signedfirst editionWith lithographic pictorial wrapper, 4 plates (2-page facsimile autograph letter from Admiral Popoff, dated 1880, 2 plates of su
by Fairburn, Edwin
London [Auckland]: Hall & Co., 25, Paternoster Row. Sold by Upton & Co., Booksellers, Auckland, N.Z., 1884. First edition, with Auckland bookseller slip on title page. With lithographic pictorial wrapper, 4 plates (2-page facsimile autograph letter from Admiral Popoff, dated 1880, 2 plates of submarine plans). [iv], 32, 104 pp. 1 vols. 8vo. Contemporary half red morocco and marbled boards, preserving illustrated front wrapper dated 1867. Ticket of Leighton, Auckland, on front pastedown. Spine slightly toned, occasional light foxing. Very good. First edition, with Auckland bookseller slip on title page. With lithographic pictorial wrapper, 4 plates (2-page facsimile autograph letter from Admiral Popoff, dated 1880, 2 plates of submarine plans). [iv], 32, 104 pp. 1 vols. 8vo. The New Zealander's Ironclads: The Earliest 'Future War' Story. Edwin Fairburn (1827-1911) was a land surveyor, painter, and writer, whose short novel, The Ships of Tarshish (1867), is the first published novel by a native of New Zealand. It is also the earliest future war tale, warning against a naval peril facing Britain, four years before George Chesney's The Battle of Dorking (1871). The protagonist, John Mandevil, son of an English yachtsman and a Spanish mother liberated from a Jesuit convent, inherits from his mother a gem inscribed with Hebrew characters, proving him the heir to the vast fortune of Samuel, the Wandering Jew of Eugène Sue's enormously popular serial. Mandevil warns an unresponsive government official against complacency and sets up a secretive compound near the mouth of the Thames. When a vast battleship sent by "the Grand Mogul" threatens Britain, Mandevil comes to the rescue with his futuristic ironclads, which he then presents to a grateful nation.The history of The Ships of Tarshish is complex. Fairburn's book, written in 1865 and printed in 1866, was not widely circulated at the time of printing. It is an almost unknown precursor to George Chesney's The Battle of Dorking (1871), the most famous of the "dreadful warning" stories. Elements of the book, such as a Mandevil's scheme to break up the landed estates of Britain, a plan for the development of north Auckland, and strong hints of Biblical literalism in a theory of the Maoris as one of the lost tribes of Israel, suggest other reasons why Fairburn's book is not as well known as Chesney's.The Prologue, with plates and separate pagination, was printed by H. Brett, General Steam Printer, Auckland, in 1884. As the opening paragraphs indicate, Fairburn eventually retrieved the sheets from London and the book was published in Auckland. He remarks "I have not read The Battle of Dorking, never having come across it, but from what I have been told … it was anticipated by my book". Fairburn's prologue also mentions "my infant days at Paihia, when we all had to live in residences surrounded by high palisades".OCLC records four copies over several records: in the British Library, Colorado State, Auckland War Memorial Museum Library, and Univ. of Canterbury (N.Z.); copies are also recorded in Australian libraries."Notwithstanding Fairburn's preoccupation with ship design, naval warfare and defence, there are some interesting irrelevancies, e.g. his views on erosion and soil conservation" (Bagnall).A family copy, with holograph note describing the career of Edwin Fairburn, by the author's grandson, A.R.D. Fairburn, dated 1944. Fairburn (1904-1957) was a New Zealand poet and critic: "the iron-sand beaches of the Tasman coast and the marine geography of the Hauraki Gulf were to become key elements in his poetry" (The Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand). Hocken, p. 396 (note); Bagnall 1857 (Inventory #: 265274)
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