Saturday, September 09, 2006
Journey To The World Underground, 1741
With the publication in 1741 of the book Nicolai Klimii iter subterraneum (Niels Klim's Journey Underground), Danish writer and playwright Ludwig Holberg (1684 - 1754) launched the first important fictional use of astronomer Edmond Halley's theory (suggested in a paper to account for magnetic phenomena published by Royal Society in 1692) that the Earth (and the other planets) consisted of concentric, nested spheres surrounding a small central sun, with, possibly, openings at the poles. Holberg's book was first published in Latin to reach a wide audience, in which he succeeded. The book, although never banned in Denmark, was cast a weary eye upon by the religious establishment. Holberg was one of the foremost scholars and playwrights of the 18th century, perhaps the most important literary figure in Denmark, even till today. Niels Klim has been translated into at least thirteen languages and published in more than sixty editions, including at least eight in English. In Holberg's book Niels Klim falls down a shaft and finds himself in a new world inside the interior of the earth. He visits various countries as the ideal state Potu, which expels him for suggesting that women should not hold public office. Other states are modeled on various terrestrial countries; in Martinia (France) he is honored for inventing the periwig. In primitive Quama (Russia) he becomes emperor by leading the inhabitants to victory over neighboring nations, but rebellion against his tyranny forces him to flee. His journey ends when he wrestles himself through another hole upon which he has returned to Norway.