East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Other People’s Pulp: James De Mille’s Copper Cylinder

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It occurred as far back as February 15, 1850. It happened on that day that the yacht Falcon lay becalmed upon the ocean between the Canaries and the Madeira Islands. This yacht Falcon was the property of Lord Featherstone, who, being weary of life in England, had taken a few congenial friends for a winter’s cruise in these southern latitudes. They had visited the Azores, the Canaries, and the Madeira Islands, and were now on their way to the Mediterranean.


I’ll spend the weekend reading the recent Italian translation of James De Mille‘s A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder.
An early example of lost world novel, De Mille’s book was published as a serial by Harper’s Weekly in 1888 – eight years after the author’s death – and it was greeted as a rip-off of Henry Rider Haggard‘s bestsellers.

The idea of a “tropical” volcanic island in the Antarctic was to become a standard cliché in pulp and adventure literature, but De Mille (a prolific Canadian author of popular fiction in the 19th century) is probably one of the earlier proponents of this concept in popular adventure fiction.


But maybe adventure was not what De Milel had in mind.
Copper Cylinder is often compared to the works of Verne, but its satyrical intents place it closer to the works of Albert Robida, and his Voyages très extraordinaires de Saturnin Farandoul.

English-speaking readers have the good fortune of being able to peruse De Mille’s book thanks to Project Gutenberg, while Francophone readers might like to take a look at Robida’s story in the Internet Archive.
Me, I’ll be curling up with the Italian version of the Copper Cylinder.
Project Gutenberg holds ten other novels by James De Mille, and they might be worth a look, too.
Happy reading!

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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