Familiar to football-obsessed schoolchildren and collectors around the world, The Panini Group was founded in 1961 by Giuseppe and Benito Panini in Modena, Italy, where the company still has its headquarters. The brothers had previously founded a newspaper stand in 1945, and, in 1954, The Panini Brothers Newspaper Distribution Agency. In 1988 the Maxwell Group bought Panini, but sold the company after a few highly unsuccessful years, this time to the Marvel Entertainment Group. In 1999, Panini was bought by Fineldo SpA for 102 billion lira (£34 million).

The first collection the Panini brothers produced was the 1961-2 Calciatori edition. Each packet contained two stickers, and around 3 million packets were sold. For each of the last few years, the company estimates that 1 billion sticker packets have been produced.

In 1970, Panini produced its first World Cup collection, Mexico '70, and in the following year self-adhesive stickers were introduced. The English league had to wait a further 7 years for its first Panini collection, Football '78.

Although Panini is synonymous with football sticker collections, as early as 1965 the company began to produce other collections, publishing "Aerei e Missili" (Aeroplanes and Missiles) and "Animali di tutto il mondo" (Animals of the World) in 1965.

Contrary to the belief of most young collectors trying desperately to trade duplicate stickers for rarities to complete their collections, in any one collection the company prints the same quantity of each sticker.

The following sticker collections are available in the UK in 2002:

The Panini archive includes the following selections:

Panini is a world leader in the sticker market, and Europe's 4th biggest publisher for children, in part through the administration of the licenses for Marvel Comics, including the Spider-Man and X-Men comics.

Panini, possibly the greatest linguistic genius to ever live, was born sometime around the 6th century BCE, and died sometime in the 5th century BCE. The dates of his birth and death are somewhat hard to pin down; experts seem to place him anywhere between the 4th and 7th centuries. The problem of placing his life in history is compounded by the fact that, like Hermes Tresmegistus, people may have written things in his name to lend credence to their own ideas, or to pay homage to a great master. This in turn makes it hard to determine exactly which of his later works are indeed his own. What is positively known is that he is one of the greatest innovators of language and mathematics that the world has ever seen.

Panini's work was in the ancient Indian language Sanskrit. The name, when de-sandhi-fied (saM - skRta HKST) means "without flaw," and was considered the language of the gods themselves. He is considered the founder of the language and the literature it encompasses, as he wrote the highly scientific rules of phonetics, phonology, and morphology that define the language. It should also be noted that as he was doing this, he was creating those disciplines from scratch.

Panini's masterwork was Astadhyayi (or Astaka), a work in eight chapters with each chapter divided into four subsections. The work was so expertly crafted that, to this day, the grammar remains almost totally unchanged. Combined with the ridiculously logical devanagari alphabet in which the language was written, we can today speak a Sanskrit nearly identical to the Sanskrit spoken by the great pundits from the time of Buddha. With elegant simplicity, Panini sets down the production rules and definitions for Sanskrit, separating vowels, consonants, nouns and verbs into classes, and giving rules for the construction of complex nouns and sentences based on their underlying forms. The work looks like a mathematical treatise - so much so that G. G. Joseph argues (in The Crest of the Peacock) that "algebraic reasoning, the Indian way of representing numbers by words, and ultimately the development of modern number systems in India, are linked through the structure of language (Sanskrit)."(1)

Looking at Panini's grammar is like looking at a programming language specification in BNF, and the St. Andrew's page goes so far as to suggest that Panini should be thought of as the forerunner of modern programming languages, a claim with quite a bit of merit. In 1989, Dr. P. Ramanujan presented a paper at the 24th Annual Convention of Computer Society of India in Bangalore entitled "A Case for Sanskrit as Computer Programming Language," in which he claimed that Sanskrit is indeed the most appropriate language in which to write computer programs. Also, the Multilingual Systems group at IIT Madras has written a PERL module for use with Indian scripts (including devanagari).

Along with mathematics, the linguistic ramifications of Panini's work cannot be understated. His Sanskrit specification was the first known descriptive grammar. Noam Chomsky, the father of modern linguistics, was heavily influenced by Panini when he first forayed into the formal study of language. In fact, when addressing the Special Convocation of the University of Calcutta, he said, "My professional field, as I am sure you know, was in large part created in India, 2,500 years ago. The first 'generative grammar' in something like the modern sense is Panini's grammar of Sanskrit." (2) Research is still being done on the intricacies of Panini's grammar, shedding ever more light on how human language as a whole works.

1: http://www.gap-system.org/~history/Mathematicians/Panini.html
2: Frontline, Volume 18 - Issue 25, Dec. 08, 2001
The University of St. Andrew's Mac Tutor History of Mathematics Website (http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Panini.html)
Katre, Sumitra M. Astadhyayi of Panini: In Roman Transliteration
IIT Madras, "Use of Indian Scripts with PERL" (http://acharya.iitm.ac.in/perl_enhance.html)
Frontline, Volume 18 - Issue 25, Dec. 08, 2001
Notes from Dr. James Powell's Beginning Sanskrit 1 class

With the spread of Panera Bread, panini have become familiar foods for many Americans and, as princess loulou informs me, have been familiar to Europeans for years. Roasted vegetables, pesto and brie or mozerella, spicy chicken, and italian cured meats are all popular ingredients. They are delicious and easy to make, and are a nice way to make sandwiches a little more exciting than the usual fare.

The panino is really nothing but a big heated and pressed sandwich made with ciabatta bread, which most grocery stores have in the bakery section. Ciabatta is somewhat firm and has herbs and sometimes slices of onion on the outside. The crust covers the entire outside of the bread because it's not sliced. Panini are normally cooked using a panini press, which is a gadget that looks like a double-sided George Foreman Grill with a handle you can press down on.

My panino recipe

I always need a big plate for this, because everything tends to spread out. I plug in the panini press and set it to Medium so it can heat up. I cut the bread in half, so that there are two large, thin slices. I take a brush and put a bit of olive oil on the outside so that it will get crispy. I like that. I spread some pesto on each side of the bread, and then I sprinkle some feta on the bottom piece. I lay out some of the tomato slices on top of the cheese, then I put 3 or 4 mushroom slices on that, enough to cover it. I sometimes put more cheese on top if I feel like I didn't put enough on the bottom (and if it will stay), and after all of that I put the top piece on top of the bottom piece. At this point, the press should be heated, so I put the whole thing in there. Most of the time it doesn't fall apart. Sizzle... I love that sound. Anyway, I press down on it to make it manageable throughout the process. It will sizzle forever if you let it, but be mindful of it, and don't let it burn. I consider a panino done when it is golden brown all over, and nothing leaks out when I squish it.

Panini are pretty big, so they can be shared between two or more people. They don't take very long to make and I'm sure they're healthier than a hamburger. Of course, you can put anything in a panini that you want. It is, after all, a sandwich.

Panini is plural. Panino is singular. Blame Italy.

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