Retrofuturist Flashback: Electric Spaceship, 1775

Retrofuturist Flashback: Electric Spaceship, 1775
Greetings from Mercury! British Library/Robana via Getty Images

Today's a bit crazy in the old HowStuffWorks.com office, but I figured a slice of retrofuturism would do everyone some good.

Here we see a "traveler from the planet Mercury arriving on Earth in his wonderful new electric flying machine. It's a 1775 illustration from "The Philosopher Without Pretension or the Rare Man" by French author and polymath Louis Guillaume de la Folie.

Good luck finding an English translation, but according to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the book's frame story "contains an inner tale recounted by a former resident of Mercury, who describes his experience of space flight in an elaborate, newly invented ship, which he has crash-landed on Earth."

It is this ship we see in the above illustration, which allegedly the first description of a spaceship or airship powered by electricity. I love the design, though I struggle to understand the twin storming globes -- or the Mercury man's exposed midriff. Space fashions, I guess.