A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder

A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder is the most popular book by James De Mille. It was serialized posthumously and anonymously[1] in Harper's Weekly,[2] and published in book form by Harper and Brothers of New York City during 1888. It was serialized subsequently in the United Kingdom and Australia, and published in book form in the United Kingdom and Canada. Later editions were published from the plates of the Harper and Brothers first edition, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The satiric and fantastic romance is set in an imaginary semi-tropical land in Antarctica inhabited by prehistoric monsters and a cult of death-worshipers called the Kosekin. Begun many years before it was published, it is reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket and anticipates the exotic locale and fantasy-adventure elements of works of the "Lost World genre" such as Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World and Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot, as well as innumerable prehistoric world movies based loosely on these and other works. The title and locale were inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's Ms. Found in a Bottle.

It was unfortunate for De Mille's reputation as a writer that this work was published after She and King Solomon's Mines. Although H. Rider Haggard's works were well known by then, the actual composition of De Mille's romance pre-dated the publication of the popular romances and his ideas were not in the least derivative from Haggard's better known works.[3]

A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder
Strange manuscript
AuthorJames De Mille
GenreFantasy novel
PublisherHarper & Brothers
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback)
Pages291 pp

Plot summary

The main story of the novel is the narrative of the adventures of Adam More, a British sailor shipwrecked on a homeward voyage from Tasmania. After passing through a subterranean tunnel of volcanic origin, he finds himself in a "lost world" of prehistoric animals, plants and people sustained by volcanic heat despite the long Antarctic night.

A secondary plot of four yachtsmen who find the manuscript written by Adam More and sealed in a copper cylinder forms a frame for the central narrative. They comment on More's report, and one identifies the Kosekin language as a Semitic language, possibly derived from Hebrew.

In his strange volcanic world, More also finds a well-developed human society which in the tradition of topsy-turvy worlds of folklore and satire (compare Sir Thomas More's Utopia, Erewhon by Samuel Butler, or Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland) has reversed the values of 19th century Western society: wealth is scorned and poverty is revered, death and darkness are preferred to life and light. Rather than accumulating wealth, the natives seek to divest themselves of it as quickly as possible. Whatever they fail to give away to wealthy people is confiscated by the government, which imposes the burden of wealth upon its unfortunate subjects at the beginning of the next year of reverse taxation as a form of punishment.

Critical reception

Contemporary reviews of the novel were coloured by the previous release of She and King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard. A review in The New York Times, 21 May 1888, notes that "if the author of 'A Strange Manuscript' were living he would find it a quite hopeless task to persuade people that he had not read and imitated She and King Solomon's Mines" while a review in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 3 June 1888, called the book a "somewhat belated story". Both reviews, along with a July 1888 review in The Week, a Toronto newspaper, commented positively on the illustrations by Gilbert Gaul.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Tracy, Minerva (1972). "De Mille, James". In Hayne, David (ed.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography. X (1871–1880) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  2. ^ Standish, David (2006). Hollow earth: the long and curious history of imagining strange lands, fantastical creatures, advanced civilizations, and marvelous machines below the earth's surface. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-81373-4.
  3. ^ "Literary Notes". The New York Times. May 14, 1888. p. 3. Retrieved 15 January 2009.
  4. ^ De Mille, James (2011). Daniel Burgoyne (ed.). A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder. Peterborough: Broadview Press. pp. 337–342.

A scholarly edition of the work was published by the Centre for Editing Early Canadian Texts (CEECT) (see below). This edition is the source of the information provided by this article.

  • Bleiler, Everett (1948). The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Chicago: Shasta Publishers. p. 27.


  • A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder was first published in nineteen installments in Harper's Weekly, Vol. 32, from January 7, 1888 (No. 1620) to May 12, 1888 (No. 1638). Each installment was accompanied by an illustration by Gilbert Gaul.
  • De Mille, James. A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder. First American Edition. Harper and Brothers, New York, 1888.
  • De Mille, James. A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder. First British Edition. Chatto and Windus, London, 1888.
  • De Mille, James. A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder. First Canadian Edition. Robinson, Montreal, 1888.
  • De Mille, James. A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder. New Canadian Library Edition. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 1969.
  • De Mille, James. A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder. Edited by Malcolm Parks. Carleton University Press, Ottawa, 1986. ISBN 0-88629-039-2 (hardcover), ISBN 0-7735-2167-4 (paperback)
  • De Mille, James. A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder. Edited by Daniel Burgoyne. Broadview Press, Peterborough, 2011. ISBN 978-1-55111-959-5.

