This post originally appeared on one of my blogs in October of 2007.
I have long been a fan of the world’s most prolific writer – Anon. You see his work everywhere and the breadth and volume of works attributed to him is quite amazing: although these days he often writes under the pseudonym Unknown (Unk for short). Thus, I was more than just amused when I “Googled” Anon.
The scholarly dissertation written in 1983 by Donald E. Simanek at the end of this link (http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/anon.htm) was one of the returns from that search. It turned out a rich and full history of Anon, a man and family worthy of great respect. Mentioned in the dissertation is his contemporary Ibid; who, rightfully so, was dismissed as more of a hanger on to Anon and other great writers of the times. Another Anon contemporary – Nobody – later had a minor role in the comic strips as a character in the “Family Circus” strip. Members of the Anon family have perhaps been attributed with more contributions to literature over the centuries that any other writers, as well as countless sayings.
A short excerpt from the above mentioned work on Anon’s life –
“Few literary puzzles have inspired such universal apathy as the question: “Who was Anon?” Books of quotations are cluttered with sayings attributed to Anon, and these scraps of truth and wisdom have earned Anon universal recognition and immortality. Innumerable biographies have been written about lesser authors, even authors so obscure that their works are seldom read. But Anon, though widely read and widely quoted, has been accorded only widespread indifference by the literary community.
What little we know of Anon’s life is of doubtful validity. We have no authentic picture of Anon, nor any first hand description of him by anyone who would admit to having known him. Not one scrap of original manuscript in his own hand has survived the ravages of time. Scholars have given up hope of ever discovering an autobiography of Anon in some dusty attic.
Yet, from the available dearth of evidence, we can piece together a sketch (albeit apocryphal) of this prolific genius. We know that Anon’s wisdom appeared very early in history. When references to him are traced backward in time, in the general direction towards the emergence of civilization, they lead us to a blank wall. This suggests that Anon must be placed in historical times so ancient as to predate the emergence of intelligent thought. He was certainly ahead of his time, which may be the reason why none of his contemporaries knew of him.”
There is much more about the Anon family at the site referenced above with the link and I encourage you to visit it to get more insight into Anon the legend behind the myth.
If you spend any time looking through the bibliographies of much of out literature you will not only see many references to Anon, but also to an off-shoot branch of the Anon family the Ibid’s. Apparently one of the Anon daughters apparently married into the Ibid family which was well known for doing research. The Ibids often collaborated on literary works with Anons and other great writers of ancient times, thus started a livelong collaboration between the Ibids and the Anons, which you will see in the many references to Ibid in bibliographies of books attributed to Anon. To a lesser extent another branch of the Anon family from the Middle East, the Id’s, also show up in attributions for many literary works. One can find references and attributions to the Anon, Ibid and Id families throughout the bibliographies of historic literature. A lesser known branch of the family, the Op Cit clan, was less prolific in their contributions and is much more obscure.
In these current times, when we have Wiki’s and Blogs and other electronic communications means the influence of the Anon family has waned a bit in literature; however, a new, more tech-savvy branch has emerged as a group of hackers, using the full, old family name Anonymous. With their hack attacks, they are perhaps striking back at the very Internet that so threatens their world of literature and books.
Still the literary branch of the Anon family soldiers on; now focused mostly on writing Letters to the editor of various papers or posting remarks to various blogs and on-line bulletin board sites. So the next time that you see a letter to the editor printed or a blog post that is signed Anon. you will better appreciate the long history of this great literary family.