A first edition of Edwin Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions has been donated to the UCI Libraries by alumnus Patrick Hanratty. This 19th-century novel of social criticism endures as a classic due in part to its continuing relevance for undergraduate education in geometry and physics.
Abbott first published Flatland in 1884 under the pseudonym “A. Square.” His book is a work of scientific and mathematical fantasy that takes place in a two-dimensional world called “Flatland,” an infinite Euclidian plane inhabited by geometric figures who cannot conceive of anything beyond their own limited world. Though a work of science fiction on the surface, Flatland is also a thinly veiled critique of the rigid patriarchal order of Victorian society: in Flatland, one’s social worth is determined by one’s geometric shape. During his lifetime, Abbott was best known as a teacher, theologian, and classicist. As an author he was known not for fiction, but for his scholarly and theological works. Although his bibliography includes more than 50 titles, it is Flatland for which he is best remembered. It is still read in many geometry and physics classes today.
Flatland is not the first book to be donated to the UCI Libraries by Hanratty, who in 1986 gave the library a copy of Shakespeare’s iconic 1623 “First Folio” – the most valuable single volume ever received by the Libraries. Both Flatland and the Folio reside within the Department of Special Collections and Archives and are available for use by the public. For more information, contact the department at (949) 824-7227 or at