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Press Release - January 26, 2007

Rare First Edition of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Comes to Heritage!

Dallas, TX: He was a futurist, a fantasist, a novelist and an adventurer. He is the third most translated author in history, following Walt Disney Productions and Agatha Christie, according to the Index Translationum. He foresaw man's travel through the air, undersea, and even to other worlds, all decades before any of those things became reality.

He was, of course, Jules Gabriel Verne.

Born on February 8, 1828 in Nantes, France, Verne evinced an interest in travel and exploration from an early age, most likely inspired by growing up in a busy harbor town, where he undoubtedly witnessed ships coming and going to and from every point on the globe every day. Rather than pursue a life at sea, however, the young Verne decided to follow in his father's footsteps and become a lawyer.

It was while studying for the bar that Verne began writing, first contributing librettos to operas, then, with the encouragement of acquaintances Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo, stories and novels, many revolving around his interest in travel and adventure. His pursuit of a career in law was quickly abandoned. Unfortunately, Verne's efforts to find a publisher were met with a succession of failures, as book after book suffered rejection after rejection, most finding Verne's writing to be too dry and technical.

In 1863, however, in cooperation with publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel, Verne's first novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon (Cinq semains en balloon) was finally issued. A success, Verne allowed his imagination to run wild, and followed up with such classics as Journey to the Center of the Earth (Voyage au centre de la Terre, 1864), From the Earth to the Moon (De la terre à la lune, 1865), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Vingt mille lieues sous les mers, 1870), Around the World in Eighty Days (Le Tour du Monde en quatre-vingts jours, 1873), The Mysterious Island (L'île mysterieuse, 1875), and The Master of the World (Maître du monde, sequel to Robur the Conqueror, 1904). Since then, his works have been extensively adapted to other media, finding new life as plays, TV shows, movies, comic books, radio dramas and more.

Verne continued to write up until his death from diabetes in 1905. His later works, written after the death of Hetzel, his publisher and editor, bear a darker tone, but are no less fantastic and imaginative. Verne's fame, however, rests on his earlier, classic novels.

"There aren't many authors that can equal Jules Verne for sheer imagination," said Sandra Palomino, Consignment Director for Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries. "More than simply being a great writer, however, Verne was a true visionary, whose works helped shape scientific and technological advancements during his century and beyond. Long hailed as the 'Father of Science Fiction,' Verne blazed a trail that many writers, creators, artists, scientists, and futurists are still following."

"Few of Verne's works are as significant as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," Palomino said. "The author's seventh published novel, Verne already had several successes under his belt by the time he wrote this book, which many consider to be his masterpiece. Indeed, the character of Captain Nemo proved so popuar that Verne would revisit the character, giving him far more background, five years later in The Mysterious Island."

"For passionate book collectors," Palomino continued, "first editions of Verne's works are seen as highly desirable, especially firsts of his best-known novels. Offered in our upcoming auction is a chance to own a true showpiece, the true American first of 20,000 Leagues, sporting the 'jellyfish' image on its blue cloth cover. Dated 1873, this James R. Osgood edition was actually issued in November 1872, the same time as Sampson Low's British edition. This is the infamous translation by the Reverand Louis Page Mercier - aka Mercier Lewis - who contributed many errors and mistranslations, and actually cut nearly 25% of Verne's text! Nonetheless, this was the standard English-language edition for nearly a century, until a reappraisal of Verne's work in the late 1980s resulted in a new, more faithful translation by Walter James Miller and Frederick Paul Walter."

"The Osgood edition is highly prized by collectors," Palomino said, "for its crisp, clear images by Edouard Riou and Alphonse de Neuville and engraved by Henri Hildibrand - an interesting bit of trivia is that Verne himself posed for the portrait of Professor Arronax seen near the beginning of the novel - as well as its relative scarcity. Although the reason for this scarcity is unknown, it has been speculated that most of the Osgood copies were destroyed when the Osgood warehouse burned to the ground during the Great Boston Fire of 1872. The copy offered in our auction is in superb condition, and is housed in a custom-built, blue cloth-covered slipcase. Without a doubt, this is the finest copy of this landmark book we have ever seen, and will no doubt be a fantastic addition to any collection of fine books."

"This is just one piece of the exceptional Ventura collection," Palomino said, "a breathtaking assemblage of fantasy and science fiction titles unmatched for their quality, scarcity and condition. The care and effort that this collector put into building the remarkable archive is awe-inspiring, and anyone with even the slightest interest in speculative and fantastic fiction will certainly find something to tempt them into bidding. Collections like this surface only once in a great while, so I would encourage anyone who cherishes fine books to visit our website frequently and watch this auction as it grows."

Jules Verne Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1873), first American edition, variant A:
ESTIMATE: $8,000 - $10,000

Heritage Auction Galleries will hold their auction of rare books and manuscripts on April 16 & 17, 2007 at their headquarters in Dallas, TX.

For more information about Heritage's auctions, and a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit

Prospective consignors and sellers of political memorabilia, Americana, and related collectibles are invited to visit and click on the "Sell Now" tab. Or simply email Tom Slater at

To reserve your copy of any Heritage auction catalog, please contact Nicole Jewell at 1-800-872-6467, ext. 272, or visit to order by email.

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