Journey to the Centre of the Earth was on TV at the weekend — the one with James Mason, Pat Boone and Gertrude the Duck — and I watched it at my dad’s. I realised I had only ever read it in Look and Learn form, and that my conception of its plot owed much to the interminable Hanna Barbera version. So I braved the Haunted Lumber Room to look out the ancient omnibus edition of The Wonderful Voyages one of my father’s parents bequeathed to us.

Yes! A version of it is included. It is an EXCELLENT version, bcz the translator finds he has scant patience with Verne’s so-called SCIENCE, and adds many testy footnotes correcting same. Verne says there are 600 known elements; a trans.note — on the SECOND PAGE — points out that there are only 65 so far. Verne says the tortoise is a descendent of Glyptodon: not so! insists a grumpy trans.note; and so on! “Rather the mammoth and the mastodon! — trans.note” “B-but Sir Humphry Davey died in 1829!– trans.note“; “300 leagues would take them to Switzerland! — trans.note“; “Having examined a COMPLETE LIST of philosophical instruments, I do not belive there is such a thing as a MANOMETER! I have given them an aneroid barometer instead — trans.note” (OK these are written out from memory, but the SPIRIT HAS BEEN CAPTURED! There are about 20 Get-it-right-Verne! footnotes in all…)

Then it occurred to me that a fake-footnote thing might be a DEVICE OF VERNE’S OWN! It seems like his kind of gag — the heroes are two Germans and an Icelander, in a novel by a Frenchman — it’s a pop science joke which certainly get lost in the kidditoon versions that followed. So I hunted for relics of the 1877 Ward Lock & Co. edition: “This version is believed to be the most faithful rendition into English of this classic currently in the public domain. The few notes of the translator are located near the point where they are referenced… The translation is by Frederick Amadeus Malleson. While the translation is fairly literal, and Malleson (a clergyman) has taken pains with the scientific portions of the work and added the chapter headings, he has made some unfortunate emendations mainly concerning biblical references, and has added a few ‘improvements’ of his own — ”

It’s all true! Forgotten anal crosspatch Rev.Malleson has inserted dubious material about the Great Flood in relation to geology, and at least once sentence-worth of dodgy Victorian race science (to do with so-called prognathis of the jaw).

But hurrah! Because his most deathless correction is this: HE HAS CORRECTED THE TITLE OF THE BOOK! Because the intrepid trio get NOWHERE NEAR THE EARTH’S CORE. And with that in mind, the prim cleric has (korrektly) renamed this edn thusly:

“A Journey to the Interior of the Earth”