Eaton Collection Acquires Rare Volume of Utopian Literature

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Breslauer Foundation grant enables the purchase of 1623 edition of Tommaso Campanella’s “Civitas Solis”

By on April 1, 2014

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The B.H. Breslauer Foundation funded the acquisition of this rare first edition of Tommaso Campanella's "Civitas Solis."

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the University of California, Riverside has acquired a rare first edition of utopian writer Tommaso Campanella’s “Civitas Solis” (“City of the Sun”), thanks to a grant from the B.H. Breslauer Foundation.

The $54,000 grant — proposed by Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections & University Archives — covered the entire purchase price of the book, which was published in Frankfurt am Main by Egenoff Emmel for Gottfried Tambach in 1623.

“This is huge for the Eaton Collection,” said Rob Latham, UCR professor of English. “Tommaso Campanella was one of the most important utopian thinkers and writers working in the wake of Thomas More, who pioneered the genre with his 1516 book ‘Utopia.’”

Fewer than 20 copies of the first edition volume exist, and nearly all are held by private universities in the United States or European universities and museums. UCR is one of only two public libraries in the U.S. with this volume, he added.

“We are honored that the Breslauer Foundation has shown such confidence in UCR Libraries by enabling the acquisition of the first edition ‘Civitas Solis,’” said University Librarian Steven Mandeville-Gamble.

“Civitas Solis,” early manuscript portions of which were first published in Campanella’s “Realis philosophiae epilogistiace partes quartum” in 1623, offered a more mystical vision of enlightenment than Francis Bacon’s contemporaneous “New Atlantis” (1624), depicting an ideal society of communal ownership, artistic invention, shared knowledge, and spiritual aspiration, said Latham, a scholar of science fiction studies.

image of inside pages of old book

The acquisition of “Civitas Solis” fills a significant void in the utopian literature holdings of the Eaton Collection.

“A forerunner of the countercultural utopias of the 19th and 20th centuries, it gives us tantalizing glimpses of an emerging modern world,” he added. ”Despite its seeming piety, the book was controversial, as were Campanella’s beliefs more generally, and he spent decades in prison and several sessions on the inquisitor’s rack for espousing heretical views. But his vision survives in ‘City of the Sun’ — a work that, in its first edition, is extremely rare — and having a copy now at UCR further confirms the Eaton Collection’s standing as the preeminent research archive on science fiction and utopian writing in the world.”

A Ph.D. student in English who reads Latin plans to submit an article about the acquisition of “Civitas Solis” for publication in the journal Science Fiction Studies, said Latham, who is a senior editor of the journal. Science Fiction Studies co-sponsors an annual symposium on science fiction at UCR that Latham hosts.

The addition of this edition of “Civitas Solis” allows the UCR Libraries to fill a significant void in the extensive utopian holdings of the Eaton Collection, Conway said.

“We are very grateful to the Breslauer Foundation for their generosity,” she said. “This is the second time that the Breslauer Foundation has helped us acquire a rare and precious volume for the UCR Libraries.”

In 2010 the Breslauer Foundation provided $10,000 to purchase the first American edition of “The Time Machine” by H.S. Wells (an error in printing the name of science fiction icon H. G. Wells) for the Eaton Collection. The New York City-based Breslauer Foundation awards grants to U.S. libraries that collect rare books and manuscripts.

The Eaton Collection, the flagship collection of Special Collections & University Archives, remains the world’s largest publicly accessible repository of science fiction, fantasy, horror and utopian literature beginning with the 1517 Paris edition of Thomas More’s “Utopia.” The collection is a comprehensive research center comprising almost 300,000 items including publications in more than 20 languages, works of criticism and scholarly journals, nearly 100,000 science fiction fanzines, multimedia holdings, and a large body of archival materials.

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