Albert Robida’s Le Vingtième siècle

Tuesday 4 October 2011

While preparing material for an upcoming session of the Honours course “Print Culture in Britain, 1750-1900”, taught by Aileen Fyfe, our Rare Books Librarian, Elizabeth Henderson, pulled out a copy of this beautifully illustrated 19th century science fiction novel. I saw this sitting on her desk, had a flip through it, and had to share some of these images.

Le Vingtième siècle (Paris: G. Decaux, 1883), by Albert Robida, is a novel set in the mid-20th century in which new technology has changed French society. Some of the new technology includes the modern equivalents of televisions, telephones, web-cams, submarines, helicopters, &c. This novel was the first of three futuristic works, the other two were: La Guerre au vingtième siècle (1887) and Le Vingtième siècle. La vie électrique (1890).  This first edition features cover art and illustrations by Robida, who was a prolific illustrator of science fiction novels and magazines in the 19th century.

Front cover of the 1883 first edition of Albert Robida's Le Vingtième siècle.
L'Arc de Triomphe c. 1955, according to Robida's vision.
Robida's home-theatre, or television, of the future.
Robida's ideas for future transportation included air-balloons and submarines.
The Paris sky-line at night, c. 1955.
Robida's vision of trans-Atlantic travel by air.
Robida's concept of inter-Continental travel, via pneumatic tubes.
A play performed in three languages at the same time.


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4 thoughts on "Albert Robida’s Le Vingtième siècle"

  • 52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings: Week 18 | Echoes from the Vault
    Friday 14 October 2011, 11.19am

    [...] I was searching through the stacks last week, hot on the case of Albert Robida, I stumbled upon this beautiful, and large, edition of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. This first [...]

  • Heinrich Raatschen
    Heinrich Raatschen
    Thursday 1 March 2012, 9.53pm

    These beautiful illustrations and the luxurious details of the cover binding are very well chosen. I believe they say a lot about the book. LE VINGTIÈME SIÈCLE was first published in December 1882 making it a perfect LIVRE D'ETRENNES. Those are books - often quite beautifully produced - which were given to friends and family as a gift on new year's day.

  • Alfred Pisani
    Alfred Pisani
    Wednesday 23 April 2014, 10.43am

    I have a Copy of the XX Secolo by A. Robida 1885. How valuable, it is not the First Edition but not far off, abit wormy,but the Lithographs and Prints are beautiful. A.P.

    • Heinrich Raatschen
      Heinrich Raatschen
      Thursday 24 April 2014, 7.44pm

      Hi Alfred, If your copy says 1885 it should be the first Italian edition. I have seen ordinary copies of that edition for EUR 150 and beautiful editions for the same price. Good luck!


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