Le Petit Inventeur – ‘The history of the future’

Le Petit Inventeur

Le Petit Inventeur. New Series nos. 1-25. Editions Albin Michel, Paris. 400 pages, Colour covers, b/w interiors. Hardback, bound in paper-covered boards, with coloured illustration on front. Size: 200 x 282 mm.

I would once have categorised the picture on the cover of this book as ‘Early television’, or ‘Videophone’, but of course it would now be best described as webcam skyping, or whatever the current phrase is for keeping up with family and friends online, both visually and sonically.

Le Petit Inventeur 2

This French magazine started in the early 20s, and this is a re-start from c.1930. Odd little pieces, with many b/w drawings, about all kinds of technological realities and promised future science-fiction gizmos that the boffins were just about to make real. In truth, the covers are the best part – and there are 25 of them, with most reproduced below. Great fun, and useful reference material for anyone writing about ‘the history of the future’. These magazines are not hard to find in their country of origin, but the bound volumes make collecting them much easier, and are rarely found outside of France.

Condition: Interior very good, with usual tanning of the pages. Some foxing to the covers (and minor marks to top margin), and a new webbing repair to the top of the spine. The old pasted-down endpapers are cracking at the spine joint, and there are a couple of small old paper repairs there, but the binding is still holding well so I’ve left those minor faults.

Price: £38.00 plus postage



Le Petit Inventeur3

Le Petit Inventeur4



















The Battle of Dorking

identifier: 2014001 BATTLE DORKING


The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer by [George Tomkyns Chesney]. William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1871. Pamphlet, 64 pages and 8 pages of advertisements, plus cover. ‘Price sixpence’ and ‘From Blackwood’s Magazine May 1871’ on front cover, and 1871 date in roman numerals at foot of title page. Illustration By W. Patterson. Size: 111mm x 169mm.

‘You ask me to tell you, my grandchildren, something about my own share in the great events that happened fifty years ago. ‘Tis sad work turning back to that bitter page in our history, but you may perhaps take profit in your new homes from the lesson it teaches. For us in England it came too late. And yet we had plenty of warnings, if we had only made use of them.’

War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells wasn’t the only Victorian fiction to set an invasion in Surrey. The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer is an 1871 novella by George Tomkyns Chesney, starting the genre of invasion literature and an important precursor of science fiction. Written just after the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian War, it describes an invasion of Britain by an unnamed country similar to Germany.

BattleDorking002[click to read]

The Battle of Dorking was first published as a serial in Blackwood’s Magazine. After seven reprints of the May issue, the story was printed as a stand-alone pamphlet in June 1871, and later as a hardback. It went through several editions and engaged the interest of soldiers and politicians, as well as the reading public. ‘..with translations into French, German, Danish, Dutch, Italian and Portuguese [it] had considerable impact across many areas of British public life, spawned an entire genre of “invasion literature,” and presaged science fiction tales of alien invasion, such as H.G. Wells’ 1898 classic The War of the Worlds.’ [Patrick M. Kirkwood] The version offered here is the pamphlet, the first edition as an independent text.

Chesney was a captain in the Royal Engineers and had grown concerned over the ramshackle state of Britain’s armed forces. He used fiction as a device to promulgate his views after letters and journalism on the issue had failed to impact on the public consciousness. The Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) had just demonstrated the speed, superiority and adaptability of the Prussian Army, which meant that Chesney’s depiction of a fast-moving and determined invader hit a nerve.

The story is told as a narrative by an unnamed veteran who participated in the Battle of Dorking and is recounting the final days before and during the invasion of Britain. It is addressed to his grandchildren as an event fifty years past. Beginning sometime after an event similar to the Franco-Prussian War, concerns grow with the mobilisation of armed forces near the Netherlands. The Royal Navy is destroyed by a wonder-weapon (“fatal engines”), and an invasion force suddenly lands near Harwich, Essex, England. Demilitarisation and lack of training means that the army is forced to mobilise auxiliary units from the general public, led by ineffective and inexperienced officers. The two armies ultimately converge outside Dorking in Surrey, where the British line is cut through by the advancing enemy, and the survivors on the British side are forced to flee. The story ends with the conquest of Britain and its conversion into a heavily-taxed province of the invading empire. The British Empire is broken up, with only Gibraltar and Malta being kept by the victorious Germans. Canada and the West Indies are ceded to the United States, whilst Australia, India and Ireland are all granted independence, with Ireland entering a lengthy civil war as a direct result. [adapted from Wikipedia and other online sources]

‘A little firmness and self-denial, or political courage and foresight, might have averted this disaster, I feel that the judgment must have really been deserved. A nation too selfish to defend its liberty, could not have been fit to retain it. To you, my grandchildren, who are now going to seek a new home in a more prosperous land, let not this bitter lesson be lost upon you in the country of your adoption.’

