Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Journey Underground

"In accordance with your royal order, we hereby send the animal, which sometime since came down to us from the firmament; which animal calls itself man.

We have, with sedulous care and patient industry, taught this singular creature in our school, and after a very severe examination, pronounce it to be very quick in its perceptions and very docile in its manners.

Nevertheless, from its obtuse and miserable judgement — which we believe arises from its too hasty inferences — its ridiculous scepticism on unquestionable points, and its no less ridiculous credulity on doubtful ones, we may scarcely number it among sensible beings."

'Nicolai Klimii Iter Subterraneum' (original 1741 title)
or 'Niels Klims Forundelige Reise'
or 'Niels Klim's journey under the ground being a narrative of his wonderful descent to the subterranean lands; together with an account of the sensible animals and trees inhabiting the planet Nazar and the Firmament'.
[by Norwegian-Danish author, Ludvig Holberg]

etching of man falling down hole
Niels Klim's descent to the planet Nazar [1845 edition]

2 people on boat help 3rd aboard (engraving/etching)
[1834 edition]

Cap. 10
A new fashion introduced into Martinia [1834 edition]
[alternative version 1845]

Cap. 13
[1834 edition]
[alternative version 1789]

Cap. 9
[1834 edition]
[alternative version 1789]

Cap. 3
Presentation of Niels Klim at the Court of Potu [1834 edition]
[alternative version 1845]

Cap. 7
A citizen of Potu led in triumph [1834]
[alternative version 1845]

human plants chimeras
A criminal led by three watchmen [1845]
[alternative version 1789]

figure on table surrounded by tree-human chimeras
[1834 edition]

En Inbyggare i Potu
En Inbyggare i Potu [1767 edition]

En inbyggare i Musikanterland
En inbyggare i Musikanterland [1767 edition]

Et måltid i Mezendora
Et måltid i Mezendora [1767 edition]

Louis Holberg's 1741 science fiction / fantasy / utopian / satirical novel derides his contemporary 18th century society while drawing inspiration from Thomas More's Utopia and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.
"His only novel, it describes a utopian society from an outsider's point of view, and often pokes fun at diverse cultural and social topics such as morality, science, sexual equality, religion, governments, and philosophy."
It was considered too radical for Nordic culture, so the first edition was published in Latin in Germany where it circulated to a much wider audience and its popularity ensured it was quickly translated into a number of languages.
"One of the most influential 18th century works of proto-SF satire, it describes the fantastic voyage of Niels Klim through a hole in a mountain (the name Holberg can be translated as "hollow mountain") into a hollow earth on the model suggested by Edmond Halley, in which a minute internal sun is circled by the planet Nazar.

Here Klim finds himself in the land of Potu [ie 'Utop'], whose inhabitants show a societal pattern diametrically opposed to that of the contemporary stereotype: women are the dominant sex and males perform only menial tasks."
From the 1845 introduction (in English):
"There are many persons of both sexes in my country, who believe in fairies and supernatural beings, and who are ready to swear, that they have been conveyed by spirits to hills and mountain caves.

This superstition is ridiculed in Klim, the hero of the tale. He is supposed to be transported to the world under ground, where he meets with some surprising adventures. Many strange creatures inhabit this new world; trees, for instance, are introduced, endowed with speech, and musical instruments discuss questions of philosophy and finance.

Amongst the characters, those geniuses, who perceive everything at a glance, but penetrate nothing, are conspicuous. People of quick perception, whom we use to admire, are despised by the Potuans, who look upon them as idle loungers, that, though always moving, make no progress. Prudent men, on the contrary, who measure their own strength, and advance cautiously, are greatly esteemed by that nation, though with us they pass for fools or cowards.

The Potuans and Martinians are examples of both these extremes. By the former Klim was considered a blockhead, on account of the quickness of his perceptions; by the latter he was equally despised for the slowness of his apprehension. To Klim, who measures virtues and vices by the ordinary standard, everything is a paradox; but what he at first condemns, he admires and extols after deliberation; so that the object of the whole work is to correct popular errors, and to distinguish the semblance of virtue and vice from the reality. Its subordinate design is to expose the monstrous fictions, which some authors obtrude upon us in their descriptions of remote countries."


Galderich said...


The Public Domain Review said...

Did you see this article - - just posted on The Public Domain Review on Monday? Or is there something "underground" in the air of late?!

Anyhow, great selection of images - hadn't seen some of these before!

Melanie Millar said...

you never cease to amaze me. your blog is such a gift.

peacay said...

Thank you.

I added a link/note above about the Public Domain Review article. I had finished (lazily) searching on Holberg et al prior to monday; hence I didn't see the article, regrettably. Cheers.

The Public Domain Review said...

Great, thanks for including us in the update! I have added the flickr set of the Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek to our links at the bottom of the article as well.

We like your blog very much here at the PDR and are not ashamed to say it continues to be a great resource for us when searching for good material to feature. Thank you! And please do let us know if there is something you might like to write on for us...

Vasco said...

Merci beaucoup pour ces liens, et félicitations pour le reste !

Il semble que ce texte ait été très rapidement traduit en français.
Je renvoie, sur mon petit blog de notes, à une version de 1741 (même année que la version latine), tout à fait lisible et dotée de quelques illustrations ainsi que d'une carte de notre terre creuse (toutefois un peu sommaire pour qui souhaiterait entreprendre le voyage ... ):

Ce texte ressurgit régulièrement des profondeurs, pour ma part je l'ai découvert dans les années 70 dans un livre destiné à la jeunesse.

(Désolé, si le lis à peu près l'anglais, je ne l'écris pas sans difficulté)

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