Serendipity means a pleasant surprise of fortunate happenstance. In 1754 Horace Walpole, an English art historian, man of letters , antiquarian and Whig Politician, used the term in a letter to a friend. He used the term to explain an unexpected discovery he had made and referenced a Persian fairytale called The Three Princes Of Serendip. The fairytale was first published in Venice in 1557 by Michele Tramezzino. He claimed to have heard the story from a Christopher Armeno, who had translated the Persian fairytale from Book One of Amir Khusrau's Hasht Bihisht ( The Eight Paradises) written in 1302. Amir Khusrau was a Sufi musician, poet, mystic and scholar whose famous poem, Hasht Bihisht incorporates folktales told by seven princesses. It is in these texts that the tales of the three Princes of Serendip first appear. It is believed that the tales of the three Princes are based on the adventures and exploits of the Persian King BahramV, ancient folklore and Book One of a Thousand and One Nights. The Princes of Serendip always made discoveries of things that they were not actually in a quest to find.
The concept of serendipity has found itself a place in the history of scientific innovation and in fact in the genesis of the modern detective story. Voltaire, the pen name of Francois Marie Arouet, French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher, used an adaption of the Three Princes of Serendip in his novel of 1747, Zadig. The detective in Zadig influenced Darwin's theory, the science of paelantology as well as inspired Edgar Allan Poe and his character M.Dupin, who in turn influenced the writer Arthur Conan Doyle in his depictions of Sherlock Holmes.
In 1954 Stephen Bruce opened a cafe called Serendipity in New York. This was the sight of the photograph of Andy Warhol that triggered my long time interest in the word Serendipity. I have been to this cafe and the one in Las Vegas which has now closed down. The cafe is in the Guinness a book of Records for having the most expensive dessert in the world on its menu. The Golden Opulence Sundae cost $1000.
The word has been such an influential part of my life that it seemed the most obvious name for Peg's store of amazing and unexpected wares.