CONVERSATIONS ON THE PLURALITY OF WORLDS ... Translated from the Last Paris Edition. Wherein are Many Improvements Throughout; and Some New Observations on Several Late Discoveries Which Have Been Made in the Heavens. By William Gardiner, Esq. London: Printed for A. Bettesworth, at the Red-Lyon in Pater Noster-Row, and E. Curll, at the Dial and Bible, against St. Dunstan's Church in Fleetstreet, 1715. 12mo, pp. [1-12] 1-192; collates A 6 B-I 12, frontispiece, eighteenth-century brown leather, front and rear panels ruled and tooled in blind, four raised bands on spine panel, no title label. The first printing of the Gardiner edition. 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. This Gardiner translation, first published in 1715, is the first edition to include a translation of Fontenelle's sixth dialogue. "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. "A great stimulant to utopian speculations and science fiction." - Gibson and Patrick, "Utopias and Dystopias, 1500-1750" in Gibson, St. Thomas More: A Preliminary Bibliography (1961) 683. 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. Negley, Utopian Literature: A Bibliography 371. Versins, Encyclopédie de l'Utopie, des Voyages Extraordinaires, et de la Science Fiction, pp. 341-42. NCBEL II, 1513. An early, important and scarce edition of this classic work. A lovely copy. Enclosed in a custom quarter leather rounded back clamshell box. (#160304).
No statement of printing.