History of Mathias Sandorf

"Enormously popular, French author Jules Gabriel Verne (1828-1905) is one of the founders of modern science fiction. A prolific writer, Verne's tales of adventure caught the enterprising spirit of the 19th century and its uneritical fascination with exploration and scientific progress. Many of his ideas have been hailed as prophetic: his novels explored space, air, and underwater travel long before they became commonplace."

Mathias Sandorf is Jules Verne’s 27th novel in the series called "Extraordinary Voyages". With a dedication to his friend Alexander Dumas, Jr. (son of the famous author), the plot is inspired by the great Dumas classic The Count of Monte Cristo. He wrote:

Je vous dédie ce livre en le dédiant aussi à la mémoire du conteur de génie que fut Alexandre Dumas, votre père. Dans cet ouvrage, j'ai essayé de faire de Mathias Sandorf le Monte-Cristo des Voyages Extraordinaires. Je vous prie d'en accepter la dédicace comme un témoignage de ma profonde amitié.

[I dedicate this book to you while dedicating it also to the memory of that genius of a storytell who was Alexandre Dumas, your father. In this work, I have tried to make of Mathias Sandorf the Monte Cristo of the Extraordinary Voyages. I also ask you to accept this dedication as a testimony of my deepest friendship.]

The reply from M.A. Dumas, June 23, 1885:
Cher ami,
Je suis très touché de la bonne pensée que vous avez eue de me dédier Mathias Sandorf, dont je vais commencer la lecture dès mon retour, vendredi ou samedi. Vous avez eu raison, dans votre dédicace, d'associer la mémoire du père à l'amitié du fils. Personne n'eût été plus charmé que l'auteur de Monte-Cristo par la lecture de vos fantaisies lumineuses, originales, entraînantes. Il y a entre vous et lui une parenté littéraire si évidente que, littérairement parlant, vous êtes plus son fils que moi. Je vous aime depuis si longtemps, qu'il me va très bien d'être votre frère.

Je vous remercie de votre persévérante affection, et je vous assure une fois de plus et bien chaudement de la mienne.

[My dear friend,

I am very touched by the thought of dedicating Mathias Sandorf tome, which I wil begin to read upon my return, Friday or Saturday. You were right, in your dedication, to associate the memory of the father to the friendship of the son.No one would have been more charmed than the author of Monte Cristo, in reading your brilliant, original, and engaging adverntures. There is between the two of you a literary kinship so obvious that, in terms of literature, you are more his son than I am. I have loved you for a long time and I delight in being your brother.

I thank you for your perservering affection and return it warmly.]

Mathias Sandorf was first published in 1885 by Hetzel in Paris with 111 illustrations by Leon Bennett and one map. The original edition was 552 pages. The publisher included a map for each of the "Extraordinary Voyages". Mathias Sandorf in 1885 had the following "Carte de la Méditerranée":

Full size (1864 Kb)
Screen size (203 Kb)

Source: Ed. Hetzel, 1885

Verne claimed that Sandorf was modeled on his publisher. Like Hetzel, a former exile, Sandorf has fervent patriotism and a high moral sense. Dr Antekirtt is a mixture of Hetzel and Bixio, one of the publisher's friends. Others see similarities with Hungarian freedom fighter Lajos Kossuth and Austrian prince Louis Salvator.

The action moves from Trieste down the Adriatic coast, to Sicily and the shores of North Africa. "I wish my readers to learn everything they should know about the Mediterranean," Verne wrote Hetzel," which is why the action transports them to twenty different places." (Simon Vierne, Jules Verne, Paris Ballard 1986) Several of the settings come from Verne's own travels, a rescue during a storm off Malta and visits to Catania and Etna.

Verne researched the Italian landscape by rereading some of Stendhal's works notably Promenades in Rome and The Charterhourse of Parma. Verne may have first heard about the Foiba beneath Pisino castle in Charles Yriatre’s works Les Bords de l'Adriatique (The Ports of the Adriatic) - (Hachette, Paris 1878) and Trieste e l'Istria (Trieste and Istria) - (Hachette, Paris 1875). Yriatre described the old castle as well as his trip down into the gorge. He also mentioned an experiment by a young nobleman, Count Esdorff, to find the end of the underground river. Unfortunately the count's boat never made it out of the underground cave.

