LES RUINES, OU MÉDITATION SUR LES RÉVOLUTIONS DES EMPIRES. Paris: Chez [Desenne ... Volland ... Plassan ...] Libraries, 1791. Octavo, pp. [i-iii] iv-vi [vii] viii-x [xi] xii-xvi [xvii-xviii]  2-410, inserted frontispiece, two inserted folded maps (one of the Eurasian side of globe, other of celestial constellations), nineteenth-century (?) three-quarter japan vellum and marbled boards. First edition. A celebrated political treatise in fictional form first published in French 1791, shortly after the French Revolution, although conceived before it. "The narrator's spirit is taken by a genius (the supernatural being of oriental fantasy) to a point above Earth in space and, as the planet rotates, is able to witness the future development of civilization. An early use of the earth satellite notion, that of having the Earth rotate under a stationary observer, and of time travel." - Locke, Voyages in Space (2011) V667. Constantin François Chasseboeuf Volney (1757-1820) was a French scholar and politician who, though born to the nobility, survived the Revolution, and though opposed to Napoleon's empire, survived his reign as well, and, during a visit to America, survived an absurd accusation of spying for an imminent French invasion of Louisiana. LES RUINES was his most influential work. It is very much in the mode of Enlightenment thought: republican and universalist, trying to combine utopian longings and political moderation, chastened by an awareness of the transience of empires. In several of Shelley's poems can be heard echoes of the melancholy grandeur of Volney's vision. On his visit to America, Volney met with Thomas Jefferson, who wanted to bring out a new translation of LES RUINES, working anonymously in order to avoid accusations of endorsing Volney's (anti-Christian) prediction that all religions would eventually unite due to the common truth underlying them all. Negley, Utopian Literature 1144. Locke, A Spectrum of Fantasy, p. 220 (recording the 1792 translation into English). Tiny chip to upper fore-edge margin of first contents leaf, else a fine copy overall of this important book. (#148395).
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