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By Nina J P Evans

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Finely bound novels by Jules Verne

From the Earth to the Moon, 1874 - cover by Henri de Montaut

I’ve recently seen the Technicolor Disney adaptation of Jules Verne’s Twenty thousand Leagues Under the sea, 1954. Staring James Mason as Captain Nemo and Kirk Douglas as the wayward man of great physicality aptly named Ned Land, even though he spends most of his time locked up, on board the Nautilus, but he was needed; if there was any chance at all of survival.

The book compared was fascinating in the minutiae of recorded details of the under water ocean journey. Highlighting the voyages great academic appeal and at the same time the insurmountable sense of wanting to escape, when any given opportunity presented itself. The feelings of claustrophobia due to being imprisoned and being under forceful control of the questionably sane Captain Nemo—made this adventure all the more exciting. It felt even more relevant to me because of the three mentions of Liverpool, then in its heyday of shipbuilding and merchant shipping. It even compared the inside decor of the Nautilus to Liverpool’s Adelphi Hotel. There is a lounge room that has the same blue print design of the RMS Titanic first class passengers smokers lounge. Also, The liner scene from Brideshead Revisitied, 1981 television serial was filmed there too. Other than the architect, Jules Verne was the first to realise the nautical associations, though it’s vastly bigger inside compared to the Nautilus.

Here are some of Jules Verne’s first editions of his most well-known stories. French editor and publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel commissioned illustrators Édouard Riou thought to be the most recognised, Léon Benett most prolific with Voyages Extraordinaire, and the very talented and teleologically advanced in printing methods George Roux. They are so beautifully ornate, often with symmetrical designs with limited colour palettes. Some of the worn cloth editions now look iridescent, as if… made from insect wings. The depths of the gold embossing forms outline pictorial details, and orate patterns form borders and backgrounds. The texture of the original cloth fabric, woven, echo what lies beneath. I’m not sure today if any new book published could achieve this standard of craftsmanship, and illustrated with fine prints throughout. These finely bound illustrated novels are very  collectible—Jules Verne was a prophetic and fascinating writer of the greatest adventures ever told.

From the Earth to the Moon, 1874
Voyages Extraordinaires series, Hetzel editions, 1875
Clovis Dardentor, 1896 - cover by Léon Benett
 Facing the Flag, 1876  - cover by Léon Benett
French first edition of Captain Antifer, 1894 - cover by Georges Roux
 Off on a Comet, 1877
 Mistress Branican, 1891 - cover by Léon Benett
 The Mighty Orinoco, 1898 - cover by Georges Roux
The Castaways of the Flag, 1900 - cover by George Roux
 Mathias Sandorf, 1885 - cover by Léon Benett
César Cascabel it is part of Voyages Extraordinaires series, 1890 -
cover by Georges Roux
 Map of route through Alaska
 Map of route through Russia
Journey to the Centre of the Earth, 1871 - cover by Édouard Riou
Cover of the French first edition of Around the World in Eighty Days,
1873 - cover by Alphonse-Marie de Neuville and Léon Benett
A walk under the waters
Illustration showing giant squid attack
Frontispiece to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea 
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, 1870 - cover by Édouard Riou

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