Mathias Sandorf was performed as a five-act play in Paris in the 1880s, and even played the Boston theatre in the fall of 1888. There have also been three screen adaptations:

  • 1921 - directed by Henri Fescourt and starring Yvette Andréyor, Romuald Joubé and Jean Toulout.
  • 1962/3 - directed by Georges Lampin and starring Louis Jourdan, Francisco Rabal, Renaud Mary and Serena Vergano
  • 1979/80 - a TV miniseries made for French television, directed by Jean-Pierre Decourt and starring Hungarian actor Istvan Bujtor as Mathias Sandorf, Ivan Desny as Zathmar, and also Amadeus August, Claude Giraud, Monika Peitsch, Sissy Höfferer and Jacques Breuer.

[See our Cinema page.]

Since the original release in France, Mathias Sandorf has been translated over the years in many countries and also in countless paperback and children's editions, including in Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, United Kingdom, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States of America, but the first Croatian translation only came 103 years later in 1988.

The Croatian edition contains the 111 illustrations by Leon Benett for the original version. As Verne described in his words, so Benett described in his images the Istrian and Dalmatian locations on the Adriatic coast that are visited in the book: Trieste, Buje (Buie), Pazin (Pisino), Lim Canal (Canale Leme), Rovinj (Rovigno), Dubrovnik (Ragusa), Gruz and Boka Kotorska.

In 2007, ROH re-released the English version in Paperback edition (ISBN: 978-0-9782707-0-4),. It contains 496 pages with 111 illustrations by Leon Bennet

Read the whole novel in French at http://jv.gilead.org.il/zydorczak/sand00.html, English at https://archive.org/details/mathiassandorfp00verngoog and in Russian at http://jv.gilead.org.il/ru/shandor.htm.

Overview

Trieste, 1867. Two petty criminals, Sarcany and Zirone, intercept a carrier pigeon. They find a ciphered message attached to its leg and uncover a plot to liberate Hungary from Austro-Hungarian rule. The two meet with Silas Toronthal, a corrupt banker, and form a plan to deliver the conspirators to the police in exchange for a rich reward. The three conspirators, Count Sandorf, Stephen Bathory and Ladislas Zathmar are arrested and sentenced to death.

Fifteen years later, the renowned physician Dr. Antekirtt sets out to avenge those three brave men. Enlisting the aid of two French acrobats, Pescade and Matifou, he scours the Mediterranean in search of those who planned the betrayal. Rich beyond all imagination, wielding great power and master of an island fortress filled with advanced weaponry, Dr. Antekirtt will not rest until justice is done.

This edition is set from George Hanna’s original translation, with slight adjustments, modifications and restorations. It is the first time Mathias Sandorf has been reprinted with all 111 illustrations since the Sampson, Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington Edition of 1889. The layout has been restored to Verne's original 5 act structure as set in Hetzel's first French edition.

The Wanderer's Tale: An Adventure Subgenre

In the generation after Dumas, Jules Verne wrote a number of Wanderer adventures. Three of the most notable, Michael Strogoff, the Steam House (La machine a vapeur) and Mathias Sandorf, are set in three of Europe's great Empires: the Russian, the British (in India), and the Austrian. Their plots and themes have a good deal in common, as Jean Yves Tadie points out. Each one is about the empire's political troubles, each features a pursuer who is himself pursued, each has a trio of characters at its centre and each grants minor importance (compared with other Verne books) to machinery.

[From Seven Types of Adventure: An Eniology of Major Genre by Martin Green Penn State Press.]

Mathias Sandorf: Some back story and little known facts

Mathias Sandorf was Jules Verne’s last collaboration with Pierre-Jules Hetzel, the publisher passing away a year after the novel went to press. Verne had originally planned a darker tale, with Sandorf, like Monte Cristo, bent on revenge. After much prodding, Verne was convinced to change tone; his protagonist would seek justice, a nobler pursuit.

Sandorf had been Verne’s most ambitious novel to date. It contained the largest cast of characters he’d ever brought to life, and the action took place in over 20 cities around the Mediterranean. Verne was fascinated by the beauty of the Great Sea and wanted to share it with his readers. Verne often stated that the inspiration for the novel came during a family cruise to Tanger and Malta aboard his yacht the Saint Michel. The storm off Malta described in Part III is based on his own real experiences aboard ship.

Verne may have first heard about the Foiba beneath Pisino castle in Charles Yriatre’s works Les Bords de l'Adriatique (The Ports of the Adriatic) - (Hachette, Paris 1878) and Trieste e l'Istria (Trieste and Istria) - (Hachette, Paris 1875). Yriatre described the old castle as well as his trip down into the gorge. He also mentioned an experiment by a young nobleman, Count Esdorff, to find the end of the underground river. Unfortunately the count's boat never made it out of the underground cave.

