Bücher 1 - 10 von 654 zum Thema "last but not least" date:1800-1900
Bücher 1 - 10 von 265 zum Thema "last but not least" date:1900-2000
Bücher 1 - 10 von 772 zum Thema "last not least" date:1800-1900
Bücher 1 - 6 von 6 zum Thema "last not least" date:1900-2000 http://books.google.com/books?hl=de&as_brr=1...
The modern "last not least" hits again are written by Germans:
Klassenbildung im ländlichen Nigeria: Das Beispiel der Savannenbauern in ... - Seite 489
von Dirk Kohnert - Social classes - 1982 - 490 Seiten
... but had to deliver a considerable surplus-product for the support of their
lords, the kings court, the army, the urban handicraft, and last not least, ...
... or are actually old:
Nurse and Spy in the Union Army - Seite 79
von Sarah Emma Evelyn Edmonds - United States - 1999 - 384 Seiten
But last, not least, was found in the bottom, stowed away in one corner, two
bottles of the best currant wine, a nice jar of jelly, and a large loaf of cake ...
(originally from 1865)
Of the six books from the 1900-2000 search, again, none are by modern-day native English speakers. It seems "last not least" was used in the past, though - probably another reason why it's translated like that so often.
Even with the comma, I often find "last but not least" a bit of a show-stopper when it's in the middle of a sentence, as it sounds so ponderous. The German is far snappier, so you can understand the temptation to make the English shorter - but then again, you can just go for "not least" in many cases.