Plate 19 from Nova Reperta
by Johannes Stradanus

Dystopian Travels

 

The phenomenon of republication in the early modern period invariably opens up large and rich questions. The case can be made with the 1643 publication of Mundus Alter et Idem. Mundus Alter et Idem is a tale of a journey to the southern continent, the kind of fictitious travel narrative for which J. Max Patrick coined the term "dystopia" in 1952.

It was written in Latin in the early years of the seventeenth century by a pseudonymous author, and was published with misleading information about the place of publication on the title page. The unreliable authority of the title page adds to a Click Here for a Larger Viewreader's sense of disorientation: where is this place and who is the guide? A series of fold-out maps mimic the conventions of cartographic authority and integrate recognizable landmarks in both the old and new worlds (on the top half of the first map) with the wholly unexpected and theretofore undiscovered lands of, for instance, Crapulia ("excessive intoxication," which is made up of two provinces, Pamphagonia, "voracious gluttons," and Yvronia, "drunkards"); Viraginia ("land of shrewish women"); Moronia ("land of fools"); and Lavernia ("land of thieves") on the bottom half.

It turns out, Australis—"another world and yet the same"—is an irrational place of corrupt abandon. In 1642, John Milton first identified Bishop Joseph Hall as the author of the satiric work. The identification was more in the nature of an accusation of moral laxity, however, given that Hall was Archbishop Laud's chosen defender of episcopacy and Milton was then engaged in vituperative attacks on the established church.

Perhaps the 1643 republication—in an elegantly small and well-printed Latin edition—is in support of Hall's reputation for learning. Like the earliest edition, it, too, proclaims to be printed abroad, though the place of publication could again have been London. But Hall is still not identified as the author in 1643, and support of his position or his work is not necessarily the only or most likely motivation for republication.

For two additional titles are appended to Mundus Alter et Idem in 1643. Each utopias of a sort, they are Tommaso Campanella's Civitatis Solis (The City of the Sun) (first published 1623) and Sir Francis Bacon's New Atlantis (first published posthumously in 1627 and first translated into Latin in 1638). Each is separately paginated and has its own title page. The packaging of the three together is marketed "propter affinitatem materiae" ("due to the closeness of the subject matter").

The grounds for the association of the three titles bears further investigation, as does the intended audience. For whatever reason, Hall's journey through the excesses of his contemporary society was resurrected at a time Hall himself was under siege. Mundus Alter et Idem belongs in a tradition that includes the writings of Aristophanes, Petronius, Lucian, Rabelais, and Erasmus, and extends through the satires of Butler and Swift.


Eric Leonidas
Central Connecticut State University

Suggested Reading

Hall, Joseph. Another World and Yet the Same: Bishop Joseph Hall's "Mundus Alter et Idem." Translated and edited by John Millar Wands. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1981.

Healey, John. The Discovery of a New World. Edited by Huntington Brown. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1937.

Kinloch, T.F. The Life and Works of Joseph Hall, 1574-1656. New York: Staples Press, 1951.

McCabe, Richard A. Joseph Hall, A Study in Satire and Meditation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Negley, Glenn, and J. Max Patrick, eds. The Quest for Utopia: An Anthology of Imaginary Societies. New York: Henry Schuman, 1952.

Wands, John Millar. "The Early Printing History of Joseph Hall's Mundus Alter et Idem." Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 74 (1980): 1-12.

Weinberger, Jerry. "Science and Rule in Bacon's Utopia: An Introduction to the Reading of the New Atlantis." American Political Science Review (1976): 866-72.