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Journey to the Centre of the Earth Paperback – Sep 29 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (Sept. 29 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141441976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141441979
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 141 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,472,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I

It was on Sunday, the 24th of May, 1863, that my uncle, Professor Lidenbrock, came rushing suddenly back to his little house in the old part of Hamburg, No. 19, Königstrasse.

Our good Martha could not but think she was very much behindhand with the dinner, for the pot was scarcely beginning to simmer, and I said to myself:

“Now, then, we’ll have a fine outcry if my uncle is hungry, for he is the most impatient of mortals.”

“Mr. Lidenbrock, already!” cried the poor woman, in dismay, half opening the dining-room door.

“Yes, Martha; but of course dinner can’t be ready yet, for it is not two o’clock. It has only just struck the half-hour by St. Michael’s.”

“What brings Mr. Lidenbrock home, then?”

“He’ll probably tell us that himself.”

“Here he comes. I’ll be off, Mr. Axel; you must make him listen to reason.”

And forthwith she effected a safe retreat to her culinary laboratory.

I was left alone, but not feeling equal to the task of making the most irascible of professors listen to reason, was about to escape to my own little room upstairs, when the street-door creaked on its hinges, and the wooden stairs cracked beneath a hurried tread, and the master of the house came in and bolted across the dining-room, straight into his study. But, rapid as his flight was, he managed to fling his nutcracker-headed stick into a corner, and his wide-brimmed rough hat on the table, and to shout out to his nephew:

“Axel, follow me.”

Before I had time to stir he called out again, in the most impatient tone imaginable:

“What! Not here yet?”

In an instant I was on my feet and in the study of my dreadful master.

Otto Lidenbrock was not a bad man. I grant that, willingly. But, unless he mightily changes, he will live and die a terrible origi- nal.

He was professor in the Johannæum, and gave the course of lectures on mineralogy, during which he regularly put himself into a passion once or twice. Not that he troubled himself much about the assiduity of his pupils, or the amount of attention they paid to his lessons, or their corresponding success. These points gave him no concern. He taught subjectively, to use a German philosophical expression, for himself, and not for others. He was a selfish savant— a well of science, and nothing could be drawn up from it without the grinding noise of the pulleys: in a word, he was a miser.

There are professors of this stamp in Germany.

My uncle, unfortunately, did not enjoy great facility of pronunciation, unless he was with intimate friends; at least, not when he spoke in public, and this is a deplorable defect in an orator. In his demonstrations at the Johannæum the professor would often stop short, struggling with some obstinate word that refused to slip over his lips—one of those words which resist, swell out, and finally come forth in the anything but scientific shape of an oath. This put him in a great rage.

Now, in mineralogy, there are many names difficult to pronounce—half Greek, half Latin, barbarous appellations which would blister the lips of a poet. I have no wish to speak ill of the science. Far from it. But when one has to do with rhomboidal crystallisations, retinasphaltic resins, galena favosite, molybdates of lead, tungstates of manganese, and titanites of zircon, the most nimble tongue may be allowed to stumble.

The townsfolk were aware of this pardonable infirmity of my uncle’s, and they took advantage of it, and were on the watch for the dangerous passages; and when he put himself in a fury laughed at him, which was not in good taste, even for Germans. His lectures were always very numerously attended, but how many of those who were most regular auditors came for anything else but to make game of the professor’s grand fits of passion I shouldn’t like to say. Whatever my uncle might be, and I can hardly say too much, he was a true savant.

Though he sometimes broke his specimens by his rough handling, he had both the genius of a geologist and the eye of a mineralogist. With his hammer and steel pointer and magnetic needle, his blow-pipe and his flask of nitric acid, he was a master indeed. By the fracture, the hardness, the fusibility, the ring, the smell, of any mineral whatever, he classed it without hesitation among the six hundred species science numbers to-day.

