The Adventures of Sig. Gaudentio Di Lucca; Being the Substance of his Examination Before the Fathers of the Inquisition at Bologna in Italy: Giving An Account of an Unknown Country in the Deserts of Africa, The Origin and Antiquity of the People, Their Religion, Customs and Laws, Copied from the original manuscript in St. Mark’s Library at Venice; with critical Notes of the learned Sig. Rhedi. To which is prefixed, A Letter of the Secretary of the Inquisition, showing the Reasons of Signor Gaudentio’s being apprehended, and the Manner of it. London, T. Pridden, 1776.
12mo (160 x 110 mm), pp. [viii], -245, in contemporary plain calf, rather a shiny reback, sturdy but not sympathetic, corners restored, covers stained and surface of lower board a little cracking, spine ruled in gilt with red morocco label lettered in gilt, with notes by in a slightly later hand, and the contemporary heraldic bookplate of Fullerton of Carstairs.
This well-known utopian novel was for many years believed to be by Bishop Berkeley, an incorrect assumption that much increased its popularity and profile. The novel went through numerous editions and was translated into French, German and Italian. First published in 1737, the tale follows the journey undertaken by a prisoner of the inquisition named Gaudentio de Lucca to a country in Africa called Mezzorania.This patriarchal society is fundamentally an experiment in socialism, the citizens have equal rights and property and are governed with an overarching principle of community. Mezzorania has its ancestry in the society of the Ancient Egyptians, marking the tale as an early example of a Lost Race novel.
This copy of the 1776 edition - in a contemporary binding marred by a sturdy reback - contains the following notes by a previous owner: ‘An ingenious novel falsely imparted to Bishop Berkely, the author reputed to be Dr Samuel Scoale of Huntingdon G.M. [Gentleman’s Magazine] 1785 fol. 376’, below which is inscribed: ‘In G.M. Oct 1785 fol. 759 it is attributed to one Barrington, a Catholic priest who had chambers in Gray’s inn and was keeper of a library for the use of the Romish clergy - he was author of several pamphlets chiefly anonymous particularly on the controversy with Julius Bate on Elohim. Classed by Dunlop in his History of Fiction with Robinson Crusoe and Gullivers Travels’. Opposite this extended note, on the front pastedown, is pasted a bookseller’s description quoting Lowndes, describing ‘this admirable work [as] partly a romance and partly a scheme of patriarchal government; the incidents are well contrived and most agreeably related’ (The Bibliographer’s Manual of English Literature 868). The note describes Berington as ‘belonging to the well-known Roman Catholic family of that time’. The pastedown also bears the contemporary heraldic bookplate of Fullerton of Carstairs.
At the time, the novel ‘attained a rank and dignity comparable to that of the Republic of Plato, the Utopia of Sir Thomas More, and the New Atlantis of Lord Bacon’ (Gove, P.B. The Imaginary Voyage in Prose Fiction), partly because of the esteemed Bishop Berkeley’s supposed sponsorship. It was not until 1785, proposed by ‘WH’ in the Gentleman’s Magazine, LV (1785), that Berington began to be associated with the work. Berington’s Mezzorania emerged during a period where exploration was expanding towards far corners of the earth, and was taken up with enthusiasm by a reading public eager to contemplate new lands and other societies. Compared with its utopian predecessors, the idea of this foreign society was no longer an alien, new idea, but instead a credible representation of what might lie beyond British seas.
ESTC n4268; Gove p. 297 (see also pp. 295-300).