15 January 2008

Look Kids, It’s a Watermill Classic!

Here’s the awesome Jules Verne quote of the day:
“Nothing is impossible, Mr. Ward; what we face here is merely a question of expense.”
This is closely paraphrased in the film version of The Prestige, from the mouth of Nikola Tesla (David Bowie): “Nothing is impossible, Mr. Angier. What you ask is simply expensive.”

The Verne quote comes from the second chapter of Maître du Monde, known to us English speakers as Master of the World (or The Master of the World; I don’t understand why some translations choose to slap on a definite article where none exists in the French original). Published in 1904, it is the eighteen-years-later sequel to the Verne novel I just completed, Robur the Conqueror.

I originally planned to read Master of the World in the plain-text version from Project Gutenberg, but then I found online at ABE Books an inexpensive paperback version from the 1980s. And it wasn’t just any ol’ paperback, but a “Watermill Classic,” a publisher of which I have fond elementary school memories. Watermill Classics were inexpensively produced editions of classic literature often read by juvenile readers and found on many a school room’s bookshelf, in the school’s library, or at the monthly book fair. They were unassuming editions, with a solid color cover, unimpressive illustration (the one for Master of the World doesn’t match the events at all and seems like a space opera), and identical fonts. No introductions or notes, just the text. I first read The War of the Worlds, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, and Alice in Wonderland in Watermill Classic paperbacks when I was in fifth grade, so even if they aren’t eye-popping critical editions, they have immense nostalgia value for me.

And as far as Master of the World goes, there aren’t that many paperback editions from which to choose!