Pallander, Edwin. Across the Zodiac; A Story of Adventure..
[Pseud. Lancelot Francis Sanderson Bayly].
London.: Digby, Long & Co., .
First edition. 8vo. 306pp + 16pp ads dated November 1896. Bound in original decorated cloth, respined with original spine laid on. Faded and scuffed to spine panel, minor wear elsewhere, with the iconic front board decoration (comet, blazing sun, stars, zodiac symbols and giant submarine, spaceship, lighthouse thingy zooming past. Classic.), distinctly bright and attractive in contrast, minor soiling and wear. A very good copy, reinforced to withstand another 120 years. A rather thrilling, and blatantly Verneian adventure, in which a spacecraft called The Astrolable, piloted by a mad scientist with a loathing for all things Russian takes the Nemo-esque mantle and whizzes off to Venus, via the moon where a lost civilisation is discovered, and back to Earth. Dubious space-going escapades occur, there's a preponderance of balloons, thrashing about in plucky defiance of immediate death by volcano, and suchlike staples that result in a commercially enjoyable, and at the time quite well regarded bit of interstellar melodrama. Borrows the title and several thematic motifs from Percy Greg's far scarcer, two volume sci-fi epic of almost 20 years earlier, the holder of the crown of being the novel containing the first fully realised alien language. In the same way that many of the Holmes imitators succeeding in delivering far beyond their commercially motivated brief of emulation, many of Verne's avid acolytes managed the same, and aside from basically being 20,000 Leagues in space, Pallander's effort comes close, probably the fact that the author was a notable scientist, biologist and naturalist in his own right, gifted with the ability to coin the occasional well turned phrase, helps immeasurably (“Let me endeavour to describe Ned Hatton. A tall, magnificently bony specimen of humanity, with a complexion slightly sallowed by exposure to tropical suns, and piercing, deep set eyes which gave a certain expression of genius, an expression which was the making of him, from an artistic point of view, and served to convert him from a lanky, decidedly ugly son of Brother Jonathan into what the French call, not incorrectly, a Beau Laid.”). Scarce, and rather delightful.