CONVERSATIONS WITH A LADY, ON THE PLURALITY OF WORLDS. Written in French by M. Fontenelle, Author of the Dialogues of the Dead. Translated by Mr. Glanvill. The Fourth Edition. With the Addition of a Sixth Conversation. To Which is Also Added, a Discourse Concerning the Antients and Modern. Written by the Same Author: and Translated by Mr. Hughes. London: Printed by J. Darby, for M. Wellington, at the King's Head, over against St. Clement's Church in the Strand, 1719. 12mo, pp. [i-iii] iv-x [xi-xii] 1-176 [177-178] 179-211 [212: blank] [213-216: ads], two inserted plates, one folded, early full paneled calf, spine panel tooled in gold and blind, brown leather title label affixed to spine panel. The fourth edition of the Glanvill translation, with additions. Fontenelle's ENTRETIENS SUR LA PLURALITE DES MONDES, his most famous and frequently reprinted and translated book, was first published in 1686. It is "the first example in French of a learned work placed within the reach of an educated but non specialized public." - DSB, V, 59. A popular account of the systems of Ptolemy, Copernicus, and Tycho Brahe in dialogue form, the treatise "awakened general interest in astronomy and popularized the scientific system of inquiry; it also emphasized the small space occupied by man and this planet relatively to the rest of the universe. The work was ridiculed by Voltaire, though it suggested his MICROMEGAS." - The Oxford Companion to French Literature (1959), p. 278. The first of the three seventeenth-century English translations was A DISCOURSE OF THE PLURALITY OF WORLDS ... Translated into English by Sir W. D. Knight. (Dublin: Printed by Andr. Crook and Sam. Helsham, for William Norman, 1687). The first edition of the Glanvill translation (containing five dialogues) was published in 1688, the same year Aphra Behn's translation of Fontenelle's book, A DISCOVERY OF NEW WORLDS, was published in London by William Canning. A later translation by Gardiner was first published in London by Bettesworth and E. Curll in 1715. "In all the literature of the cosmic voyage there was no book more popular than Fontenelle's CONVERSATIONS OF THE PLURALITY OF WORLDS. Translated again and again, it seemed to the British peculiarly their own book, read for at least a century both by men and by those 'ladies' of whom we have many a description, one of whom would read it aloud to others who were busily engaged in making strawberry jam. This was a book, indeed, that warranted a subtitle I once discovered in an eighteenth-century popularization of astronomy: 'Science made clear to the Meanest Capacities, even those of Women and Children.'" - Nicolson, Voyages to the Moon, pp. 58-9. Fontenelle's book "became a seminal influence on proto science fiction ... This is one of the earliest works ever written popularizing science, notably astronomy, for the layman, which it does by wittily presenting its speculations -- many about the possibility of life on other worlds -- in the form of conversations after dinner between the author and a marquise." - Clute and Nicholls (eds), The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993), p. 437. See Ley, Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel (1951), pp. 22-4 and Ley, Rockets, Missiles, and Men in Space (1968), pp. 21-2 for a good summary of the book. Bleiler, Science-Fiction: The Early Years, p. 853. Howgego, Encyclopedia of Exploration: Invented and Apocryphal Narratives of Travel F16. See Negley, Utopian Literature: A Bibliography 368 (one copy of this edition recorded). Versins, Encyclopédie de l'Utopie, des Voyages Extraordinaires, et de la Science Fiction, pp. 341-42. CBEL II, 1513. Recently rebacked to style, text paper tanned, some scattered foxing, but overall a clean, tight, very good copy. A nice copy of a scarce edition of this classic work. (#153244).
"The Fourth Edition" on the title page.