Fantasy Worlds of the Past Come Alive at Bonhams' Fine Books Sale
A first edition of Gulliver's Travels from a world-class collection of 17th, 18th and 19th century fantasy and scientific literature is one of the leading lots at Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in London on Wednesday 1 March. It is estimated at £20,000-30,000.
Jonathan Swift's Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World ... by Lemuel Gulliver, commonly known as Gulliver's Travels, was published on 28 October 1726, selling out within two weeks. It has been popular ever since and is the most widely read work of 18th century English literature. Adapted many times for film, television and radio - and even opera - the stories of Gulliver's travels to fantastical lands, including Lilliput and Brobdingnag, are famous throughout the world.
The collection was assembled during the 20th century by a French bibliophile. It has a strong emphasis on works which would now be classified as science fiction, although important scientific and philosophical writers such as Galileo and Descartes are also represented. Other highlights include:
?? A first edition of Johannes Kepler's very rare imaginary tale of a voyage to the moon - Somnium, seu opus posthumum de astronomia lunari. Divulgatum (A Dream: or, a Posthumous Work of Lunar Astronomy) - published posthumously in 1634, and estimated at £20,000-30,000. The book features an astonishingly accurate description of how the rest of the celestial system would look as seen from the moon.
?? La découverte australe par un homme-volant, ou le Dédale francais by Restif de la Bretonne estimated at £4,000-6,000. This proto-science fiction Utopian novel is the account of the voyages to mythical lands by the hero, Victorin, in his flying machine made of cape-like wings of silk and a head-worn umbrella-device. It is illustrated with plates depicting the flying machine and the exotic tribes encountered by Victorin on his journey, including men-asses, men-frogs, men-snakes, men-elephants and men-lions.
?? De la terre à la lune, trajet direct en 97 heures, by Jules Verne estimated at £800-1,000. A second edition of Verne's classic From the Earth to the Moon of 1865 which drew on the latest scientific and technological knowledge to envisage a manned flight to the moon more than 100 years before it actually happened.
The scientific works in the sale include:
?? A first edition of The Discovery of a World in the Moone. Or, a Discourse Tending to Prove 'tis Probable There May Be Another Habitable World in That Planet, by John Wilkins published in 1638. It is estimated at £2,000-3,000. Wilkins' book argued that the world was not unique and defended the emerging model of the universe developed by Galileo and Copernicus. A priest at Christ Church Cathedral Oxford at the time he wrote the work, Wilkins (1614-1672) was later a founder member of the Royal Society.
?? René Descartes' Principia Philosophiae, in first edition published in 1544. Estimated at £2,500-3,500, the work developed Descartes' theory of vortices, and attempted to reconcile Copernican astronomy with Biblical teachings. The final part includes the first scientific theory of magnetism.
?? A first edition of Lana Terzi's Prodromo overo saggio di alcune inventioni nuove premesso all'arte maestra... per mostrare li piu reconditi pricipii della naturale filosofia estimated at £2,500-3,500. This important work in the history of aeronautics described several technological innovations including a "flying boat" which was to be made airborne by the use of four large metallic globes from which all the air had been expelled. Other inventions included an apparatus for speaking at a long distance, telescopes, microscopes and a sewing machine.
Bonhams Head of Fine Books and Manuscripts, Matthew Haley, said, "This is a first-class collection of works by European writers and thinkers using their imagination to speculate on the existence of other worlds and to cast light on their own. Sometimes satirically, as in the case of Swift, and sometimes with scientific and philosophical purpose, as with Wilkins and Descartes, the authors in this collection are united in their need to make sense of the universe and the time in which they lived."