Following on from their re-release of some of the works of H.G. Wells a few months ago, Macmillan Collector’s Library is now turning to another pioneer of science fiction. Jules Verne’s classic tale of aquatic adventure Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is here republished in a dinky pocket-sized format. More than that, it also has some fetching cover art, exquisite binding, a ribbon page marker and golden-edged pages. Not to mention the beautiful original illustrations from Edouard Riou.
In case you are not familiar with the tale, Leagues sees Professor Aronnax, his servant Conseil and their friend, the charming harpooner Ned Land, on the hunt for a mysterious giant sea monster. Instead they discover the Nautilus, an incredible underwater ship, and its enigmatic Captain Nemo, a genius inventor, adventurer and recluse.
Translated from the French by F.P. Walter, the novel was originally written in 1872 but any modern reader with a love of old-fashioned adventure stories will find much to enjoy in its pages. Verne makes the ocean a fascinating, thrilling place, a totally unknowable realm that is home to some amazing creatures - some realistic, others not so much. Likewise, Nemo is one the great heroes of Victorian literature (which is why Alan Moore recruited him into his The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book series, after all). Verne’s gift for foresight is also impressive, as the story predicts the invention of both the electric bulb and the submarine. It’s hard for us to imagine now just how fantastical those ideas would have sounded back then.
As wonderful as the actual novel is, the edition is somewhat let down by the lack of any real additional content alongside the main text. There is a welcome short afterword from Ned Halley, which briefly looks over Verne’s life and career, but a further essay on perhaps the legacy of the novel or an examination of its depiction of marine life and exploration wouldn’t have gone amiss. It’s a shame as Macmillan didn’t skimp in this area with their previously mentioned Wells rereleases.
Regardless, if you have either never read the novel before, or you fancy getting your hands on a swanky new edition, this one comes recommended. Pick it up for the gorgeous book design, but stay for the story.
TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA / AUTHOR: JULES VERNE / PUBLISHER: MACMILLAN COLLECTOR’S LIBRARY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW