Made-up language of ‘Utopia’ hardly perfect, but unique part of $85K edition

Mysteries
Thomas More Utopia language

A map of the fictional “Utopia” on the left, with its “language” displayed at right. (Image courtesy, Hordern House)

MYSTERY WIRE — A rare copy of Sir Thomas More’s “Utopia” is expected to sell for $85,000 at New York City’s International Antiquarian Book Fair, according to Hordern House Rare Books of Sydney, Australia.

A made-up language appears on one of the book’s pages, opposite a map of the “perfect world” created by the 16th century Englishman.

READ: For sale: Sir Thomas More’s Utopian alphabet

Atlas Obscura explains the phenomenon of a “conlang” — in this case a crude language that seems to be a cross of Greek and geometric shapes, and completely without any capital letters. Some conlang’s are elaborate — even more complex than real languages.

The 1518 copy of “Utopia” expected to fetch $81,000. (Image courtesy, Hordern House Rare Books, Sydney)

On page 13, “Utopia” — literally, “nowhere” in Latin — contains a short passage in the conlang, translated to Latin.

The passage translates as:

The commander Utopus made me into an island out of a non-island.
I alone of all nations, without philosophy,
have portrayed for mortals the philosophical city.
Freely I impart my benefits; not unwillingly I accept whatever is better.

The language survives today thanks to academics who describe its attributes:

Utopian has its own 22-letter alphabet, more or less a knock-off of the Roman alphabet used in the 16th century, lacking only z. A citation on Wikipedia says, “The letters f, k, q, and x only appear in the alphabet, not in the Utopian text.” Wikipedia also notes the availability of “ZX-Utopian,” a free font with the Utopian alphabet.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Latest Mysteries Video

The Latest

More The Latest

Latest Mystery Wire News