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.
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.
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.