First English Edition of Lucian of Samosata

Certaine Select Dialogues of Lucian: Together with his True Historie, Translated from the Greeke into English. By Mr Francis Hickes. Whereunto is added the life of Lucian gathered out of his owne Writings, with briefe Notes and Illustrations upon each Dialogue and Booke.

Oxford: William Turner, 1634.

Price: $12,500.00


About the item

First edition in English of the Dialogues and Lucian’s True History. Collation: A-2C4 2D1. [16], 55, [1], 59-196 pp. Pagination irregular: I4v is numbered 48. 1 vols. 4to. First English Edition of Lucian of Samosata. Contemporary calf. Original spine laid down, some dampstaining in upper half of text, soiling and paper flaws to B1 & B2, affecting a few letters without loss of meaning. Very good copy of a rare book. ESTC S108898; Madan, I, 178.

Item #352769

First English edition of the fantastical and irrevent Dialogues and True History of Lucian of Samosata (CE 125-180), a Syrian Arab writing in Greek whose works are profoundly influential across European literatures and are also seen as foundation texts of early science fiction. Lucian was an advocate in Antioch and travelled through the eastern Mediterranean lands, studied philosophiy in Athens, and later held an administrative position in Egypt.

His Dialogues include “Icaromenippus, or the Loftie Traveller”, describing a trip to the Moon, “whence he is able to get a literal (i.e., visual) perspective on the nature of mankind's follies, and second to Olympus, where he meets Jupiter and watches that god deal with men's prayers (which arrive fartlike through huge vents)” (John Clute, in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, SFE). “Lucian His True Historie” is another fantastic voyage to the Moon and back to exotic islands on Earth, enjoyable and often scatalogoical, with three-headed vultures, space war, cannibal sea-women, and more. “Lucian's fertile imagination piles marvel upon lunatic marvel, and simultaneously mocks them” (SFE).

The influence of Lucian can be detected in the writings of Thomas More, Erasmus, Rabelais and Cervantes. Lucian was curiously overlooked by the Elizabethans: Lathrop notes “Plutarch, Lucian, and Isocrates were not quite forgotten in this period, though they did not hold the central place which they held in the school of Erasmus”. This edition is the first in English, edited by the translator’s son; it was reprinted again in the 1660s. Swift made up for lost time and established a legacy of Lucian in English literature, whch continues on to the dialogue-based satires of Thomas Love Peacock and others.

Attractive copy of a milestone in world literature.