The name of Lidenbrock was consequently mentioned with hon-our in gymnasiums and national associations. Humphry Davy, Humboldt, and Captains Franklin and Sabine, paid him a visit when they passed through Hamburg. Becqueul, Ebolmann, Brewster, Dumas, Milne-Edwards, Sainte Clarice Deville, took pleasure in consulting him on the most stirring questions of chemistry, a science which was indebted to him for discoveries of considerable importance; and in 1853 a treatise on Transcendent Crystallography, by Professor Otto Lidenbrock, was published at Leipsic, a large folio, with plates, which did not pay its cost, however.

Moreover, my uncle was curator of the Museum of Mineralogy, belonging to M. Struve, the Russian ambassador, a valuable collection, of European celebrity.

Such, then, was the personage who summoned me so impatiently.

Fancy to yourself a tall, spare man, with an iron constitution, and a juvenile fairness of complexion, which took off full ten years of his fifty. His large eyes rolled about incessantly behind his great goggles; his long thin nose resembled a knife-blade; malicious people declared it was magnetised, and attracted steel filings—a pure calumny; it attracted nothing but snuff, but, to speak truth, a super-abundance of that. When I have added that my uncle made mathematical strides of three feet at every step, and marched along with his fists firmly clenched—a sign of an impetuous temperament—you will know enough of him not to be over-anxious for his company.

He lived in his little house in Königstrasse, a dwelling built partly of brick and partly of stone, with a crenated gable-end, which looked on to one of those winding canals which intersect each other in the centre of the oldest part of Hamburg, which happily escaped the great fire in 1842.

The old house leaned forward slightly, and bulged out towards the passers-by. The roof inclined to one side, in the position a German student belonging to the Tugendbund wears his cap. The perpendicular of the house was not quite exact, but, on the whole, the house stood well enough, thanks to an old elm, firmly imbedded in the façade, which pushed its flower buds across the window-panes in spring.

My uncle was pretty rich for a German professor. The house was his own, and all its belongings. These belongings were his godchild Gräuben, a Virland girl, seventeen years old, his servant Martha, and myself. In my double quality of nephew and orphan, I became his assistant in his experiments.

I must confess I have a great appetite for geological science. The blood of a mineralogist flows in my veins, and I never grow weary in the society of my beloved stones.

On the whole, it was possible to live happily in this little house in Königstrasse, notwithstanding the impatience of the owner; for though he had a rough fashion of showing it, he loved me for all that. But, the fact was, he was a man who could not wait, and was in a greater hurry than nature.

When he used to plant mignonette and convolvuluses in his terra-cotta pots in the spring, every morning he went regularly and pulled their leaves, to hasten their growth.

With such an original, there was no alternative but to obey, so I darted into the study immediately.

II

The study was a complete museum, every specimen of the mineral kingdom was to be found there, all labelled in the most perfect order, in accordance with the three great divisions of minerals—the inflammable, the metallic, and the lithoid.

How well I knew this alphabet of mineralogical science. How many a time, instead of loitering about with boys of my own age, I amused myself by dusting these graphites, and anthracites, and pit coal, and touch-stones; and the bitumens, and the resins, and organic soils, which had to be kept from the least particle of dust; and the metals, from iron up to gold, the relative value of which disappeared before the absolute equality of scientific specimens; and all those stones, enough to build the little house in the Königstrasse over again, and an extra room besides, which I would have fitted up so nicely for myself.

But when I entered the study now, I scarcely thought of those wonders. My mind was entirely occupied with my uncle. He had buried himself in his big arm-chair, covered with Utrecht velvet, and held a book in his hands, gazing at it with the most profound admiration.

“What a book! What a book!” he exclaimed.

This reminded me that Professor Lidenbrock was also given to bibliomania in his leisure moments; but an old book would have had no value in his eyes unless it could not be found anywhere else, or, at all events, could not be read.

“What! don’t you see it, then?” he went on. “It is a priceless treasure! I discovered it this morning while I was rummaging about in Hevelin’s, the Jew’s shop.”

