ancient library

Lost Documents in History

Secure document storage didn’t always exist, and some people in the past were extremely careless with some very important documents. Here are some famous historical documents and works that have been lost in time.

Wright Brothers’ Flying Machine Patent

Ollie and Wilbur Wright submitted Application #821,393 to the U.S. Patent Office in 1903 for one of the most significant and world changing inventions of the 20th century – the aeroplane. The patent itself is hugely significant in history not just because of what it was for, but for the fallout it caused – namely a patent lawsuit that led to an extremely damaged public perception of the Wright brothers. Sadly this significant patent is listed as missing from the American National Archives.

The Works of Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was a mysterious genius who logged 300 patents (none of them lost this time!) in his productive lifetime. However, he faced a huge setback when his New York laboratory was burned down and Tesla lost half of his life’s work – including, he claimed, the key to field theory, something that scientists grapple with to this day. Rumour is that the fire was caused by one of his many scientific rivals – including Thomas Edison, the superstar inventor who famously never quite saw eye to eye with Tesla.

Love’s Labour’s Won

Shakespeare rather carelessly lost an entire play – apparently a sequel to Love’s Labour’s Lost (and Shakespeare’s only sequel, apart from the history plays), saving us hours of GCSE revision. It is still a matter of great debate whether this play actually exists, or whether Love’s Labour’s won is actually another name for Much Ado About Nothing. It’s likely we’ll ever know.

Abraham Lincoln’s Lost Speech

Four score and however many years it was ago, Abe Lincoln, one of America’s great orators, gave a stirring anti-slavery speech on May 29th, 1856 in Bloomington, Illinois. Was it any good? We’ll never know, because the speech was lost (possibly due to its controversial content) and no-one made any notes. It is said that the speech was so arresting that reporters present at the time forgot to write anything down!

The Library of Alexandria

The largest library in history perished in a fire during one of the many conquests, riots and scuffles in Alexandria’s history. The library was actually burned down and rebuilt several times, including once being torched by Julius Caesar himself. No-one quite knows how much was lost, but as one of the biggest collections of knowledge in history, its loss has echoed throughout history.

Mozart and Salieri’s Duet

If you’ve seen Amadeus, you know that Mozart and Salieri weren’t exactly best buds, but the two did work together on a cantata together for voice and piano. However, it’s been lost to the ages and will never be heard by modern ears. It may even be better than Ebony and Ivory.