The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World
  • Publication Date: March 30, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781554812424 / 1554812429
  • 240 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World

  • Publication Date: March 30, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781554812424 / 1554812429
  • 240 pages; 5½" x 8½"

First published in 1666, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle’s Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World is the first fictional portrayal of women and the new science. In Blazing World, Cavendish depicts her heroine, the Empress, in multiple roles. The Empress is leader of a dreamlike utopian world reachable through the North Pole, filled with talking animals and intelligent hybrid creatures. She establishes a royal society of scientists, initiates learned conferences, interrogates existing knowledge, and spends her days speculating on natural philosophy. She also forms a lively intellectual collaboration with the “Duchess of Newcastle,” a female character summoned from Earth. A companion volume to Cavendish’s important Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, Blazing World is the first science-fiction novel known to have been written and published by a woman, and represents a pioneering female scientific utopia.

This Broadview Edition includes related historical materials on the new science and Cavendish’s role in the intellectual world of her time.


“Sara Mendelson’s welcome new edition presents a comprehensive reading of Cavendish’s audacious ‘theory of everything.’ Adding over twenty-five new voices to criticism of the text, while retaining her distinctive discussions of Bacon’s and Behn’s relevance to Cavendish’s work, Mendelson builds on the strong foundation of the Paper Bodies edition. She offers robust new explanations of Cavendish’s inventive work with genre, her extensive knowledge of natural sciences, philosophy, and religion, and the influence of exile, friends, and family on her writing. Expanded and clarified notes will help students to understand the story’s many rich contexts and weird moments. Especially welcome are the more balanced discussions weighing Cavendish’s feminism against her story of aggressive power in part two, and the editor’s increased attention to the most intriguing parts of Cavendish’s pioneering and fascinating fiction.” — John Morillo, North Carolina State University

“Sara Mendelson’s edition of Blazing World is a major contribution to the ever-increasing scholarship on the works of this remarkable woman. Cavendish’s utopian romance, which also functions as a critique of the new experimental science, is becoming one of the canonical texts of the Scientific Revolution. Mendelson’s fine introduction places this work within the context of the literary, historical, and philosophic movements of early modern England. Mendelson clarifies how gender affected Cavendish’s natural philosophy and the structure of Blazing World. Including Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis and Aphra Behn’s Preface to her translation of Fontenelle’s Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes allows the reader to understand how radical Cavendish’s ideas were in her time.” — Lisa Sarasohn, Oregon State University

“Sara Mendelson’s edition (2016) of Margaret Cavendish’s utopian feminist fantasy, The Blazing-World (London: Anne Maxwell, 1666, 1668), is a welcome contribution to Cavendish studies. The edition brings fresh, contextual attention to arguably the most popular of Cavendish’s works; moreover, the edition shows scholars, generalists, teachers, and students how a modern edition of a 17th-century text may be assembled. There have been earlier editions of this 1666 novel … but the Mendelson Blazing-World will be the current edition of choice.” — Maureen Mulvihill, Rare Books Monthly

“Due to its interdisciplinary approach, this engaging and erudite edition will be of interest to a range of scholars and stuents from disciplines such as literary studies, history of science, philosophy, and women’s studies. The edition is not only a timely and comprehensive tool for teaching The Blazing World, but it is an excellent contribution to Cavendish scholarship, as its rich contextualization has opened up new perspectives for future criticism.” — Lisa Walters, Early Modern Women

Margaret Cavendish,
Duchess of Newcastle: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World

Appendix A: Selections from Margaret Cavendish, Poems, and Fancies (1653)

  1. Of Many Worlds in This World
  2. A World in an Eare-Ring
  3. The Squaring of the Circle

Appendix B: Francis Bacon, The New Atlantis (1627)

Appendix C: Selections from William Cavendish, Letters and Poems in Honour of … Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle (1676)

  1. From Joseph Glanvill
  2. From Walter Charleton
  3. From Constantijn Huygens

Appendix D: Aphra Behn, Preface to Her Translation of Fontenelle’s Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes (1688)

Works Cited and Select Bibliography

Sara H. Mendelson teaches in the Arts and Science program at McMaster University. She is the co-editor, with the late Sylvia Bowerbank, of Broadview’s Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader.