State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 19 April 1977


Mundus Alter Et Idem: A Satirical Utopia in The La Trobe Library


The imaginary voyage to some great Southern Continent has long been recognized as a quite distinct and legitimate category of Australiana. Edward A. Petherick, one of the earliest Australian bibliographers of distinction,1 both classified and collected fictional works within this category, and in his Prospectus for a Bibliography of Australia (London, n.d., but probably issued late in 1897)2 Petherick clearly established the importance of the genre. In this Prospectus, a Summary of Contents indicates the extent of Petherick's own comprehensive collection of Australiana (more than 6,000 items at that date), and in a final section he gives a quite specific description of these ‘Novels and Works of Fiction’:
‘Over 800 novels and works of fiction have been published, of which the scene or interest is laid in southern lands and seas. The earlier writers of this class — imaginative — were political philosophers, the authors of Utopia, Mundus Alter et Idem and New Atlantis. They were followed by writers, mostly anonymous, who too closely satirized the vicious habits and customs of Europeans. Above these towered the greatest satirist of all times, Swift, whose “Lilliput” lies near the west coast, and “Land of the Houyhnhnms” close to the south coast of New Holland, while his floating island “Laputa” is somewhere in the Pacific.’
In the above classification, Petherick has significantly linked More's Utopia with that early anticipation of science fiction, Bacon's New Atlantis, and with a decidedly upside-down utopia by Joseph Hall, Mundus Alter et Idem. (The Latin title implies an imaginary and exotic world that appears very different, yet remains in certain fundamental ways the same as European societies.) Since Hall's anti-utopia is firmly set in ‘Terra Australis incognita’, and since most copies of the work carry an elaborate apparatus of five engraved maps of a highly imaginary version of the Southern Continent, Mundus Alter et Idem continues to be ranked among the more desirable rariora within the larger field of Australiana. These Australian associations, together with the obvious anticipation of Gulliver's Travels, must be allowed as the principal reasons for the presence of so many copies of Mundus Alter et Idem in libraries and in private collections throughout Australia.3
The parallels with Swift's Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World are indeed striking: both fictions are divided into four-part structures, each portraying curious lands peopled by eccentric inhabitants whose foibles mirror our own. The geographical frameworks have a number of characteristics in common. But the contrasts are also significant: the central protagonist of Mundus Alter et Idem, that rather shadowy traveller Mercurius Britannicus, becomes, if one compares the two narratives, Lemuel Gulliver (a product incidentally of Hall's own Puritan foundation, Emmanuel College, Cambridge), first Surgeon and then Captain of several ships, totally involved in the adventures of his successive voyages. Mercurius Britannicus, by comparison, is rarely involved in the action; he is a straightforward persona for the satirist himself, ‘astonished by and laughing at men, towns and manners’. Hall's English Mercury is more closely related to the detached and observant Gulliver of the Third Voyage, than to the active, suffering Gulliver in the lands of the Lilliputians, Brobdingnagians or Houyhnhnms.
Our understanding of the text of Mundus Alter et Idem is partly determined by certain bibliographical issues, although these need not unduly concern us here. A skeletal outline of the known facts of publication should, however, be briefly sketched in. Mundus Alter et Idem was, then, first entered in the Stationers' Register to John Porter on 2 June 1605. The first known edition appeared anonymously and undated (but probably in 1606 or 1607), and with a Frankfort imprint. Another edition (with superior press-work
and almost certainly of later date) bears the imprint of Hanau (‘Hannovia’), and is dated 1607. Yet another Latin edition of Mundus was published in Utrecht in 1643 and is bound in with New Atlantis and with Civitas Solis, a radical utopia by the Calabrian monk, Thommaso Campanella. The first English translation, The Discovery of a New World (London, circa 1609), was by John Healey. His version transforms the satirical edge and ironic understatement of Hall's Latin into a boisterous, highly colloquial idiom that is, nevertheless, surprisingly faithful to its original.
The three copies of Mundus Alter et Idem held in the La Trobe Library are of considerable interest, not only for the intrinsic literary merits of the work, but for further reasons of an associational kind. In the first place, the La Trobe Library copy of the Frankfort edition was presented to the Public Library of Victoria (as it was then known) on 18 August 1909, by Edward Petherick himself.4 This was certainly Petherick's own working copy, and the faintly pencilled signature on a preliminary leaf, ‘J. Doran’, reveals the identity of the previous owner. Bibliographical notes have been lightly written in, and include a reference to Petherick's important discovery that there is an entry for Mundus in the Frankfort General Catalogue of Books for Autumn, 1606. Even more significant than Petherick's comments are the marginalia that are scattered throughout the book in a seventeenth century hand. In places these comments (chiefly translations and corrections) have been cropped in binding but they are still legible. The particular comment that seems to have made most impression on Petherick is to be found in the Table of Contents where the head for Book II, chapter ii (incorrectly given as ‘Lib.III’ in Petherick's copy) reads as follows: ‘Quid Alberico Gentili À Gynaecopolitis factum fuerit’. In this copy ‘Alberico Gentili’ has been heavily hatched out and ‘mihi’ has been written in the margin in the same seventeenth century hand.5 This emended version of the chapter heading appears in the text itself, and in most other copies of the book. Healey's version of this line, ‘How the Gossipingoesses used the Author of this discoverie’, suggests something of the racy and inventive qualities of his translation, although the secondary association with ‘Gynia Nova’, or New Guinea, has unfortunately disappeared.
Petherick was clearly impressed, not only by this reference to Alberico Gentili (a prolific author of Italian descent, but living in England), and by the marginal correction in his own copy of the book, but also by an additional reference to Gentili on the title page of the first German translation of the work that appeared in 1613.6 For in this instance the attribution of authorship is made very specifically to Gentili: ‘Erstlich in Lateinischer Sprach gestellt durch den Edlen und hochgelerten Herrn Albericum Gentilem in Engelland’.
Petherick supplemented this ‘evidence’ for Gentili's authorship of Mundus with a number of further discoveries. He sensibly checked the Admission Lists for Gray's Inn, and turned up a number of apparently related entries: ‘Here at Gray’s Inn we find one of the alleged authors — Alberico Gentili — the author's patron — the Earl of Huntingdon — and Ascanio Rinialme, publisher, or son of the publisher, whose heirs bear the expense of both editions of the publication.' In the scholarly essay on Mundus Alter et Idem from which I have drawn this quotation,7 Petherick evaluates the evidence for authorship and concludes (with some reservations) that the evidence is weighted in favour of Gentili. Unfortunately, Petherick has here neglected to explore the rich variety of local (and frequently East Anglian) references that are scattered throughout Mundus, and that could only have been made by Joseph Hall. The total range of both internal and external evidence pointing quite clearly to Hall as author is overwhelming, but Petherick should not be upbraided for his miscalculation. The Gentleman's Magazine article must have been started in the intervals of a demanding business as seller, distributor and publisher of books. Furthermore, Petherick had been declared bankrupt in 1894, and he cannot have enjoyed for long those conditions necessary for detached bibliographical research. In later years Petherick was employed as
cataloguer by the bookseller Francis Edwards and his concern for Australiana was not long interrupted. He may, indeed, have had both the leisure and the occasion to revise his opinions on the authorship of Mundus Alter et Idem by the time of his own return to the Southern Continent. In a brisk account of the work given shortly after his arrival in Melbourne in 1909, Petherick has clearly achieved a certain detachment in this matter. This account forms part of an address to the Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (Victorian Branch).8 The entire paper is particularly valuable in that Petherick provides us with a personally guided tour through the physical arrangement of his own collection.
‘At the end of the room in glass case … is a selection of works of prose fiction of the 17th and 18th centuries—when philosophers, discussing systems of government or satirizing the vices of Europeans (in order to keep their heads upon their shoulders), wrote imaginary voyages — placing their Utopian schemes or satires in the Southern World — Mundus Alter et Idem (1605) — another world yet the same. In Gabriel de Foigny's La Terre australe connue the word “Australiens” is first used as describing the inhabitants of this southern continent. Mundus Alter et Idem, usually attributed to Bishop Hall, but claimed also for another, Alberico Gentili, eminent in Law as Hall was in Divinity: there are several translations of it into English and German…'9
Petherick's bland yet incisive summary of this important genre could only derive from close and well-informed reading and from the kind of dispassionate bibliographical enquiry that we have already noted. A fully documented biography of Edward Petherick is, incidentally, long overdue. The Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington has recently been enriched by E. H. McCormick's lavishly documented life of its founder.10 It is certainly time that an officially sponsored biography of Edward Petherick paid adequate (and fully researched) tribute to his unique contribution to Australian letters.


