[Paris: Felix Malteste, 1849]. 15,pp. Modern half calf and marbled boards, spine gilt. Light, intermittent soiling. Very good. Item #WRCAM62035
The first issue of Étienne Cabet’s periodical ICARIE, dated March 15, 1849, a compendium of letters and journal entries providing news of the Icarian utopian settlements in America to French and European audiences. This is an important and exceptionally scarce resource for a firsthand view of the difficulties settling in America that were faced by followers of the French politician, journalist and author, Étienne Cabet, whose theories for creating a communist utopia they sought to put into practice. The Icarian communal society “was the quixotic hope of Frenchman Étienne Cabet, who visualized a community with a controlled economy based on democratic decision rather than dictatorship. Cabet, a utopian socialist, contended that men suffered misfortune in society only because society was poorly organized, that inequality could be abolished only through common ownership of goods" (Byrd).
In 1839, Cabet published the novel, VOYAGE EN ICARIE, that provided an example of what he thought the perfect communal society rooted in the perfect environment would look like. His book proved exceedingly popular to French laborers still struggling in a largely aristocratic society. In 1848 approximately seventy "Icarians" departed Le Havre to find that "perfect environment" in America. The Icarians settled first on arid lands in present-day Denton County, Texas. From the start the community was beset with problems, stemming from misleading promises by Cabet regarding the hope of new arrivals to massive malaria outbreaks. By March of 1849, the Texas effort had been abandoned for land in Nauvoo, Illinois, vacated two years earlier by the Mormons. The remaining infrastructure left by the Mormons provided enough of a base for the Icarians to improve upon that, for the first time, their colony began to grow. With Nauvoo becoming a moderate success, a new settlement was attempted in Iowa. But Cabet's increasingly dictatorial demeanor fostered factional strife, and by 1856, overcome by financial difficulties and discord, the Nauvoo community collapsed. Cabet made one more effort to establish yet another community, in St. Louis, but he died just one week after his arrival. Despite Cabet's death, the fundamental principles of community cooperation and gender equality succeeded in attracting a small stream of new members and various Icarian communities survived as late as 1898.
The present issue of ICARIE, informs the reader through Cabet’s letters that at a general meeting of the membership in New Orleans, a vote as to whether or not to continue the American settlement project resulted in splitting the membership, with just 280 followers voting to continue on to Nauvoo, Illinois to take up residence in an abandoned Mormon settlement. The journal entries of Icarian follower P. Bourg, also included in this issue, follows the plight of the Icarians in New Orleans as they await for the arrival of Cabet following the failure of their Texas settlement.
OCLC locates copies of this first issue of ICARIE at the National Library of Poland and Brigham Young University, and there is also a copy at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The last copy that we locate at auction was the Streeter sale, as part of volume of six numbers of this rare and important record of the Icarian community in America. HOWES C9. PRUDHOMMEAUX B17. STREETER SALE 4253. BYRD 1711 (ref). OCLC 830830136, 52319650.