20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the birth of science fiction

The history of science fiction could have been very different. Jules Verne’s father only let him go to Paris in 1847 to study law and afterwards wanted him to come back to his hometown of Nantes to start his own law firm. But the twentysomething Verne had been distracted by Paris’s theatres and literary salons, and soon came under the influence of Alexandre Dumas.

In 1869 he published 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which went on to become one of his most famous, popular and well-travelled novels. It is the story of French naturalist Pierre Aronnax, who joins an American expedition to hunt down a massive whale that has apparently sunk several ships. When they track down the monster, Aronnax falls overboard and finds the massive whale is actually made of metal. Taken inside this artificial leviathan, he begins an epic journey under the seas as a prisoner of the enigmatic Captain Nemo, which involves sea battles, an attack from giant octopuses and a visit to a sunken city.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Our edition, published this week, includes a specially-written Foreword by zoologist and television presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff. In it she explores how Verne both pre-empted and inspired future developments in oceanography and submarine technology. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is the fourth book in the Adlard Coles Maritime Classics series, which aims to celebrate the best in maritime fiction, both fiction and non-fiction.

Other titles in the series currently include South (Ernest Shackleton), Mutiny On Board HMS Bounty (William Bligh) and The Sea Wolf (Jack London). Next year we will add Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe) and Lord Jim (Joseph Conrad).

What maritime favourites would you like us to publish next?

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