PALTOCK, Robert.

Les hommes volans,

ou les aventures de Pierre Wilkins, traduites de l'anglois, & ornées de figures en taille-douce. Tome premier [-troisiéme].

London: et se vend a Paris, chez la Veuve Brunet, Imprimeur de L'Académie Françoise, 1763 Stock Code: 139043
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Proto-science fiction where people can fly

First edition in French of this imaginary voyage, a significant and influential work of proto-science fiction. First published in English in December 1750, the story tells of a castaway in a fantastic land where men and women can fly. The debt to Robinson Crusoe is clear, also to the Arabian Nights and Gulliver's Travels, though the narrative is highly inventive on its own terms. The hero's surname is probably intended to recall John Wilkins, whose Mathematical Magick (1648) argued that man might master the art of flying.

The novel was little noticed on its first publication, but came to have a considerable vogue in the 19th century. "The book's inventiveness and originality went unnoticed at the time... A cheap Dublin reprint had appeared in 1751, with translations into French (1763) consequently the third edition overall, German (1767) and Swedish (1772), but it was not until 1783-84 that it was reprinted in English. It was included in Charles Garnier's Voyages imaginaires in 1788. New editions appeared intermittently in the early 1800s, with a full revival in the 1820s, after which the book remained in print somewhere in the world for more than a hundred years... The book became the subject of numerous popular dramatic and pantomime adaptations" (Howgego). It was greatly admired by Coleridge, Southey, Shelley, Leigh Hunt, Charles Lamb, and others of their generation.

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3 volumes, duodecimo (169 x 95 mm). Contemporary mottled calf, twin red and black labels to spines, smooth spines gilt with foliate motifs to compartments, marbled endpapers, red edges.


With 6 engraved plates, one folding.


With the contemporary ownership signature to title pages and bookplate to front pastedowns (removed to third volume) of L'Abbé Du Soulier. Light rubbing to bindings, slight chipping to labels, very light craquelure and a few tiny insect holes to calf, otherwise unrestored without wear, contents clean, 3.5 cm closed tear to vol. III pp. 159/160 marginally impinging on text. An attractive copy.


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