Histoire des Galligènes, by TIPHAIGNE DE LA ROCHE, Charles-François (1722-1774).

TIPHAIGNE DE LA ROCHE, Charles-François (1722-1774).

Histoire des Galligènes, ou Mémoires de Duncan. Première [-Seconde] Partie. Amsterdam, Arkstée & Merkus, 1765.

First Edition. Two parts in one volume, 12mo, (164 x 93 mm), pp. [iv], 165, [1] blank; [iv], 136, with the half titles, in contemporary speckled calf, covers bumped, with some careful restoration to the joints, spine gilt in compartments with red morocco label lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers, red edges.

A legendary rarity among utopias and Tiphaigne de la Roche’s most brilliant work. Once thought to be by Diderot, this is a socialist utopia where during the course of the novel the author questions the viability of an ideal society. The traveller, Duncan, is shipwrecked in the tropics, only to find himself warmly welcomed by a people speaking an ancient dialect of French. It turns out that the islanders are descended from a Frenchman who had been shipwrecked with his two children and had set about populating the island (which rose out of the sea at the moment of the shipwreck) and building it into a peaceful republic. Equal education for both sexes, no distinctions of rank or private ownership, no priests or organised religion, the islanders even have no concept of individual families, as the children are removed at birth from their mother, as all are deemed to be brothers and the republic to be the mother of all. As the novel progresses, the ideal nature of the island society - or rather of humanity’s ability to achieve utopia - is increasingly questioned and by its conclusion, Tiphaigne de la Roche’s underlying pessimism is tipping the balance from utopia to dystopia.
‘Peut-être un example d’une compréhension de Swift rare au XVIIIe siècle... Tiphaigne de la Roche dépeint une société qui a eu toutes les chances d’atteindre à la perfection, mais qui, parce que ses membres sont des mortels avec les caractéristiques innées de la race humaine, se révèle à l’époque où le voyageur européen fait naufrage sur leurs côtes, encore loin d’un état de bonheur complet’ (Goulding, quoted in Gove, p. 354).
‘Lichtenberger considère que ce roman utopique est très supérieur à la moyenne du genre. Son originalité réside dans le fait que l’auteur n’a pas une idée statique de l’Etat utopique: il peut y avoir révolte, cet Etat étant enclin à se dégrader comme tout autre système. “Pour son pessimisme ironique et résigné, l’auteur mérite peut-être un souvenir, non seulement parmi les communistes, mais parmi les littérateurs secondaires de son temps”’ (Hartig, p. 58).
The work was reprinted five years after its first appearance under the longer title Histoire naturelle civile et politique des Galligenes antipodes de la nation françoise, dont ils tirent leur origine; où l’on développe le naissance, les progrès, les moeurs & les vertus singulieres de ces insulaires. Les révolutions & les productions merveilleuses de leur isle, avec l’histoire de leur fondateur, Geneve, Cramer, 1770 (OCLC lists Poitiers, Newberry and Duke only). There were also two reprints in the late twentieth century, by EDHIS and Slatkine. At the time, the only known copy of the work had been in the Bibliothèque Nationale, but it had disappeared (and is still catalogued as ‘indisponible : absence constatée (après récolement)’) and the reprint was only made possible when a copy was found in a private collection.

OCLC lists copies at the British Library, the European University Institute, University of Gotha and Princeton.

MMF 65.50; Cioranescu 61982; Gove, The Imaginary Voyage in Prose Fiction, p. 354; Hartig p. 58.

Keywords: Continental Books
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