The Man in the Moone

The Man in the Moone
The Man in the Moone  
Godwin man in the moone first edition.jpg
Frontispiece and title page of the first edition
Author(s) Francis Godwin
Original title The Man in the Moone or the Discovrse of a Voyage thither by Domingo Gonsales
Language English
Genre(s) Science fiction
Publisher John Norton, London
Publication date 1638

The Man in the Moone is a book by the English divine and bishop Francis Godwin (1562–1633). Apparently written in the late 1620s[1] and published posthumously in 1638 under the pseudonym Domingo Gonsales, it contains the account of a "voyage of utopian discovery".[2] The book is notable for the role it played in what was called the "new astronomy," the branch of astronomy influenced especially by Nicolaus Copernicus. The latter is the only astronomer mentioned by name in the book, although it is also influenced by the theories of Johannes Kepler and William Gilbert.[3] With Kepler's Somnium sive opus posthumum de astronomia lunaris (1634), some critics have claimed it as one of the first works of science fiction.[4]


Date of composition, editions

Frontispiece and cover of the second edition (1657), now with the pseudonym replaced by "F.G. B. of H." ("Francis Godwin, Bishop of Hereford").

The date of composition was considered to range from the period between 1578 to 1584, when Godwin was at Christ College, to 1603[5]—in all cases, early in Godwin's life. In 1937, Grant McColley, in "The Date of Godwin's Domingo Gonsales", proposed a much later date, 1627 or 1628, based on internal and biographical evidence. First of all, Godwin used Nicolas Trigault's De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas suscepta ab Societate Jesu (1615) or a later version thereof, which provides Godwin with detailed information about the Jesuit mission in Beijing (founded 1601). Second, a number of statements about physical properties of the Earth and the Moon, including claims about "a secret property which operates in a manner similar to that of a loadstone attracting iron", were not available until after 1620. Finally, he seems to borrow the concept of using a flock of strong, trained birds to fly Gonsales to the Moon from Francis Bacon's Sylva sylvarum, published in July 1626. McColley's dating, "1626–29, with the probable years of composition 1627–28",[6] has generally been accepted.[7]

Only one copy remains of the first edition; it is held at the British Museum.[5] On the title page, its printer was identified as John Norton, and the book was sold by Joshua Kirton and Thomas Warren. To the second edition, published in 1657, was added Godwin's Nuncius Inanimatus (in English and Latin). The third edition was published in 1768; its text was abridged, and a description of Saint Helena functioned as an introduction.[8]

The book had been published in Latin already in 1629.[8] A French translation by Jean Baudoin, L'Homme dans la Lune, was published first in 1648 and again in 1666. This French version was subsequently translated into German as Der fliegende Wandersmann nach dem Mond (1659 and 1660).[9]


The book begins with a prologue in which Gonsales explains how a voyage to the Moon is no more fantastic than a voyage to America was considered earlier. The account proper contains a number of travel narratives, starting in Spain and ending in China. Godwin proposes that the earth is magnetic,[3] and that only an initial push is necessary to escape its magnetic attraction. The energy necessary for this push is provided by a species of bird called gansas, specifically bred and trained for the purpose.[10]

Galileo Galilei's 1610 publication Sidereus Nuncius had a great influence on Godwin's astronomical theories, but unlike Galileo, and like Kepler, Godwin proposes that the dark spots on the Moon are seas, one of many similarities between The Man in the Moone and Kepler's Somnium.[11] Once on the Moon, Gonsales finds it inhabited by tall Christian people who live a happy and carefree life in a kind of pastoral paradise.[12]


The book's genre has been variously identified. When Godwin published his book, the literary genre of utopian fantasy was in its infancy, and critics have recognized how Godwin used a utopian setting to criticize the institutions of his time: lunar location was "the ideal perspective from which to view the earth" and its "moral attitudes and social institutions," according to Maurice Bennett.[13] Other critics have referred to the book as "Renaissance utopia" or "picaresque adventure".[14] While some critics claim it as one of the first works of science fiction,[4] there is no general agreement among critics that it is even "proto-science-fiction".[14]

Criticism and influence

The Man in the Moone quickly became "a source of humour and parody". Cyrano de Bergerac, using Baudoin's 1648 translation, parodied it in L'Autre Monde: où les États et Empires de la Lune (1657). Aphra Behn's The Emperor of the Moon, a 1687 play, was "inspired by...the third edition of [The Man in the Moone] and the English translation of Cyrano's work".[14] A more favorable reader was Edgar Allan Poe (apparently also using Baudoin's translation), who in an appendix to The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall called it "a singular and somewhat ingenious little book".[15] It was one of the inspirations for what has been called the first science fiction text in the Americas, Syzygies and Lunar Quadratures Aligned to the Meridian of Mérida of the Yucatán by an Anctitone or Inhabitant of the Moon ... by Manuel Antonio de Rivas (1775).[16]

The book was given only "lukewarm consideration in different histories of English literature".[14]

Modern editions

  • The Man in the Moone: or a Discourse of a Voyage thither by Domingo Gonsales, London, 1638. Facsimile reprint, London: Scolar Press, 1971.
  • The Man in the Moone and Nuncius Inanimatus, ed. Grant McColley. Smith College Studies in Modern Languages 19. Northampton, MA, 1937. Repr. Little Logaston, Logaston Press, 1996.
  • The man in the moone, ed. William Poole. Broadview Press, 2009. ISBN 9781551118963.


  1. ^ Poole p. 58; Knowlson p. 357.
  2. ^ Hutton p. 3.
  3. ^ a b Hutton p. 4.
  4. ^ a b Poole p. 57.
  5. ^ a b McColley p. 47.
  6. ^ McColley p. 59.
  7. ^ Knowlson p. 357.
  8. ^ a b Lawton p. 25.
  9. ^ Lawton p. 26.
  10. ^ Capoferro pp. 153–54.
  11. ^ Hutton pp. 5–6.
  12. ^ Capoferro p. 154.
  13. ^ Bennett p. 140.
  14. ^ a b c d Monterrey p. 72.
  15. ^ Bennett p. 137.
  16. ^ Dziubinskyj p. 21-21.

External links

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