The second copy of Mundus Alter et Idem in the La Trobe Library lacks the intriguing marginalia and associations of the Petherick copy, but it is nevertheless of interest for quite other reasons. According to the Library records, it was purchased from Dwight in October 1870, for one guinea. This particular copy appears to be another issue of the undated Frankfort edition, and it is bound in with another small octavo volume (in a limp vellum that is probably not contemporary): The Familiar Letters (in the Ciceronian tradition) of Cornelius Curtius addressed to D[r?] Christopherus Eyserus. The La Trobe Library catalogue entry suggests that this work is contemporary with Hall's, but this cannot be the case. Cornelius Curtius (Cor-neille de Corte) was in Augustinian orders and seems to have lived in the Netherlands from 1586 to 1633.11 A number of these witty and technically inventive Latin epistles are formally assigned to the years 1620–1621 by Curtius himself, and a publication date approaching 1630 would seem more feasible. Curtius's works are well represented in the major libraries of Europe and America, yet a fairly wide search has failed to turn up a single copy of these Familiar Letters.12 The second copy of Mundus Alter et Idem has, then, been bound up with a very rare work indeed.
The third copy in the La Trobe Library is the Utrecht edition of 1643 (acquired in 1924) that I have already described above. The title-page of this edition is more elaborate than the first, and instead of a British Mercury poised on the title surrounds, it carries a crowded illustration of the grotesque lives led by the inhabitants of Hall's satirical utopia. In A Book Collector's Notes (Melbourne, 1970), Rodney Davidson has reproduced very sharply the unusually crisp title-page from his own copy of this edition.13 It reveals an air-borne Mercury holding aloft a cartouche on which the title is enscribed. The cartouche is resting on the branch of a tree below which some curious alfresco scenes are being enacted: a sedate couple seated at the festive table are poring over a book; immediately above them a man drinks directly from a wine flask; in the foreground another reveller has clearly imbibed to excess; an Amazonian lady (or rather, a ‘Gossipingoess’ in Healey's term) brandishes a plate; to the
right, a group of learned fools wearing the traditional cowl-shaped hood adorned with bells wave their bauble and consult a book (for these are the inhabitants of the land of ‘Fooliana’); in the background armed warriors are engaged in hand to hand combat near a hump-shaped hill that may be intended to represent ‘Carousi-kanikin’, chief city of Ivronia that is ‘built upon a hill, and carieth the forme of a Tankard, from what quarter soever you behold it’.
In addition to graphically portrayed satire of this kind that could be even more fully exemplified in Hall's text, the Utrecht edition is illustrated by a vigorously drawn series of maps engraved by Petrus Kaerius. The first of these maps could well serve as a guide to the intricate relationships between Hall's dystopian regions, and it is therefore reproduced here from the copy in the La Trobe Library.14


