curved gently down for a short distance as though nature had intended him to have the profile of a Roman emperor. Something had gone amiss in the execution, though, and to this promising beginning, something that looked like a small potato had been affixed. Knobbly and red, it took the eye.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 74, "Twenty-Twenty". Copyright © 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

According to Wikipedia, "The Britannica is the oldest English-language encyclopaedia still in print. It was first published between 1768 and 1771 in Edinburgh, Scotland as three volumes."

Between 1768 and 1771....when Jamie was in America, and his printing press just happened to be entrusted to Andy Bell's care in Edinburgh? <g> I love this bit, because of the way it sort of obliterates the line between fiction and historical fact.

What about the rest of you? What are some of the most interesting things you've learned from these books? Feel free to leave a comment here, or on my Outlandish Observations Facebook page.


Lynn said...

How have I missed you. Thanks! I will try to keep track of this site.

Susan said...

So much! Who would have known you can spike a cannon without LJG's adventures. Nevermind all the real historical figures they meet!

Alison S said...

I think Diana gives us an insight into the thinking of many men. As a woman, I sometimes find it hard to understand male priorities and perspectives ( even though I have great love for those in my life ) but her writing has helped me to be more understanding and empathetic. I base this comment on how she writes her male characters in the novels and on her general observations included in the explanations in the Outlandish Companions.
Alison Stewart

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