James Fenton rebuts Alberto Manguel’s contention that a passage in Augustine is “the first definite instance [of silent reading] recorded in western literature”:
I consulted Alberto Manguel’s A History of Reading (Flamingo), which was published in the same year as Gavrilov’s and Burnyeat’s articles. Manguel believes that the passage in Augustine is “the first definite instance [of silent reading] recorded in western literature”. He is well aware of the evidence to the contrary, but he finds it unconvincing. Thus Manguel: “According to Plutarch, Alexander the Great read letter from his mother in silence in the fourth century BC, to the bewilderment of his soldiers.” [My italics.] But these bewildered soldiers are Manguel’s importation. They have been brought into the story in order to make it seem exceptional. Manguel shamelessly fudges the argument.