Famous for his detailed research, Jules Verne collected all available information about the places he described. While preparing to write the huge three-volume novel Mathias Sandorf, he wrote a letter to the mayor of Pisino, Giuseppe Cech, asking if he could add to Yriarte's research. Mr Cech provided the information and sent Verne several photographs of the city which may have later been used as the basis for Leon Benett’s wonderful illustrations. Two years later, Jules Verne sent the mayor a first edition of Mathias Sandorf with a hand written dedication: "Au Podestat de Pisino - Hommage de l’auteur - Jules Verne - Paris, 22 novembre 1885."

[From La Foiba di Pisino by Nerina Feresini (Trieste, 1972).]


PUBLISHED EDITIONS


There have been translations in many languages and in a variety of editions, both for children and adults. Information on which can be found elsewhere. [See: Worldwide Bibliography of Mathias Sandorf at http://www.ice.hr/davors/msbiblio.htm.] We offer below information only for those in Croatian, English and Italian.


CROATIAN (3)

  • Matijaš Sandorf, Translated by Morana Čale Knežević, Graficki zavod Hrvatske (Omladinska biblioteka) (Zagreb, 1988)
  • Mathias Sandorf, translated by Morana Čale, Spot Zagreb i Jules Verne Klub Pazin (Zagreb, 2001)
  • Mathias Sandorf (play), Prijevod: Milena Benini, Jules Verne Klub Pazin (Pazin, 2002)

ENGLISH (8)


2007 Paperback edition

USA (4):

  • Mathias Sandorf, New York, G. Munro (New York, 1885), 3 volumes in 1, illus. 33 cm.

  • June 1976: Paperback, ISBN: 0-686-55933-9 (USA edition), Publisher: French & European Pubns
  • October 1978: Paperback, ISBN: 0-7859-1363-7 (USA edition), Publisher: French & European Pubns
  • March 2007: Paperback, ISBN: 0-9782707-0-3 / 978-0-9782707-0-4 (USA edition), Publisher: ROH Press Classics.

GREAT BRITAIN (4):

Mathias Sandorf, Sampson Low (Part 1 and 2,  without dust cover) Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington (London, 1886) VIII + 192 + 200 p. (This is a very thick book containing the George Hanna translation that opens with: "Trieste, the capital of Illyria, consists of two towns...")

Mathias Sandorf, Sampson Low (London, 1888), Part 1: "The Conspirators of Trieste" (192 pages) and Part 2: "The Captives of Antekirtta" (199 pages).

Mathias Sandorf, Part 1 (The Conspirators of Trieste), Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington (London, 1889), some illustrations; and Mathias Sandorf, Part 2 (The Captives of Antekirtta), Sampson Low (London, 1889), some illustrations

Mathias Sandorf, Sampson Low (London, 1920)


ITALIAN (3)

  • Mattia Sandorf, translator unknown, Editrice Giuseppe Principato (Milano / Messina, 1960)

  • Congiura di Trieste, Edizioni “La Cittadella” (1970)
  • Mathias Sandorf translated by Franca Gambino, Mursia (Milano, 1990)

Note:

  1. Tratto dalla copertina dellla prima prima parte del romanzo intitolata redazionalmente, nella prima edizione triestina del 1970, La congiura di Trieste.

Sources:

  • Illustrations - courtesy of Mario Majarich (English) and Pietro Valente (Italiano)
  • Davor Sisovic's Mathia Sandorf site - http://www.ice.hr/davors/mseng.htm
  • Source for the Croatian books - http://www.ice.hr/davors/sources.htm
  • Map of Istria - http://j-verne.de/verne34_1.html
  • Biography and trivia - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0894523/bio
  • Map of Europe - http://www.phys.uu.nl/~gdevries/maps/maps.cgi
  • Book cover - http://www.ajmm.net/jv/Collection/English/MS.html
  • English synopsis - http://www.geocities.com/jessnevins/vics.html (with additions/corrections by Pino Golja)
  • 1888 English edition - courtesy of Mario Majarich
Other links:
  • Davor Sisovic: Jules Verne's Mathias Sandorf - http://www.ice.hr/davors/Sandorf.htm
  • http://perso.numericable.fr/~julesverne/

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This page compliments of Marisa Ciceran, Aaron Gillies, Mario Majarich and Pietro Valente

Created: Tuersday, March 16, 2004; Last updated: Tuesday, January 19, 2016
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