I would encourage you to read the article by Patrick M. Kirkwood, ‘The impact of fiction on public debate in late Victorian Britain: The Battle of Dorking and the “Lost Career ” of Sir George Tomkyns Chesney’, in Graduate History Review (free download)

Kirkwood explains: ‘In this article, I contend that such an approach overlooks the story’s wider political and cultural significance, and that historians have not yet given Dorking its full due.’

He concludes: ‘In re-examining the career of its creator, Sir George Tomkyns Chesney, we find him to be a rather more substantial figure than is often noted. He was a highly competent and decorated military officer, an educational and military reformer of significant standing in both India and Great Britain, a colonial administrator of some ability, an unusually-independent actor in the factious Victorian British and Indian Armies, and a successful politician. These are no small achievements, and should not be so obscured by the literary fame of the “brilliant skit” for which he is remembered.’

Final words from Dorking Museum’s website:

‘Though its notoriety arose from the concerns of its time – the birth of a unified Germany, the unfitness of the army, and the development of new means of transport and communication – the tale had a long life in public consciousness in both Britain and Germany. In the 1940s a German edition was issued to Hitler’s army under the title ‘Was England Erwartet’: What England Expects.’

A pertinent story to read as we commemorate the First World War.


Condition: Generally good. “Chesney” is written in ink on title page. The colour of the paper cover is somewhat faded in some areas, and I have made minor professional repairs to the inside edges. I have repaired one corner of the title page. Small paper loss to lower spine (spine rolled), very small tear on front page at sewing. Now in an acid-free paper wallet, in cloth boards, ready for your bookshelf.

Price: £65.00 plus postage    s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

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The Sentinel: A Space Odyssey

identifier: 2014062 NEW WORLDS

In May 1968, while students were rioting in Paris, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey showed in a 70mm print on the large curved screen at London’s Casino-Cinerama venue. I was one of the many who went to see it there, later that year, and was awed. Neil Armstrong had not yet set foot on the moon. The movie ran for 47 weeks. Which brings us to these two items:

The Sentinel – in New Worlds 22

New Worlds started in 1936 as a fanzine, Novae Terrae, and Arthur C. Clarke was involved in its production. It was re-started as a professional magazine by John Carnell in 1939 (New Worlds Vol.1 No.1) but the publishing company collapsed, and the War began. The mag re-started in July 1946, but the new publisher also went bust. Carnell himself formed a company, Nova, and New Worlds appeared again. Which takes us up to No.22, and a problem with the printers…. Here’s a precis of the Wikipedia account: ‘Issue 22 was repeatedly delayed; proofs appeared in August, and the issue itself was promised for November. Even this late schedule was not adhered to, and [Editor] Carnell finally received a copy of the print run in January 1954. The copy was dated 1953 (with no month), and since this made it useless for distribution in 1954, Carnell refused to accept the print run. While the dispute with the printers was going on, Carnell and Maurice Goldsmith, a journalist acquaintance of Carnell’s, put together a small conference of well-known science fiction authors, including Arthur C. Clarke and John Wyndham. Goldsmith covered the conference for Illustrated, a weekly magazine, and the article caught the attention of Maclaren & Sons Ltd, a technical trade publisher interested in launching a new sf magazine. Carnell turned down the offer because of his loyalty to Nova Publications, but subsequent discussions ultimately led to Maclaren taking control of Nova, with a commitment to produce New Worlds on a monthly basis … By January 1954, when (printing agent) The Carlton Press delivered the incorrectly dated issue 22, the acquisition by Maclaren was complete, and Maclaren’s legal department was helpful in resolving the dispute…. an injunction was obtained that sequestered the issues to avoid them being sold to recover the printing costs. Carnell retained the copy he had been sent in January, and it is thought that this is the only copy that exists of The Carlton Press’s version of this issue, as the remainder of the printing run was destroyed at the conclusion of the court case. The cover painting, by Gerard Quinn, was subsequently used on issue 13 of Science Fantasy, and all the stories and editorial material eventually appeared in later issues of New Worlds over the next year. The financial support that Maclaren provided meant that once issue 22 finally appeared in April 1954, it was the start of a regular monthly schedule that lasted until 1964…’

