The will of an eccentric… Jules Verne

Le testament d’un excentrique (The will of an eccentric) – 1900

Vintage french book : Le Testament d’un excentrique (english: The Will of an Eccentric, 1900) is an adventure novel written by Jules Verne based on the Game of the Goose.

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Plot synopsis :

William J. Hypperbone, an eccentric millionaire, living in Chicago, has left the sum of his fortune, $60,000,000, to the first person to reach the end of “The Noble Game of the United States of America”. The game he devised is based upon the board game “The Noble Game of Goose”; however, in his version, the players are the tokens and the game board is the United States. The contestants are Max Real (with his companion Tommy); Tom Crabbe (with his trainer John Milner); Hermann Titbury (with his wife Kate); Harris T. Kymbale (on his own); Lizzie Wag (with her friend Jovita Foley); Hodge Urrican (with his companion Turk) and the mysterious player only known as “XKZ”. And who is this mysterious “XKZ” who was added to the game by a codicil to the will? Time and completion of the game will tell.Verne-Te-full(courtesy of D. Kytasaari)

Jules  Verne; (1828 – 1905) was a French novelist, poet, and playwright best known for his adventure novels and his profound influence on the literary genre of science fiction.jules-verne-génie

Born to bourgeois parents in the seaport of Nantes, Verne was trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer, but quit the profession early in life to write for magazines and the stage. His collaboration with the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel led to the creation of the Voyages Extraordinaires*, a widely popular series of scrupulously researched adventure novels including Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Around the World in Eighty Days.

Verne is generally considered a major literary author in France and most of Europe, where he has had a wide influence on the literary avant-garde and on surrealism. His reputation is markedly different in Anglophone regions, where he has often been labeled a writer of genre fiction or children’s books, not least because of the highly abridged and altered translations in which his novels are often reprinted.

Verne is the second most-translated author in the world since 1979, between the English-language writers Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare, and probably was the most-translated during the 1960s and 1970s.He is one person sometimes called “The Father of Science Fiction,” as are H. G. Wells and Hugo Gernsback.

*The Voyages Extraordinaires (literally Extraordinary Voyages or Extraordinary Journeys) are a sequence of fifty-four novels by the French writer Jules Verne, originally published between 1863 and 1905. According to Verne’s editor Pierre-Jules Hetzel, the goal of the Voyages was “to outline all the geographical, geological, physical, and astronomical knowledge amassed by modern science and to recount, in an entertaining and picturesque format … the history of the universe.”

Verne’s meticulous attention to detail and scientific trivia, coupled with his sense of wonder and exploration, form the backbone of the Voyages. Part of the reason for the broad appeal of his work was the sense that the reader could really learn something of geology, biology, astronomy, paleontology, oceanography and the exotic locations and cultures of world through the adventures of Verne’s protagonists. This great wealth of information distinguished his works as “encyclopedic novels”.

In the system developed by Hetzel for the Voyages Extraordinaires, each of Verne’s novels was published successively in several different formats. This resulted in as many as four distinct editions of each text (labeled here according to current practice for Verne bibliographies):

  • Éditions pré-originales (pre-original editions): Serialization in a periodical, usually Hetzel’s own biweekly Magasin d’Éducation et de récréation (“Magazine of Education and Recreation”, founded 1864). The serialized installments were illustrated by artists on Hetzel’s staff, such as Édouard Riou, Léon Benett, and George Roux.
  • Éditions originales (original editions): complete unillustrated texts published in book form at 18mo size. (Similar versions in the slightly larger 12mo size, with illustrations taken from the serialization, are also considered éditions originales.)
  • Cartonnages dorés et colorés (gilded and colored bindings): Complete editions of the text, published in grand in-8º (“large octavo”) book form with a lavishly decorated cover. These deluxe editions, designed for Christmas and New Year’s markets, include most or all of the illustrations from the serializations.

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