Books

Rare 324-year-old ‘alien’ book discovered in the UK

A 324-year-old book about space, planets aliens and civilisation was found at an antique event in Cotswold, England.

Extraterrestrial life on other planets has long piqued the interest of scientists, philosophers, writers, and filmmakers since the 1600s. As far-reaching as The Man in the Moone or a Discourse of a Voyage Thither by Domingo Gonsales by Francis Godwin in 1638, to the nearer day classics of H.G Wells, War of the Worlds, and Stanisław Lem’s Solaris.

Christiaan Huygens, best known for inventing the pendulum clock and the Huygens Theory aka theory of light, was a renowned Dutch physicist, astronomer, and mathematician, who is regarded as one of the greatest revolutionary scientists of all time, but did you know he was also obsessed with life on other planets?

alien rare book
Credit: Hansons Library

A 324-year-old rare book authored by Huygens The Celestial World Discover’d: Or, Conjectures Concerning the Inhabitants, Plants, and Productions of the Worlds in the Planets, was unearthed in Cotswold. Antique valuer Jim Spencer discovered the book at a free antique valuation event at Fosseway Garden Centre, Moreton-In-Marsh.

The first edition – published in 1698 – was written in English and Latin, by Christiaan Huygens, who delved into the potential existence of extraterrestrial beings. Posing questions about God, and the purpose of other planets, suggesting there must be more to them other than just to be looked upon from earth. With a focus on Jupiter and Saturn, Huygens attempts to describe what other life forms might be like, ‘That there is some rational Creature in the other Planets, which is the Head and Sovereign of the rest, is very reasonable to believe.’

Spencer goes on to note, “It’s fascinating to think who turned these pages in 1698, what they must’ve felt when reading these descriptions of life on Jupiter or Saturn before gazing up at the night sky.

“The book tries to describe what extra-terrestrial beings might look like, how they spend their time, even what their music sounds like. It seems almost comical, but it’s informed by scientific reasoning, and who knows how our own thoughts on these matters will appear to people looking back in 324 years.

“It’s a curious feeling when flicking through this book. The subject matter belongs to the future or science fiction, yet the writer is speaking to us from the past. I found myself realising that we’ve since explored not only more of space, but more of our own planet. For instance, he rules out the possibility of much larger animals than those here on Earth, but this was written before we’d understood anything of the dinosaurs.

“I think the subject matter is so compelling because it makes us chuckle at what they didn’t know while staring up at the heavens and realising it’s still a mystery. It really is an out-of-this-world find.”

 

rare alien book
Credit: Hansons Library

Huygens thinks it unlikely the size of a planet influences the proportions of its animals and plants, and that there must be intelligent life capable of reason and more advanced than the other animals on their planet – similar to the relationship between man and animals on Earth.

On the subject of what aliens might look like, he considers they must have hands and feet like ours. And surely they have feet too unless he ponders, they have discovered the art of flying? 

He imagines they must enjoy astronomy and observation. And that they most likely sail boats. “if their Globe is divided like ours, between Sea and Land, as it’s evident it is (else whence could all those Vapors in Jupiter proceed?) we have great reason to allow them the art of Navigation…especially considering the great advantages Jupiter and Saturn have for sailing, in having so many Moons to direct their Course”.

And in a telltale sign of the times, he discusses leisure activities, like music and jesting ‘For if these new Nations live in Society, as I have pretty well show’d they do, ’tis somewhat more than probable that they enjoy not only the Profit, but the Pleasures arising from such a Society: such as Conversation, Amours, Jesting, and Sights.’

‘They must enjoy music, even the same notes as us. ‘It’s the same with Musick as with Geometry, it’s every where immutably the same, and always will be so. For all Harmony consists in Concord, and Concord is all the World over fixt according to the same invariable measure and proportion…if they take delight in Harmony, ’tis twenty to one but that they have invented musical Instruments.’

Not stopping at mere physical attributes of what aliens may look like, he delivers his thoughts on personal growth and development, in that, he believes that any alien species would most likely suffer ‘Misfortunes, Wars, Afflictions, Poverty’, because that’s what leads us to invention and progress. ‘If Men were to lead their whole Lives in an undisturb’d continual Peace, in no fear of Poverty, no danger of War, I don’t doubt they would live little better than Brutes, without all knowledge or enjoyment of those Advantages that make our Lives pass on with pleasure and profit.’

Given its rarity, the newly discovered book is set to go under the hammer with a guide price of £2,000-£3,000 (that’s roughly $3.5K – $5.5K AUD) in Hansons Auctioneers’ July 5 Library Auction at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire.