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A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder

James De Mille

Book Overview: 

A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder is the most popular of James De Mille’s works. This satirical romance is the story of Adam More, a British sailor. Shipwrecked in Antarctica, he stumbles upon a tropical lost world of prehistoric animals, plants, and a cult of death-worshiping primitives. He also finds a highly developed human society which has reversed the values of Victorian society. Wealth is scorned and poverty revered; death and darkness are preferable to life and light. Rather than accumulating wealth, the natives seek to divest themselves of it as quickly as possible. At the beginning of each year, the government imposes wealth (the burden of “reverse taxation”) upon its unfortunate subjects as a form of punishment. A secondary plot about the four yachtsmen who find the manuscript forms a frame for the central narrative.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .to the supposed central fires of the earth, and therefore created a heat as great as that of the equatorial regions. Here I found a tropical climate—a land warmed not by the sun, but from the earth itself. Or another cause might be found in the warm ocean currents. Whatever the true one might be, I was utterly unable to form a conjecture.

But I had no time for such speculations as these. After the first emotions of wonder and admiration had somewhat subsided, I began to experience other sensations. I began to remember that I had eaten nothing for a length of time that I had no means of calculating, and to look around to see if there was any way of satisfying my hunger. The question arose now, What was to be done? After my recent terrible experience I naturally shrank from again committing myself to the tender mercies of strange tribes; yet further thought and examination showed me that the people of this strange land must be very different from those frig. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Perusing the Library shelves for Fernando del Paso and landing at DEM with the words A STRANGE MANUSCRIPT FOUND leaping at the eye. Blurb on the back mentioning four readers of a manuscript (shades of metalepsis?), satire, pioneering, Canadian academic (1833 - 1880) mostly known for (t)his posthu...more

Parts "Princess of Mars", "The Lost World", "Gulliver's Travels", and more, this was an interesting read.

That being said, holy crap people were open about their prejudices in the 1880s. The sexism and racism kept rearing up. It's probably best to take that as a product of the age it w...more

The problem with most Utopianists, as game designer Ken Levine points out, is that they don’t take into account the nature of humanity. Instead, they lay an ideal on top of humanity, and because it is a nice idea, just assume that it will just automatically smooth everything out. But, of course, the...more

This is actually a book within a book. With this uninspiring and enigmatic title doesn't do justice to this story by the Canadian born writer James De Mille (1833-1880). An unsuspecting reader would soon think it an unknown or forgotten work of Jules Verne as it combines many of his intriguing su...more

Just as the title says this tale is really strange. We begin with the story of four yatchsmen who, upon deciding to have a paper boat race come upon, as the books title says, a copper cylinder. Well they all take turns reading the manuscript therein which relates the apparent adventures of a sail...more

This book's history is at least as interesting as its content. This dystopian novel was actually written before Butler's Erehwon, but it was published posthumously by his wife. De Mille wrote to his brother (I believe it was) that he was not satisfied with the book's denouement - that is why he n...more

This one took a couple of false starts before I got into it. I thought I knew just about every lost world novel, but hadn't come across James De Mille before, possibly because he is viewed as a Canadian writer. Published posthumously in 1888 as a series in Harper's Weekly, this apparently Canadia...more

This 1888 tale appears to be the first novel to feature dinosaurs in a recognizable form. If it had mostly been about dinosaurs or had more scenes with dinosaurs, I might have liked it more. What we have here is essentially a "Lost World" story in which a group of yachtsmen find the title manuscr...more

Review of A Strange Manuscript found in a Copper Cylinder, 1888, by James De Mille

Missed the mark.

The title was the hook. And I stand by it as being a great one. And the premise promised much, too. A story within a story as four friends combat the boredom of their privileg...more

Because this is believed to be the first work of Canadian speculative fiction, and because it has an oddly awesome title, I really wanted to love this. And there are moments of great imagination, but mostly it talks in circles, lectures, and never quite thinks through the implications of the society...more

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