Viagi de Enrique Wanton alle Terre incognite Australi, ed al Paese delle Scimie. Ne’quali si spiegano il carattere li costumi le Scienze; e la Polizia di quegli straordinarii Abitanti. Tradotti da un manoscritto Inglese, con Figure in Rame. Venice, Giovanni Tagier, 1749.
First Edition, Second Issue. Two volumes, 8vo (185 x 118 mm), pp. [xiv], 231,  information for the binder; [ii], 308 (without A3 in vol.1, as called for, no loss of text, the title page is a cancel); each volume with engraved frontispiece, the one to vol. 2 printed in green, and in all 22 folding plates, those in volumes 2 printed in various tints; some light foxing and browning due to paper stock; and some off-setting from the colour-printed plates; some marginal damp-staining through the final third of Vol. I, an old paper repair to lower outer corner of title page (30 x 40mm), not touching text, paper fault to II, F3 with loss of 4 letters and to foot of K3, touching a couple of letters; bound in contemporary full vellum over boards, gilt-lettered spine labels, edges sprinkled in red; a very good copy.
The scarce first edition of this extraordinary utopian imaginary voyage, one of the great rarities of the genre. Extravagantly illustrated, with two frontispieces and twenty-two folding plates depicting the inhabitants of the Kingdon of the Monkeys in Australia against a backdrop of glorious landscapes and architecture: a striking Renaissance version of the Planet of the Apes. In the second volume of this copy, the frontispiece and ten of the plates are stunningly printed in colour, in green, sepia, red, orange and brown. Fashioned as a translation from the English, it is an original Italian composition modelled on Gulliver’s Travels and satirising eighteenth century Venetian society. Beginning and ending in London, the narrative follows the adventures of an Englishman, Enrico Wanton and his companion Roberto, as they voyage to the uncharted regions of Australia and discover societies of monkey people and dog-faced people. In discussing the customs, economy, architecture, education and structure of society, Seriman is of course providing a satire on the excesses and corruption of the Venetian society of his day: the plates certainly show an extravagance of costume and architecture to rival any modern European city.
The remarkable plates - eleven of which in this copy are printed in colour - are by Giorgio Fossati (1706-1778), the Swiss-born architect, artist and engraver who worked on the Venetian editions of Palladio in the 1740s and published his own Storia dell’architettura in 1747. A comparison of the very few copies of the Viaggi di Enrico Wanton in Worldcat shows that none is fully printed in colour: Harvard’s copy has the frontispieces in colour, the remainder of the plates in black and white and the other copies listed either have plates printed in black and white or lack the plates entirely.
There are two issues of the first edition, not distinguished by the main bibliographical sources: one with the title-page in volume one dated 1748 and a second issue, as here, with this title-page cancelled and dated 1749. The bibliographers list this 1749 issue without comment and the only copies we have traced with the 1748 title-page are the Harvard and Yale copies (the latter lacking all plates). Two further editions followed, in 1756 and 1764, with additional text and plates.
OCLC lists a total of seven copies, only four of which are complete: Harvard (1748 issue, frontispieces in colour, folding plates in black); Yale (1748 issue, lacking all plates); State Library of New South Wales (1749 issue, plates in black); BSB Munich (1749 issue, plates in black); BN Spain (1749 issue, lacking all plates; NLS (1749 issue, vol. I only, plates in black); Miami University (1749 issue, plates in black). With thanks to Justin Croft for his research into these copies.
‘It may be claimed a place both in an Australian library and in a collection of aeronautica, and, in addition, it forms and important item in any collection of imaginary voyages’ (TLS, February 15th, 1923, p. 112, as cited by Gove). The natives of Australia are described and depicted in the plates as having the faces of monkeys. There are also plates of a circus and a bullfight.
'An imaginary voyage of great importance to Australiana collectors... Despite the fact that it is the imaginary voyage of an Englishman to Australia... it never appeared in English... Exceedingly rare and very seldom catalogued, any edition is worth adding to a collection, even at the high price which any good copy would now command’ (Davidson, A Book Collector's Notes on items relating to the Discovery of Australia, 1970, pp. 44-5).
Maxwell White, Zaccaria Seriman, 1961, p. 141, edition A; Welcher, J. K. An annotated List of Gulliveriana, 1721-1800, 1749.5; Parenti, Un Romanzo italiano del Settecento, 1948; Parenti, Luoghi di stampa falsi, p. 38; Lewis, Utopian Literature, p. 175-6; Gove, The Imaginary Voyage in Prose Fiction, pp. 314-16; Gibson & Patrick, ‘Utopias and Dystopias, 1500-1750’ in Gibson, St. Thomas More: A Preliminary Bibliography, 1961, 769; Negley, Utopian Literature: A Bibliography 1021; Sabin 79229-79232.