“Magnificent!” I replied with forced enthusiasm.

Really, what was the good of making such a fuss about an old quarto volume, the back and sides of which seemed bound in coarse calf—a yellowish old book, with a faded tassel dangling from it?

However, the professor’s vocabulary of adjectives was not yet exhausted.

“Look!” he said, asking himself questions, and answering them in the same breath; “is it handsome enough? Yes; it is first-rate. And what binding! Does it open easily? Yes, it lies open at any page, no matter where. And does it close well? Yes; for binding and leaves seem in one completely. Not a single breakage in this back after 700 years of existence! Ah! this is binding that Bozerian, Closs, and Purgold might have been proud of!”

All the while he was speaking, my uncle kept opening and shutting the old book. I could not do less than ask him about the contents, though I did not feel the least interest in the subject.

“And what is the title of this wonderful volume?” I asked.

“The title of it?” he replied, with increased animation. “The title is ‘Heims Kringla,’ by Snorre Turleson, the famous Icelandic author of the twelfth century. It is the chronicle of the Norwegian princes who reigned in Iceland.”

“Indeed!” I said, doing my best to appear enthusiastic. “And it is translated into German, of course?”

“Translated!” cried the professor, in a sharp tone. “What should I do with a translation? Who cares for translations? It is the original work, in the Icelandic—that magnificent idiom at once grand and simple—which allows of the most varied grammatical combinations and most numerous modification of words.”

“Like German,” I said, making a lucky hit.

“Yes,” replied my uncle, shrugging his shoulders; “without taking into account that the Icelandic language has the three numbers like the Greek, and declines proper names like the Latin.”

“Does it?” said I, a little roused from my indifference. “And is the type good?”

“Type? Who is talking of type, you poor, ignorant Axel. So, you suppose this was printed! You ignoramus! It is a manuscript, and a Runic manuscript, too.”

“Runic?”

“Yes. Are you going to ask me to explain that word, next?”

“Not if I know it,” I replied, in a tone of wounded vanity.

But my uncle never heeded me, and went on with his instructions, telling me about things I did not care to know.

“The Runic characters were formerly used in Iceland, and, according to tradition, were invented by Odin himself. Look at them, and admire them, impious young man!—these types sprang from the imagination of a god.”

About the Author

Jules Verne, born at Nantes, France, in 1828, of legal and seafaring stock, was the author of innumerable adventure stories that combined a vivid imagination with a gift for popularizing science. Although he studied law at Paris, he devoted his life entirely to writing. His most popular stories, besides 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870), include: Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), A Trip to the Moon (1865), Around the World in Eighty Days (1872), and Michael Strogoff (1876). In addition, he was the author of a number of successful plays, as well as a popular history of exploration from Phoenician times to the mid-nineteenth century, The Discovery of the Earth (1878-80). After a long and active career in literature, Jules Verne died at Amiens, France, in 1905.

Jane Smiley's ten works of fiction include The Age of Grief, The Greenlanders, Ordinary Love and Good Will, Moo, A Thousand Acres (which won the Pulitzer Prize), and most recently the bestselling Horse Heaven.

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Format: Paperback
I grew up on the James Mason movie, "Journey to the Center of the Earth" (1959), so it was quite a shocker to read the book. You could imagine to my dismay the absents of quite a few characters and the center of the story is Germany not Scotland.

Now for avid readers you could care less about old movies, I can truthfully say that this is one of Jules Verne's best stories and well told.

What you will find more interesting and fun about this tale is the characters and their interaction. One of my favorite parts is when Harry who did not want to go to the center of the earth with his uncle, Professor Hardwigg; he turned to his affianced, Gretchen, and was planning on her to stop him. Her answer is shockingly disappointing to him.

"While there is life there is hope. I beg to assert, Henry, that as long as man's heart beats, as long as man's flesh quivers, I do not allow that being gifted with thought and will can allow himself to despair"

Be prepared as the bulk of the book is really a geological journey back through time and forward again painfully spelled out by Harry whom is the first person narrator.