This initial map for Mundus Alter et Idem heavily stresses the geographical fiction of Terra Australis incognita. The concept of a vast southern continent occupying a great measure of the southern hemisphere had lingered on in successive editions of Ptolemy's Geography, and had even survived in the projections of Ortelius with which Hall must have been personally familiar. (Hall quotes specifically from Ortelius's Thesaurus Geographicus [Antwerp, 1587], in his prefatory ‘Itineris Occasio’.) Drake had of course entered the Straits of Magellan as early as 1578, and having been driven as far south as 56°, he realized that the Austral Continent was more myth than geographical reality. Drake's chaplain, Francis Fletcher, wrote the classic account of this experience:
‘The uttermost cape or hedland of all these Ilands [Tierra del Fuego and the island clusters of Cape Horn] stands neere in 56. deg. without which there is no maine, nor Iland to be seene to the Southwards: but that the Atlanticke Ocean, and the South sea, meete in a most large and free scope. It hath beene a dreame through many ages, that these Ilands have beene a maine, and that it hath beene terra incognita; wherein many strange monsters lived. Indeed it might truly, before this time, be called incognita, for howsoever the mappes and generall descriptions of Cosmographers either upon the deceiveable reports of other men, or the deceitfull imaginations of themselves (supposing never herein to be corrected) have set it downe, yet it is true, that before this time, it was never discovered, or certainly knowne by any traveller, that wee have heard of.'15
This dream of a mainland linked with Tierra del Fuego was not suddenly interrupted by Drake. Speculations about the many strange monsters continued, and the theory that the vast land masses of the northern hemispheres needed to be counterbalanced by a corresponding southern continent was only gradually eroded. Admittedly, Edward Wright's excellent map of the world had appeared in 1600, the first English map to be rationally based on Mercator's principles of projection, and in this the southern land mass has retreated altogether. (Shakespeare used its tangled pattern of rhumblines as a paradigm for Malvolio's tortured smile.) But Hall's satirical and philosophical purposes were better served by the traditional assumption of a continuous coastline anchored in Tierra del Fuego, running through the Land of Parrots,16 and terminating in a continental shelf that is vaguely suggestive of the relationship between Van Diemen Gulf and Melville Island.
The combination of actuality and myth was entirely suited to Hall's satirical strategies, and a closer reading of the text of Mundus Alter et Idem should reveal the extent to which the traditions of Renaissance cartography are juxtaposed with antipodean fantasies. Following the map from west to east, we might note the first legend for the Southern Continent: ‘Terra Sancta Ignota etiam adhuc’. This would appear to combine an echo of the traditional Holy Land reference for Palestine with the medieval siting of ‘Terra sanctae crucis’ in South America; and playing over the legend one may detect the ironic assumption that the Holy Land remains unknown even to the present day. The adjacent province to the south is identified by Hall in his text (Bk. IV, chap. vii) as Codicia, the Land of Avarice. It is inhabited

Map of the world, showing Terra Australis Incognita, from the La Trobe Library copy of Mundus Alter et Idem (Utrecht, 1643).

