Flatland : a Romance of Many Dimensions

Abbott, Edwin Abbott.
Flatland : a Romance of Many Dimensions. From the original text published in 1884.
San Francisco: Arion Press, 1980. (25587)

With an introduction by Ray Bradbury. Illustrated by Andrew Hoyem with color added by hand. Concertina-folded in aluminum case by O-Rollo Sheet Metal Products. Signed by Ray Bradbury at the end of the Introduction, and by Andrew Hoyem below the colophon. Numbered 49 in an edition of two hundred seventy-five.

In his memoir, A Square, a humble native of Flatland (a realm of existence devoid of height and realized only in length and breadth) introduces his readers in Spaceland (as improbable as a three-dimensional region may seem) to the routine of life in a plane. Square discusses the nature of two-dimensionality, the geometric limits of perception, the climate which emanates from an unknown source, as well as the law, art, fashion, architecture, education, religion, and theology, worked out by the citizenry who rank as lowly triangles, squares, narrow parallelograms, various upper class polygonals, and aristocratic circles. One night at the end of the second millennium, Square dreams of an excursion into Lineland (which lacks both height and breadth, counting length as its sole condition). As a two-dimensional figure intruding upon a single-dimensional world, his views and ability to appear along the line, and as easily to step beside the line to disappear, is an affront to the Monarch. Square engages the pompous king in dialogue hoping to convince him of potentials beyond the line, but is soon the target of a furious attack and at the last moment is saved by “the breakfast-bell recalling me to the realities of Flatland.” Regardless of his vision of the more limited dimension Square is unable to fathom the possibility of dimensions more complex than his own; that is, until an encounter with a sphere forces the issue. The sphere facilitates his visit to Spaceland where Square is “initiated into the mysteries of three dimensions.” Square becomes an apologist and evangelist for the third dimension upon his return to Flatland and is imprisoned for his efforts. From his cell, he claims, the account of Flatland was written.

Edwin Abbott Abbott (1838–1926) was a scholar and educator. Ordained in the Church of England, he was appointed headmaster at the City of London School where he remained for twenty-five years. While Abbott wrote almost fifty books on theology, classical literature, and grammar, his whimsical and satirical fable of the heroic square first published in 1884 has been his most enduring. Abbot provided the diagrams for the original edition, some of which were reinterpreted by Andrew Hoyem in this, the eighteenth American edition. The printed sheets of the Arion Press edition are pasted edge-to-edge to create a single length alternately folded like an accordion. The book can be read through Section 10, “Of the Suppression of the Chromatic Sedition” on which the type is arranged as a triangular calligram. Then the covers are closed, the book turned with the rear panel up, and reopened to resume the tale, Section 11, “Concerning our Priests.” In addition to line illustrations printed with the text, several geometric illustrations throughout the book are die-cut openings with color-tipped edges to reveal hand-painted grounds by Andrew Hoyem on the sheets below. Gerald Reddan and Christopher Stinehour were compositors, and Glenn Todd was pressman of this edition.

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Flatland : a Romance of Many Dimensions