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The Comical History of the States and Empires of the Worlds of the Moon and Sun.

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The Comical History of the States and Empires of the Worlds of the Moon and Sun.

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Illustrated by an engraved frontispiece.

The full title reads as follows:

"The Comical History of the States and Empires of the World of the Moon. / Written in French by Cyrano Bergerac. / And now Englished by A. Lovell. A.M. / London, / Printed for Henry Rhodes, next door to the Swan-Tavern, near Bride Lane in Fleet-Street, 1687."

The full title of ‘The World of the Sun’ reads as follows: 

“The Comical History of the States and Empires of the World of the Sun. / Written in French by Cyrano Bergerac. / And now Englished by A. Lovell. A.M. / London, / Printed for Henry Rhodes, next door to Swan-Tavern, near Bride-Lane in Fleet-Street, 1687.”

Issue Points

The first edition in English.

Text Notes

‘The Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon’ (L’Autre monde ou les états et empires de la Lune), together with its second part ‘The Comical History of the States and Empires of the Sun,’ constituted the first of three satirical novels written by Cyrano de Bergerac, which are considered among the first science fiction stories. Arthur C Clarke credited this book with being the first example of a rocket-powered space flight, and for inventing the ramjet. It was published after the author's death, in 1657. Cyrano narrates the book in the first person through a narrator also named Cyrano, as if relating his own travels.

More précis information…

In part one, an attempt to reach the Moon to prove there is a civilization that views Earth as its moon leads the narrator to soar from Paris into the sky by strapping bottles of dew to his person, but he fails and lands back on Earth. Believing to have traveled straight up and down, he is confused by local soldiers who tell him he is in France; they escort him to the provincial governor who informs him that it is in fact New France. The narrator explains to the governor that all matter is formed inside and expelled from stars, and that once the Sun has run out of fuel it will consume the planets and restart the cycle. He uses New France as evidence for this theory, claiming that its only being discovered not long ago by European explorers was because the Sun had only recently sent it to Earth.

The narrator tries again to construct a way of reaching the Moon, this time through a flying machine that he launches off a cliff's edge. Though the craft crashes, local soldiers attach rockets to it, hoping that it will fly to celebrate the feast day of St. John the Baptist. Dismayed at this use of his machine, the narrator attempts to deconstruct it while the fuse is lit, but the machine takes off and sends him into space. He meets inhabitants who have four legs, musical voices, and amazing weapons that cook game for a meal while it's being shot, as well as the ghost of Socrates and Domingo Gonsales of Francis Godwin's The Man in the Moone. His discussions with Gonsales include how useless of a concept God is, that humans cannot achieve immortality, and that they do not have souls. After these discussions, the narrator returns to Earth.

In the second part, ‘The Comical History of the States and Empires of the World of the Sun,’ a new machine that focuses solar energy through mirrors to generate bursts of air sends the narrator to the Sun. Those living on a Sun spot teach him about the solar system by relating it to how atoms move. Upon the surface of the Sun, he is tried for all the crimes humanity has committed by birds, but one who knows him sets him free. The narrator then discusses with Tommaso Campanella how sex would work in Utopia. (Wikipedia)

Historical Importance

Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (6 March 1619 – 28 July 1655) was a French novelist, playright, epistolarian and duelist. A bold and innovative author, his work was part of the libertine literature of the first half of the seventeenth century. Today he is best known as the inspiration for Edmond Rostand’s most famous drama Cyrano de Bergerac which, although it includes elements of his life, also contains invention and myth. Since the 1970s there has been a resurgence in the study of Cyrano, demonstrated in the abundance of theses, essays, articles and biographies published in France and elsewhere in recent decades.

More précis information…

He was the son of Abel de Cyrano, lord of Mauvières and Bergerac, and Espérance Bellanger. He received his first education from a country priest, and had for a fellow pupil his friend and future biographer Henri Lebret. He then proceeded to Paris, and the heart of the Latin Quarter, to the college de Dormans-Beauvais, where he had as master Jean Grangier, whom he afterwards ridiculed in his comedy Le Pédant joué (The Pedant Tricked) of 1654. At the age of nineteen, he entered a corps of the guards, serving in the campaigns of 1639 and 1640.

One author, Ishbel Addyman, varies from other biographers and claims that he was not a Gascon aristocrat, but a descendant of a Sardinian fishmonger and that the Bergerac appellation stemmed from a small estate near Paris where he was born, and not in Gascony, and that he may have suffered tertiary syphilis. She also claims that he may likely have been homosexual and around 1640 he became the lover of Charles Coypeau d'Assoucy, a writer and musician, until around 1653, when they became engaged in a bitter rivalry. This led to Bergerac sending d'Assoucy death threats that compelled him to leave Paris. The quarrel extended to a series of satirical texts by both men. Bergerac wrote Contre Soucidas (an anagram of his enemy's name) and Contre un ingrat (Against an ingrate), while D'Assoucy counterattacked with Le Combat de Cyrano de Bergerac avec le singe de Brioché, au bout du Pont-Neuf (The battle of Cyrano de Bergerac with the monkey of Brioché, at the end of the Pont-Neuf). He also associated with Théophile de Viau, the French poet and libertine. He is said to have left the military and returned to Paris to pursue literature, producing tragedies cast in the orthodox classical mode.

The model for the Roxane character of the Rostand play was Bergerac's cousin, who lived with his sister, Catherine de Bergerac, at the Convent of the Daughter of the Cross. As in the play, Bergerac did fight at the siege of Arras (1640), a battle of the Thirty Years' War between French and Spanish forces in France (though this was not the more famous final Battle of Arras, fought fourteen years later). One of his confrères in the battle was the Baron Christian of Neuvillette, who married Cyrano's cousin. However, the plotline of Rostand's play, Cyrano de Bergerac, involving Roxane and Christian is entirely fictional. Cyrano was a pupil of French polymath Pierre Gassendi, a canon of the Catholic Church who tried to reconcile Epicurean atomism with Christianity.

The play suggests that he was injured by a falling wooden beam in 1654 while entering the house of his patron, the Duc D'Arpajon. However the academic and editor of Cyrano's works Madeleine Alcover uncovered a contemporary text which clearly points to an attack on the Duke's carriage in which a member of his household was injured. This is a much more likely scenario for Cyrano's fatal accident. It is as yet inconclusive as to whether or not his death was a result of the injury, or an unspecified disease. He died over a year later on July 28, 1655, aged 36, at the house of his cousin, Pierre De Cyrano, in Sannois. He was buried in a church in Sannois. However there is strong evidence to support the theory that his death was a result of a botched assassination attempt as well as further damage to his health caused by a period of confinement in a private asylum, orchestrated by his enemies, who succeeded in enlisting the help of his own brother Abel de Cyrano. (Wikipedia)


1. William Codrington (late 18th or early 19th century ownership signature on the blank recto of the frontispiece)

2. Dix Codrington (late 18th or early 19th century ownership signatures on the title)

Early Modern17th CenturyScienceScientific RevolutionScience FictionLiteratureNovelsFrench LiteratureMoon VoyagesFrederik Hendrik van HoveArchibald LovellFrench OriginalEnglish TranslationFirst EditionsCanonical First Editions

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