La Découverte Australe par un Homme-volant, ou le Dédale français; Nouvelle très-philosophique: suivie de la Lettre d'un Singe, &ca. Nicolas Edmé RESTIF DE LA BRETONNE.
La Découverte Australe par un Homme-volant, ou le Dédale français; Nouvelle très-philosophique: suivie de la Lettre d'un Singe, &ca.
La Découverte Australe par un Homme-volant, ou le Dédale français; Nouvelle très-philosophique: suivie de la Lettre d'un Singe, &ca.
La Découverte Australe par un Homme-volant, ou le Dédale français; Nouvelle très-philosophique: suivie de la Lettre d'un Singe, &ca.
La Découverte Australe par un Homme-volant, ou le Dédale français; Nouvelle très-philosophique: suivie de la Lettre d'un Singe, &ca.
La Découverte Australe par un Homme-volant, ou le Dédale français; Nouvelle très-philosophique: suivie de la Lettre d'un Singe, &ca.

La Découverte Australe par un Homme-volant, ou le Dédale français…
La Découverte Australe par un Homme-volant, ou le Dédale français; Nouvelle très-philosophique: suivie de la Lettre d'un Singe, &ca.

"Leïpsick: Et se trouve à Paris" [i.e. Paris]: 1781.

Four volumes, duodecimo, with altogether 23 engraved plates including the large double-plate (numbered 23-24, and thus sometimes leading to some confusion about the correct number of plates): pp. [3]-240, with four plates; [241]-436, with sixteen plates; [437]-624, 92, with two plates; [93]-422, [6], [2] 'table de figures', [2] adverts, with one double plate; without the dated 'faux-titre' ('manque dans presque tous les exemplaires', and see below), but with the six 'Diatribes' normally suppressed ('de la plus grand rareté'); a fine copy in full crushed blue levant, spines lettered in gilt and decorated between raised bands, gilt florets and blind borders to sides, all edges gilt, gilt inner dentelles; a very attractive and neatly bound set.

Flying to Australia and the Hawaiian Anthropophages

First edition, early complete and uncensored issue, of this remarkable book, very rare indeed on the market, describing an imaginary voyage by flying machine to Australia. The work is as famous for its strikingly beautiful suite of engravings as for its remarkable text. An illustrated utopia, and a pioneering work in the genre of air navigation, it was published just two years before Montgolfier's first balloon ascent, and is 'undoubtedly the most significant work of science-based speculative fiction produced before the French Revolution' (Brian Stableford, editor of the adaptation The Discovery of the Austral Continent by a flying Man, Hollywood, 2016).

First edition, early complete and uncensored issue, of this remarkable book, very rare indeed on the market, describing an imaginary voyage by flying machine to Australia. The work is as famous for its strikingly beautiful suite of engravings as for its remarkable text. An illustrated utopia, and a pioneering work in the genre of air navigation, it was published just two years before Montgolfier's first balloon ascent, and is 'undoubtedly the most significant work of science-based speculative fiction produced before the French Revolution' (Brian Stableford, editor of the adaptation The Discovery of the Austral Continent by a flying Man, Hollywood, 2016).

Restif de la Bretonne (1734-1806), the rival of Sade, compulsive writer and famous shoe-fetishist, was an eclectic and prodigious writer, author of more than 200 works. In the eighteenth century he was generally reviled as a pornographer, and some of his works were seized, but the fascination with society and its reform which animates his rambling, often erotic works have led to him being called both the "Rousseau of the gutter" and the "Voltaire of the chambermaids". There has been a recent resurgence in interest in his work, not least because of his importance to the utopian tradition. This is one of the least often seen of his contemporary publications, even in its mutilated state (see below). Uncensored as here, and in its first issue, it is a real rarity.

The "French Daedalus" of the title is Victorin, inventor of a curious system of wings and umbrellas that allows him to make an aerial tour of Australia and the Pacific, accompanied by his beloved Christine. Together they visit a series of islands, each illustrated with an attractive engraving, populated by half-men/half-animals (beavers, pigs, elephants, serpents, frogs and more). The hommes-volants then fly to Megapatagonia, a mirror-image of the northern hemisphere "en petit", and land in the town of Sirap (i.e. Paris); the inhabitants of this antipodean nation speak French backwards, have shoes like hats and hats like shoes, and live by utopian tenets of brotherly love and communal wealth.

The imaginative product of an age distinguished by actual exploration and discovery, the work echoes its famous contemporaries like Cook and Bougainville, picking up on the philosophical questions of utopias partly sparked by descriptions of Tahiti and other south seas paradises. Remarkably, the famous Lettre d'un Singe that concludes volume III, in which humanity is reviled by the monkey-child of a woman and baboon, ends with a four-page section quoting from the French translation of Cook's account of his visit to Mallicolo in the New Hebrides on the second voyage, and his comment that the people are 'comme une espèce de Singes'. A final note to this section makes the extraordinary assertion that Captain Cook was killed and eaten by the cannibal "Australians" in Hawaii ('Le Capitaine Cook… été mangé par les Australiens, dans l'Ile d'O-why-hie, près celle Sandwich, en 1778. Ainsi, quelques-uns de ces Peuples sont anthropophages…').

The wonderful and highly imaginative engravings that accompany Restif's text are by the Parisian artist Louis Binet (1744-c. 1800), a pupil of Jacques Firmin Beauvarlet, who had met Restif in 1779 and thereafter worked closely with him as virtually his official engraver. The 23 images here are his most famous work.

This is an example of the original uncensored issue of the book and is rare in such complete form. Most copies known were heavily censored at the time of publication: the Parisian censor, the Abbé Terrasson, wrote to Restif explaining the sections that would need to be suppressed before publication could be permitted, and most copies of the work do indeed lack the forbidden parts. Terrasson particularly required the suppression of the "Diatribes", all six of which are present in the final volume here; 'Les exemplaires dans lequels se trouvent les six Diatribes sont de la plus grande rareté' (Lacroix). Most surviving copies have lost the last five, pp. 337-422, as well as the five final leaves of the volume. In addition, the points that identify this as the original rather than the subsequent – censored – issue more often seen include: the Avis de l'Éditeur for the Lettre d'un Singe (vol. 3) runs to five pages, while the later issue has just three, pp. 16 and 17 having been deleted; La Séance chés une Amatrice in vol. 4 (p. 325) occupies three pages, rather than the shortened page and a half of the later issue; the first of the six diatribes, L'Homme-de-nuit, begins on p. 328 (p. 326 in the second issue). The various censored passages mean that the second issue stops at p. 334 with the words: "Sur ce, je vous salue, honorable Lecteur. /Fin." In this copy the text continues to p. 422, with 5 further unnumbered leaves with an untitled note, a table of figures and of the pieces contained in the four volumes, and a list of works by Restif. This copy does not have the "oeuvres posthumes" half-title in volume 1, the lack of which may also be appropriate in an early issue.

Provenance: "N.J.O." (presumably American, since his romantic bookplate, dated 1900, is by William Fowler Hopson, the New Haven Connecticut engraver); private collection (Sydney).

Barbier, I, p.847; Brockett, 10313; Cohen-De Ricci, 877; Davidson, 'A Book Collector's Notes', p.45; Lacroix, XXIV; Lewis, p.157 (microform copy only); Negley, 959; O'Reilly-Reitman, 9295; James Rives Childs, Restif de la Bretonne: témoignages et jugements, bibliographie, 1949, XXIII, 1: ""Edition originale de l'un des ouvrages les plus extraordinaires et rares de Restif".

Price (AUD): $44,000.00  other currencies Ref: #4505104

Condition Report