The World is a Great Book

The world is a great book of which they that never stir from home read only a page…
— 1953 TWA ad

Travel is the great equalizer. To visit others is to learn and to shed the mantles of bigotry and racism. It is very difficult to escape those shackles when one has spent their lifetime within a hundred miles of where they are born. When one sits down and breaks bread with a stranger, one becomes a brother.

In 1750, and Louis-Charles Fougeret de Monbron writes Le Cosmopolite ou le Citoyen du Monde (The Cosmopolitan or the Citizen of the World), which opens with the following paragraph (as translated into English):

“The universe is a sort of book, whose first page one has read when one has seen only one’s own country. I have leafed through a great many that I have found equally bad. This inquiry has not been at all unfruitful. I hated my country. All the oddities of the different people among whom I have lived have reconciled me to it. Should I gain no other benefit from my travels than this, I will have regretted neither the pains nor the fatigues.”

And finally, in 1824, Thomas Fielding gave us a more familiar rendering of the phrase in his Selected Proverbs of All Nations, crediting it to Augustine:

“The world is a great book, of which they that never stir from home read only a page.” 1

1. Thompson, Craig, “To Augustine the World Is a Book, but Is It a Travel Book?” April 13, 2016, clearinghousecustoms

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