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Overview

The thoughts, hopes, and dreams of mankind shape the history we create. In utopian literature, writers and philosophers extend these human aspirations to fictional ideal states, making these writings an excellent reflection of the philosophies, social and political ideals, and literary expressions of any given era.

Despite its importance as a literary genre, utopian literature has been largely neglected by scholars for two major reasons:

  • Comprehensive bibliographies of utopian literature did not exist until recently.
  • The scarcity of much of this literature has been a barrier to comparative research.

Utopian Literature, Pre-1900 Imprints brings together 462 rare utopian titles covering the 16th through the 19th centuries, providing scholars with research opportunities into Western philosophy, social and political history, and literature. This important collection reflects the marked changes in focus and interest that have appeared in utopian writings over time and opens avenues for intensive study such as:

  • the prevailing religious views of the 16th century
  • the new totalitarian and technological visions of the 17th century
  • the Enlightenment's quest for responsive government in the 18th century
  • the concern for the individual that marked the beginning of the Industrial Age in the 19th century

Spanning the depth and breadth of contemporary utopian thought over these four centuries, the collection includes utopian classics, imprints from the 16th through 19th centuries, a broad spectrum of foreign-language titles, rare early editions, and titles that are lesser known but nonetheless significant for serious research.

The titles in this collection come from the holdings of the Rare Books Room of the William R. Perkins Library at Duke University and the Rare Books and Special Collections Department of the Lewis Pattee Library at Pennsylvania State University. Material was selected from three authoritative bibliographies familiar to librarians and researchers:

  • Utopian Literature, A Bibliography, by Glenn Negley
  • British and American Utopian Literature 1516-1975, by Lyman Tower Sargent
  • A checklist of Utopian Literature in the Pennsylvania State University Library Rare Book Room, 1968

The earliest available edition of each title was filmed, making this collection a valuable research tool and an important international library of important titles in English, French, Italian, Latin, German, Spanish, Arabic, and other languages. The collection is divided into three separate series, each of which spans a distinct period to facilitate time-specific research.

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