JF Ptak Science Books
Here's another in this developing and fun series in the What-is-It? category. At first it reminded me of Renaissance woodcuts of various stages of creation anointed by a coy hand of the creator. This one though is late 19th century and has a definite highly au courant "Oriental" theme which so far as I can tell has nothing to do with the telling of the story of this object. It looks a little like a multi-horned phonograph (already in existence by about a decade at this point), and it also looks a little like a Chinese earthquake detector. It is surprising for what it actually represents, and it is a lot larger than you'd think, with the figure in the background definitely not to scale. Plus, it comes into the world a few years earlier than its gigantically famous counterpart, as though it had gone back in time...
What is it?
This is a time machine created and written about by Enrique Gaspar Eugenio Lucio and Rimbau in El anacronópete, and published in 1887, eight years before Wells and his time machine appeared in 1895. It also precedes Wells' earlier short story, "The Chronic Argonauts" of 1888, to the punch and was 12 years before Alfred Jarry's fun piece "How to Construct a Time Machine". On the other hand Gaspard's story came four yers earlier than Eugene Mouton's short story called "l'Historioscope" (1883), which was really a time observational rather than a time travel story, where the main character has a telescope that looks back on terrestrial time and events (and not cosmological). And as long as we are here I guess I should also mention Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1888), though there something happens to the main character which results in his time transportation, and there's no actual machine involved. But it is related, and is nearly 1887, so there it is--also thrown into this brew for no time travel reason whatsoever is that Sherlock Holmes makes his first appearance in 1887 too, so it was a good solid year for adventurous writing.)
In any event, there it is--a time machine. And a big one, made out of cast iron, and run via electricity and somehow pneumatic tubes--I read that the passengers on the thing were given a sort of anti-Benjamin-Button potion to allow them to stay their current ages and not get sucked back into themselves as they raced around the space-time continuum. As it is I believe they all come to a sad end by running into the brick wall shithammer of creation, at which point everything ends. Too bad.