by a monstrous kind of men straight out of the medieval bestiaries, always going on hands and knees least they should miss anything on the streets, grunting and with heads like hogs. Codicia forms part of the larger Lavernia, a land of thieves and brigands who (presumably) worship the fair Laverna, patron of thieves. Again, there may be some echo of travellers' tales, for the Mariana Islands in the Pacific were known as the Ladrones from the early sixteenth century.
The eastern parts of Lavernia are enriched by raids upon the regions of Moronia across the river Tryphon. (Hall's gloss explains that ‘Tryphon was a famous Egyptian thief.) The self-defeating activities of the Moronians provide Hall with some fine opportunities for occasional satire directed at European institutions, and in Moronia Variana (or Mobilis) to the south of the map, Hall has placed a university that in some respects anticipates Swift’s Grand Academy of Lagado. The Academia Variana consists of two Colleges: one is made up of sceptics who remain totally impervious to all physical sensation, the other of philosophers who are obsessed with innovation. In Healey's translation: ‘He that first devised to blow out bubbles of sope and spittle forth of the walnut shell, is of as great amongst them, as ever was the first Printer, or Gun-founder amongst us of Europe …'17 These innovators have devised a new and totally esoteric language following the alchemical terms of Paracelsus. Thus quicksilver is known as Azoth, Sibar, Unquasi or Missadan. The Vice-Chancellor is, needless to say, Bustius Hohenheimius (that is, Paracelsus himself).
To the north of Moronia lies the land of Crapulia, not marked as such on the map, but divided into Pamphagonia and Ivronia. Pamphagonia is Delta-shaped, resembling the figure of old Egypt. (‘The Pamphagonians reverenced the ibis so deeply’, notes Hall in a characteristically laconic footnote ‘because his foot seemed to represent the shape of their country.’)18 The descriptions of Pamphagonian life follow closely the traditions of a grotesque land of Cokaygne: birds flock thither from afar but fatten so quickly that they cannot fly away, the soil bears no fruitless tree, fish leap for the hook. The streets of the capital city are smoothly paved in marble so that the gourmandizing citizens do not have to lift their feet. To belch is not only lawful, but honorable. All stands in total contrast to the aridity of the Starveling Island (Insula Famelica) where cannibalism is rife and the very monkeys are forced to eat their own tails. And neighbouring Ivronia is totally (and very grossly) dedicated to the god Bacchus.
To the far east of Terra Australis incognita lies Viraginia or Nova Gynia. In a footnote to the first chapter of Bk.II, Hall indicates that he is aware that New Guinea is generally represented as the easternmost part of the southern continent, and that Maletur and Beach (made famous by Marco Polo's Travels) would normally be visible to the west of them. But once again the demands of allegory have been more pressing than those of a nebulous geography, and the land of the New Woman has been drawn west in order to be identified with Psittacorum Terra, the land of the Parrots. We learn that the women of Aphrodysia are particularly aggressive and maintain a well-organized stud of the captured men of Locania, while the good ladies of Amazonia tend to reverse sexual roles and to cultivate the virtues of shrewishness. In a final cartographic gesture, Hall appears to have extended the Malaysian peninsula into the Moluccas. In his text he sites the Island of Hermaphrodites between Cape Hermose and Cape Beach and then proceeds to develop an exposition of the islanders' bisexuality in a series of elegantly turned paradoxes: normal babies are exhibited as monsters, the only visible animals are hares and mules, names such as Philippomaria and Petrobrigida are commonplace.
The theme of hermaphroditism has attracted a number of utopian satirists, and in particular Gabriel de Foigny whose Terre australe connue first appeared in 1676.19 There is a kind of freemasonry of fantastic voyages, but it cannot be entirely coincidental that the great bird Ruc (inveterate stealer of elephants in southern latitudes) who flaps his way through Hall's verse as well as prose satire, should also be taken up (en masse) by
Foigny for the adventures of Sadeur among his worthy ‘Australians’.
As Sir Thomas More pointed out, utopia in its etymology is no-place as well as good-place. By magnifying vice and stupidity even beyond the point of absurdity, Joseph Hall has created out of his antipodean fantasy the implicit model of a good society. In the satirical acerbity of Mundus Alter et Idem one can sense the future opponent of John Milton in sustained polemic, in the moral earnestness one might glimpse the future Bishop of Exeter and of Norwich. To some degree, the continual pressure of Hall's moral concerns, together with his natural flair for parody and burlesque, constrict the narrative elements in Mundus Alter et Idem. But Hall's savagely ironic exposure of the folly of mankind, and his richly inventive portrayal of Terra Australis incognita are more than adequate compensation for the lack of any sustained plot-line.
In order to discover an independent and near-contemporary evaluation of the work, we could not do better than turn to a judicious and well informed interpretation printed by the early geographer, Peter Heylyn, in later editions of his Cosmographie. It may, indeed, be cited here as a brief (and mid-seventeenth century) summation of the perennial appeal of Hall's satirical utopia:
Mundus Alter et Idem … is a witty and ingenious Invention of a Learned Prelate, writ by him in his younger days (but well enough becoming the austerity of the gravest Head) in which he distinguisheth the Vices, Passions, Humours and ill Affections most commonly incident to mankind, into several Provinces, gives us the Character of each, as in the description of a Country, People, and chief Cities of it; and sets forth to the Eye in such lively Colours, that the Vicious man may see therein his own Deformities, and the well-minded man his own Imperfections. The Scene of this Design is laid by the Reverend Author in this Terra Australis, the Decorum happily preserved in the whole Discovery; the stile acutely clear, in the Invention singular.'20
For making material so readily available, I am very much indebted to the Rare Books and to the MS Librarians of the Australian National Library, and to the Rare Books Librarians of the La Trobe Library and of the Library of Monash University.
Ian Laurenson


The more obvious contrasts between Petherick and David Mitchell are revealing. Mitchell's great collection grew out of a personal fortune and from a formal education. Edward Petherick was largely self-educated and his cautious and systematic book-buying reflects both his intimate knowledge of the trade and an eclectic bibliographical expertise. (For the collecting of Australiana, see two works by George Mackaness: The Art of Book-Collecting in Australia [Sydney, 1956], and Bibliomania [Sydney, 1965].)


