Armata. A fragment. [with] The Second Part of Armata.
London, John Murray 1817. Two volumes octavo, together in 19th century half calf, spine elaborately gilded. A bit of browning, a handsome pleasing copy.
¶ Second editions of both parts. This now obscure Antarctic imaginary voyage to another world connected to ours at the south pole might have been popular, in a mild and genteel way: there were supposedly five editions of the first part in 1817 and the second part likewise reached five editions by 1819. It is possible they were manufactured as part of Erskine’s joke in the preface of part two that histories such as this were doomed to obscurity whereas if he called it a romance it was guaranteed two editions at least by the lending libraries alone. While the first and second edition of the first part are different settings, the second and fourth editions are from the same setting. The first and second editions of part two are from the same setting, as is the fourth edition up until signature K which is where Erskine added some footnotes. Erskine's Armata is dystopian in intent but he is too polite and good natured to go overboard about it and although a couple of hundred or so sailors, from earth and from Armata, are obliterated at each end of the book they are dispatched in a sentence each. Even the narrator's beloved Morvina, who is literally killed by her induction into society, is done to death in a quiet half page, the narrator apologetic for being tactless enough to mention it. But, skimming past the legal religious stuff - I couldn't follow the outrageous fraud the clergy put over the government and justice system - there are some delightful scenes of bone crunching mayhem once Armata society sets off for an evening out. Erskine, also now obscure, was once described as the "greatest advocate as well as the first forensic orator who ever appeared in any age" (James High as quoted in Patterson's 'Nobody's Perfect'). He remained all his life a fierce defender of freedom of speech and the liberty of the press with one startling lapse: after defending Thomas Paine at the cost of his own position he prosecuted a bookseller for distributing Paine's writing. Apparently he later returned the retainer in remorse but he remained open to accusations of self interest in that case.
Richard Neylon, BooksellerProfessional seller
Book number: 10416
AUD 750.00 [Appr.: EURO 463.25 US$ 520.88 | £UK 417.25 | JP¥ 55986]
Keywords: literature science fiction fantasy utopia imaginary voyages c19th Antarctic thrillers