Publisher Information: 1892.
The Planet Mars—Author’s Possibly Unpublished Autograph Draft
Flammarion, Camille (1842-1925). Voyage à la planète Mars. Autograph manuscript in French, signed by Flammarion on last leaf. 4to. 3-16ff., in ink, rectos only. [Paris or Juvisy, 1892.] Loose sheets. Lightly creased, browning, slight soiling & chipping, but very good.
Flammarion’s signed autograph draft of what appears to be a popular article based on a section of his classic La Planète Mars et ses Conditions d’Habitabilité, published in 1892. Some of the text in our manuscript, particularly that on ff. 8 and 9, appears in the first volume of La Planète Mars, in the chapter titled “Changements actuellement observes” (pp. 547-578); however, the remainder of the manuscript’s text varies widely from the printed book’s, and appears to be geared toward a more general audience. La Planète Mars was the most comprehensive work on Mars to yet appear, and Flammarion’s views on Mars dominated the field in Europe much as Percival Lowell’s did in America (Lowell began his observations and writings in the mid-1890s, after Flammarion).
The manuscript shows some revisions by Flammarion on most leaves, ranging from crossing out of a few words to the interpolation of several lines of text. A second editor has marked the text in a few places in the margin in plain and colored pencil, and the first leaf bears the pencil date July 28, 1944 in the upper margin. The first leaf is numbered 3 in Flammarion’s hand; however, the title and beginning of the text occur on this leaf. Despite the presence of editorial markings, we have found no evidence that Flammarion’s article was published.
The date of this text is important not only for preceding Flammarion’s great work on Mars, but also because it represents an early date in the acceptance of Mars’s “canals,” a supposed network of lines crisscrossing the planet (these lines are actually optical illusions caused by the human brain’s tendency to impose patterns on visual data). First described by Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1878, the Martian “canals” led to a great deal of popular speculation about the possibility of intelligent life on Mars, and became a staple of science fiction. It was not until the Mariner flights to Mars in the late 1960s that the notion of canals on Mars was finally put to rest.
In the present manuscript Flammarion, referring to Schiaparelli’s observations of 1877-86, accepts that the Mars canals exist, that they are not optical effects, and that they show variation linked with the seasons on Mars. Flammarion is cautious to say that one can use the term “canal” without it being the last word on the supposed structures’ actual physical constitution. Flammarion considers the canals and their fluctuations the most “bizarre” feature of Mars, unlike anything on earth. He warns against applying physical terms appropriate to earth to Mars without more knowledge of the atmosphere of Mars. He writes that our knowledge of Mars might be comparable to that of a balloonist over Mont Saint Michel trying to explain the fluctuations in its appearance without any concept of tides. His examples of Martian features include the region of Lacus Solis and its affluents Ambrosia and Nectar which had disappeared from view although seen by Dawes, Lockyer and Kaiser in years past, and the Kepler Ocean.
Flammarion states that it would not be completely absurd to consider that the canals could be the work of intelligence. He paints a poetic picture of evening on earth contrasted with morning on Mars, and speculates that if there were Martians, their intelligence would be superior to ours. He expresses the hope that Mars may provide the long-sought evidence of the “plurality of worlds,” a subject on which he had written. His poetic conclusion to this article is very much in keeping with Flammarion’s other persona as one of the first great writers of modern science fiction, with several novels to his credit. Glasstone, The Book of Mars 19-31, reproducing several maps from Flammarion’s La Planète Mars. Ley & von Braun, The Exploration of Mars (1956) 45-46, 48-52, 61, 174, also reproducing Flammarion’s maps. DSB.Book Id: 44531