Ferguson 14090. It should be noted that the National Library is at present preparing a supplementary descriptive list of Petherick MSS.


In the Mitchell Library alone, there are nine copies catalogued of the various seventeenth century editions of Mundus Alter et Idem. In his invaluable S.T.C. of German Imprints in Australia from 1501 to 1801 (Clayton, 1970), John Fletcher records, surprisingly, only two copies of Mundus Alter et Idem for the whole of Australia. His second entry (1186) appears to have been influenced by the erroneous description in E. Weller, Die falschen und fingierten Druckorte (Hildesheim, 1961), and thereby perpetuates a bibliographical ghost: namely, an edition of Mundus bearing a Frankfort imprint and dated 1643. (Such a book never did exist in Germany or in England.)


See the Presentation Plate on inside front cover. Petherick's Australasian Collection was finally acquired by the Federal Government in this same year, 1909, and is now held in the Australian National Library.


The Mitchell Library also holds a copy of the Frankfort edition that has been corrected in the same manner. See The Mitchell Library Dictionary Catalog of Printed Books (Boston, Mass., 1968), vol. 15.


The National Library catalogue entry for its own copy of this Leipzig edition is (as always) a model of clarity, comprehensiveness and bibliographical precision. A useful summary of the various editions of Mundus Alter et Idem may also be found in Huntingdon Brown's edition of John Healey's translation, The Discovery of a New World (Cambridge, Mass., 1937). But Brown incorrectly states (p. xxvii) that there is an attribution to Alberico Gentili on the title page of the Utrecht edition.


The Gentleman's Magazine, CCLXXXI (1896), 66–87.


A proof copy of this address is held by the National Library. It is entitled ‘Mr. Petherick's Australian Collection’.


Proof-sheet 4, ‘Address to R.G.S.A.’, 8 March, 1909.


Eric McCormick, Alexander Turnbull: His Life, His Circle, His Collections (Wellington, 1974).


Louis MorÉri, Le Grand Dictionnaire historique (Paris, 1759), IV, 330.


See, for example, the following catalogues: Bibliotheca Belgica (BrussÉls, 1964), Catalogue gÉnÉral des livres imprimÉs de la BibliothÈque nationale (Paris, 1907), British Museum General Catalogue of Printed Books (N.Y. microprint ed., 1967), The National Union Catalog Pre- 1956 Imprints (London, 1970).


The LaTrobe Library copy of the ‘Dwight’ volume has been sadly disfigured on its Mundus title-page by heavy and indiscriminate library stamping, probably at the time of its first accession.


These maps are essentially the same as those of the Frankfort edition, together with some minor additions. Lettering and definition have been improved.


Francis Fletcher, The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake (London, 1628), p. 44.


Note the legend (of Portuguese origin) that is usually to be found inscribed on Terra Australis more or less opposite India in a number of Renaissance maps. A particularly clear example of this ascription to ‘Psitacorum regia’ is to be found in De Jode, Speculum Orbis Terrarum (Antwerp, 1578; facsimile rprt. Amsterdam, 1965).


The Discovery of a New World (London, n.d.), sig. K8v.


Healey replaces Hall's footnote with his own interpretation: ‘And so [as broad as long] are most of your Belly-gods, the inhabitants there-of.' Ibid., sig. B2r.


The remarkable collection of books by Theodor de Bry published in Frankfort, 1590–1643, and now held in the Dixson Library, makes essential background for any reading of Foigny (or of Joseph Hall for that matter). De Bry's Voyages are illustrated by a series of most vivid engravings.


Peter Heylyn, Cosmographie in four Books (London, 1677), IV, 161. This ‘5th’ edition makes a number of important corrections. The comments on Hall are included in an Appendix to Bk. IV.