New Worlds Science Fiction. Volume 8, Number 22. Nova Publications Ltd, London, No date [April 1954]. First Edition, Softcover, Colour illustrated front cover, by Kinnear. Stories illustrated by various artists. 128 pages. Size: 137 x 200mm. Contents:

inside front cover • ‘New Worlds Profiles: Arthur C. Clarke’ • uncredited essay. 2 • Growing Up… • essay by John Carnell. 4 • ‘Takeoff’ (Part 1 of 3) • interior artwork by Gerard Quinn. 5 • ‘Takeoff’ (Part 1 of 3) • serial by C. M. Kornbluth [Cyril M. Kornbluth ]. 23 • ‘Takeoff’ (Part 1 of 3) [2] • interior artwork by Gerard Quinn. 35 • ‘Takeoff’ (Part 1 of 3) [3] • interior artwork by Gerard Quinn. 47 • ‘The Sentinel’ • (1951) • short story by Arthur C. Clarke. 56 • ‘Opposite Numbers’ • short story by John Wyndham. 70 • ‘Eclipse’ • essay by Maurice Goldsmith. 77 • ‘Museum Piece’ • (1953) • short story by John Christopher. 78 • ‘Museum Piece’ • interior artwork by Gerard Quinn. 86 • ‘Only an Echo’ • short story by Alan Barclay. 87 • ‘Only an Echo’ • interior artwork by Gordon Hutchings. 94 • ‘Only an Echo’ [2] • interior artwork by Gordon Hutchings. 100 • ‘Relay Race’ • short story by J. T. McIntosh. 126 • Book Reviews • essay by Leslie Flood.

The story ‘The Sentinel’ ‘deals with the discovery of an artifact on Earth’s Moon left behind eons ago by ancient aliens. The object is made of a polished mineral, is tetrahedral in shape, and is surrounded by a spherical forcefield. The narrator speculates at one point that the mysterious aliens who left this structure on the Moon may have used mechanisms belonging “to a technology that lies beyond our horizons, perhaps to the technology of para-physical forces.” … for millions of years (evidenced by dust buildup around its forcefield) the artifact has been transmitting signals into deep space …’ [Wikipedia]

From what I can discover online, it seems that ‘The Sentinel’ was written in 1948 for a BBC competition (in which it failed to place) and was first published in the magazine 10 Story Fantasy in 1951, under the title ‘Sentinel of Eternity’. It first appeared in the USA in The Avon Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader published by Avon Periodicals, Inc. in 1951. It was subsequently published as part of short story collections in Expedition to Earth (1953). It seems that the appearance in New Worlds was its first under the title ‘The Sentinel’. The cover artist Kinnear is elusive – I can find no other science fiction artwork of the period attributed to anyone by that name.

Illustration for ‘Museum Piece’

This is the second version of New Worlds No.22. It isn’t rare, but you might not bump into a copy in your local secondhand bookshop any time soon; so here is a chance to own a 1950s science fiction magazine with an interesting publishing history – the title would eventually be edited by Michael Moorcock, and become a renowned quarterly – and stories by top flight writers. This copy is in generally good condition, with general tanning of the pages. A blank corner of the back cover has been restored, and a small tear at the bottom edge of the front cover has been repaired on the interior with a piece of Japanese repair tissue.

Price: £15.00 plus postage. Contact: s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

identifier: 2014068 SPACE ODYSSEY
The film 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in 1968, ‘Thus the “glittering, roughly pyramidal structure … set in the rock like a gigantic, many-faceted jewel” became — after several modifications — the famous black monolith. ‘[Wikipedia]. Clarke was reportedly annoyed that ‘The Sentinel’ is often referred to as “the story the novel and movie is based on,” as it was just one small – though I would say extremely important – element of the eventual film / book.

2001: A Space Odyssey, lenticular 3D advertising card. Size: 10.375 inches x 13.5 inches.

This rare lenticular ‘poster’ features the Pan Am Clipper, and the massive rotating space station. The lenticular process (the thin plastic ridges are shaped like lenses) has been used here to give a stunning 3D effect, and also produces a limited effect of movement. Commonly seen used for production of small items – postcards, rulers, etc – the technique is extremely effective in larger formats. This ‘poster’ was never offered for sale, being distributed to cinemas for publicity purposes. A larger version was also produced. [The yellowing of the frame is a defect in my photo, and is not on the original].]

This original 1968 example is still flat, with the cardboard in good condition, and the picture still has its white plastic edging. The image is bright and the colours vivid. There are patches of bruising to the lenticular surface (example: see picture above), more evident at some viewing angles, but this hardly detracts from the overall effect. Near-perfect examples sell for over 2000 US dollars. An example online as a write, with minor wear, is priced at £750 (pounds). The example offered here is priced at just £250.00 plus postage. Contact: s-herbert@easynet.co.uk