Quotation Books: To Compare Them Is To Stroll Through a Glorious Jungle of Incestuous Mutual Plagiarism

James Gleick? Dwight Garner? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Somewhere I read that quotation books display a glorious mutual plagiarism. Perhaps you would enjoy tracing this statement. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: In 1993 science writer James Gleick reviewed the sixteenth edition of “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations” in the pages of “The New York Times Book Review”. He remarked on the popularity of this publishing niche: 1

The quotation-book business is booming. No subdivision of the culture seems too narrow to have a quotation book of its own. There are books of proverbs, mottoes, thoughts, aphorisms, words of wisdom, words of war, warriors’ words.

Gleick mentioned the existence of quotation compilations in various categories such as movie, business, one-liners, religion, writers, and medical. He suggested that plagiarism was occurring. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:

It would be an understatement to say that these books lean on one another. To compare them is to stroll through a glorious jungle of incestuous mutual plagiarism.

Below is one additional citation and a conclusion.

In 2013 book critic Dwight Garner of “The New York Times” found the quotation memorable and referred back to it: 2

James Gleick once surveyed the shelves of these books for The New York Times Book Review and commented, “To compare them is to stroll through a glorious jungle of incestuous mutual plagiarism.”

In conclusion, James Gleick should receive credit for this remark based on the 1993 citation.

Image Notes: Illustration depicting many book pages from Free-Photos at Pixabay.


  1. 1993 August 8, The New York Times, Section: The New York Times Book Review, Bartlett Updated: Renewing the Idea of a Shared Culture by James Gleick, Start Page BR3, Quote Page BR30, Column 4, New York. (ProQuest)
  2. 2013 November 27, New York Times, Words of Love, Pain, Protest And Motown by Dwight Garner, Start Page C1, Quote Page C8, Column 5 and 6, New York. (ProQuest)