The Kindle version does not have actual picture of the runes in chapter 1. Moreover, a tad off on pronunciations. Other than that, it is more than worth obtaining along with a hard copy for your library.
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Format: Paperback
Jules Verne had a knack for coming up with adventure stories that were fascinating enough to endure against the revelations of science and the passage of time. Some comments by the narrator read almost like caveats to assuage the doubter who might know better than to believe what is discovered on this unusual trek to the centre of the earth. A belief in central heat, for example, is asserted by the narrator in order to gain solidarity with the reader. The reader is then encouraged to be satisfied that “certain circumstances not yet sufficiently understood may tend to modify here and there the action of natural phenomena” (p. 187.) The prohibitive fact of central heat is not just mitigated by an appeal to the possibility of modified phenomena, but by the fact in the fiction that says the trekkers did not descend to earth’s actual centre (pp. 129, 186.) Stopping short of the centre is necessary, not only to avoid the science of central heat, but because the time and angle necessary for the trip make it impossible for men on foot to go there (p. 107.)

All of this hedging to ‘cover one’s tracks’ colors the story with at least a tinge of probability. This toilsome project, though, of welding links to form a chain that would take us, without doubt, down to earth’s virtual centre, is not kept up with care enough to satisfy. There are nagging inconsistencies. The tiny raft made by Hans for crossing over the underground sea seems to take on the qualities of a large, sturdy ship as she sails for a week and a half, or five hundred leagues (1800 miles) or more, through unimaginable trials and perils, which include monsters beneath and all around, and an electric storm above containing ‘great bales of cotton’ and ‘a vast reservoir of fearsome windy gusts’ (p. 145.
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Format: Paperback
Maybe it was the over the top caricatures of Prof. Hardwigg, his "sensitive" nephew and the stoic Hans, but I did not enjoy "Journey to the Center of the Earth" nearly as much as "20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea". I can't say the characters were any more one-dimensional, but I was put off by the narration and not as involved with the main characters.
It still is a fun journey and the strength of Verne's writing is in the copious details he puts into his story. The geography/geology in his description is often infinitely more enjoyable than his characters. I recommnend "20,000 Leagues" first, but if you yearn for more of those 19th century adventure tales, this is not a bad follow up.
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Format: Hardcover
Reading this book is an amazing adventure, as evidenced by a century of avid readers. I picked it up on a lark and decided to read the first five or ten pages to see if it was my type. It was easy to read, enjoy and visualize, and I quickly finished it.
The story revolves around a young man and his uncle, who is a scientist. They discover a route to the center of the earth (hence the title), and the novel is about their journey. Once you get 100 pages into this book, you aren't able to stop. The things they find boggle the mind, but seem so real.
100 years from now, people will still be enjoying Jules Verne, because he captures the imagination of the young explorer.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I grew up on the James Mason movie, "Journey to the Center of the Earth" (1959), so it was quite a shocker to read the book. You could imagine to my dismay the absents of quite a few characters and the center of the story is Germany not Scotland.

Now for avid readers you could care less about old movies, I can truthfully say that this is one of Jules Verne's best stories and well told.

What you will find more interesting and fun about this tale is the characters and their interaction. One of my favorite parts is when Harry who did not want to go to the center of the earth with his uncle, Professor Hardwigg; he turned to his affianced, Gretchen, and was planning on her to stop him. Her answer is shockingly disappointing to him.

"While there is life there is hope. I beg to assert, Henry, that as long as man's heart beats, as long as man's flesh quivers, I do not allow that being gifted with thought and will can allow himself to despair"

Be prepared as the bulk of the book is really a geological journey back through time and forward again painfully spelled out by Harry whom is the first person narrator.

The Kindle version does not have actual picture of the runes in chapter 1. Moreover, a tad off on pronunciations. Other than that, it is more than worth obtaining along with a hard copy for your library.

Journey to the Center of the Earth
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