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VOLTAIRE.

Micromegas: a Comic Romance.

Being a Severe Satire upon the Philosophy, Ignorance, and Self-Conceit of Mankind. Together with a Detail of the Crusades: and a New Plan for the History of the Human Mind. Translated from the French.

London: Printed for D. Wilson, and T. Durham, 1753 Stock Code: 139036
£2,250.00
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Voltairean proto-science fiction

First edition in English of Voltaire's Micromegas, a significant work of proto-science fiction, detailing the visit of giants from Saturn and Sirius to earth, and their derision at mankind's wars, religions, and pretensions. The novella was first published in French the previous year, and is probably the first instance of aliens visiting Earth in fiction, which "inaugurated a tradition of superior aliens who come to lecture humans about the need to improve themselves" (Westfahl, The Greenwood Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, vol. I., p. 17). The translation was undertaken anonymously by Tobias Smollett, and later republished in Smollett's edition of Voltaire's works. It follows the 1752 London edition in French - most probably the source for Smollett's translation - in including two pieces extracted from Voltaire's upcoming Essai sur les mœurs et l'esprit des nations (1756), fragments of which appeared in various publications from 1746 to 1756. These two pieces, the first on the Crusades and the latter a history of the human mind, are not related to the story, and were most likely included to increase the size of the book (Micromegas itself only 40 pages long) and to justify the cost of printing.

With the bookplate to the front pastedown (transposed from its earlier binding) of Charles William Hamilton Sotheby (1820-1887), High Sheriff of Northamptonshire, son of the commander of the Royal Naval Academy Charles Sotheby, and grandson of the poet and translator William Sotheby.

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Description

Duodecimo (165 x 99 mm). Recent calf, black morocco label.

Condition

Binding in fine condition; original endpapers preserved with offset toning and peripheral nicking, contents lightly toned with occasional faint foxing, tiny burnholes marginally impinging a couple of letters to pp. 7/8 and 149/150, minor peripheral paper faults to pp. 25/26 and 171/172 not affecting text, large chip to pp. 201/202 with loss to text. A good copy.

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