External links

1888 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1888.

H. P. Lovecraft

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (US: ; August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) was an American writer who achieved posthumous fame through his influential works of horror fiction. He was virtually unknown during his lifetime and published only in pulp magazines before he died in poverty, but he is now regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors of horror and weird fiction.Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island, where he spent most of his life. Among his most celebrated tales are The Rats in the Walls, The Call of Cthulhu, At the Mountains of Madness, The Shadow over Innsmouth, and The Shadow Out of Time, all canonical to the Cthulhu Mythos. Lovecraft was never able to support himself from earnings as an author and editor, and he saw commercial success increasingly elude him in his latter period. He subsisted in progressively strained circumstances in his last years; an inheritance was nearly depleted by the time he died of cancer, at age 46.

James De Mille

James De Mille (23 August 1833 – 28 January 1880) was a professor at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, and an early Canadian novelist who published numerous works of popular fiction from the late 1860s through the 1870s.

List of Canadian writers

This is a list of Canadian literary figures, including poets, novelists, children's writers, essayists, and scholars.

List of anonymously published works

Throughout the history of literature, since the creation of bound texts in the forms of books and codices, various works have been published and written anonymously, often due to their political or controversial nature, or merely for the purposes of the privacy of their authors, among other reasons. This article provides a list of literary works published anonymously, either attributed to "Anonymous", or with no specific author's name given.

Not included in this list are works which predate the advent of publishing and general attribution of authorship, such as ancient written inscriptions (such as hieroglyphic or pictographical, transcribed texts), certain historical folklore and myths of oral traditions now published as text, and reference or plain texts (letters, notes, graffiti) recovered archaeologically, which are otherwise unimportant to literary studies. Religious texts and grimoires, which are often written anonymously, may appear, along with works initially written anonymously whose authors are now known.

This list is ordered alphabetically by title.

List of works published posthumously

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Lost world

The lost world is a subgenre of the fantasy or science fiction genres that involves the discovery of an unknown world out of time, place, or both. It began as a subgenre of the late-Victorian adventure romance and remains popular into the 21st century.

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New Canadian Library

The New Canadian Library is a publishing imprint of the Canadian company McClelland and Stewart. The series aims to present classic works of Canadian literature in paperback. Each work published in the series includes a short essay by another notable Canadian writer, discussing the historical context and significance of the work. These essays were originally forewords, but after McClelland and Stewart's 1985 sale to Avie Bennett, the prefatory material was abandoned and replaced by afterwords.It was founded by Malcolm Ross with the intention of providing affordable material for his students; David Staines has been the general editor of the series since 1986. In 2007 the University of Toronto Press published New Canadian Library: The Ross-McClelland Years, 1952-1978, a work by Janet Beverly Friskney that provides an account of the New Canadian Library during the years of Ross's editorship.

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Subterranean fiction is a subgenre of adventure fiction or science fiction which focuses on underground settings, sometimes at the center of the Earth or otherwise deep below the surface. The genre is based on and has in turn influenced the Hollow Earth theory.

The earliest works in the genre were Enlightenment-era philosophical or allegorical works, in which the underground setting was often largely incidental. In the late 19th century, however, more pseudoscientific or proto-science-fictional motifs gained prevalence. Common themes have included a depiction of the underground world as more primitive than the surface, either culturally, technologically or biologically, or in some combination thereof. The former cases usually see the setting used as a venue for sword-and-sorcery fiction, while the latter often features creatures extinct on the surface, such as dinosaurs, hominids or cryptids. A less frequent theme has the underground world much more technologically advanced than the surface one, typically either as the refugium of a lost civilization, or (more rarely) as a base for space aliens.

World of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The world of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman is a fictional universe created by Alan Moore in the comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where all of the characters and events from literature (and possibly the entirety of fiction) coexist. The world the characters inhabit is one more technologically advanced than our own, but also home to the strange and supernatural. Beyond the comic itself, the world of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is expanded upon by supplemental prose material, including The New Traveller's Almanac, Allan and the Sundered Veil, and the documents from the Black Dossier.

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