Le Philosophe Sans Prétention Ou L'homme rare by Louis Guillaume de La Follie


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Paris: Chez Clousier, Imprimeur-Libraire, rue Saint-Jacque, 1775. First edition. 3 Engravings by C. Boisel. Striking illustrated frontispiece of aerial machine, 2 vignettes in text. Pencil illustration of hot-air balloon with text to rear-end paper. Contemporary full mottled calf, spine richly tooled in gold with floral design, black leather title label, edges marbled. Boards marked and worn with small loss to top of spine, binding sound, text clean minus some internal foxing. Overall a very good copy. 

Le Philosophe Sans Prétention, Ou L’homme Rare. Ouvrage Physique,Chymique, Politique Et Moral, Dédié Aux savans.

'This early science fiction tale describes Ormisais, a visitor from the planet Mercury who travels to Earth in an electrical flying machine. The tale expresses what is considered to be the first description of an electric motor 'dynamo électrique', and the first description of a Spaceship powered by electricity.

Ormisais describes an elite scientific-literary organisation on Mercury with only a dozen members. One of the applicants for the latest vacancy is a young inventor, Scintilla. He shows the Academy members his flying machine, 'an elaborate combination of wheels, globes of glass, springs, wires, glass-covered wooden uprights, a plate rubbed with camphor and covered with gold leaf'. This is a notable departure from other winged contraptions described throughout history. 

In Voyages to the Moon (1948), Marjorie Hope Nicolson emphasises how La Folie's description of the Solar System is scientifically up-to-date. Notably, the Mercurian mentions that space has no up or down, and the aerial vehicle is described as wingless.
An important text in the evolution of interplanetary science fiction, Le Philosophe Sans Prétention is marked by a utopian belief in the advantages of scientific progress. La Folie also uses the narrative to discuss his own theories on physics, electricity, geology, and chemistry.

The story is yet to be translated into English.'

"I imagined a machine with wings, but what was my surprise, when I arrived on the platform, I saw two glass globes three feet in diameter, mounted above a small seat quite convenient. Four wooden studs covered with glass blades supported these two globes. The lower piece that served as a support and base for the seat was a camphor-coated tray covered with gold leaf. The whole thing was surrounded by metal wires."

- "The first Electrical Flying Machine", in Essays Contributes in Honour of W. A. Neilson, 1939.

- Howgego, Encyclopaedia of Exploration: Invented and Apocryphal Narratives of Travel L3. Versins, Encyclopédie de l'Utopie, des Voyages Extraordinaires et de Science Fiction, p. 505. Nicolson, Voyages to the Moon, pp. 195-99. Ordway, pp. 46-7. Cohen-de Ricci 546.