This evening I picked up Edwin Abbott Abbott’s Flatland, first published in 1884, a book I haven’t thought about in years. I bought the paperback edition I still own in the University of Connecticut bookstore in the spring of 1964 when I was visiting the campus.
I was drawn to the book initially by simple curiousity over the fact that the author’s middle and last names are the same. If I ever learned what that was about, however, I have long since forgotten, because everything about the book delighted me.
Abbott writes in the persona of A. Square, a sentient geometrical figure who by accident discovers our three-dimensional world. The story is an astute satire of Abbott’s own Victorian society, by turns funny, poignant, subversive and sly.
Through the years, I have occasionally met someone who has heard of the book. For the most part, however, Flatland sits on my shelf as a sort of private delight. I once tried to get Marge to read it, but it didn’t interest her. I’m not sure she got past the preface. I may have suggested it to Elizabeth when she was a high school student struggling with geometry. In fact, through the years I’ve recommended it to a lot of people, but I’m not sure anyone has ever taken me up on it.
But now, Flatland is available on line. That link at the top of this page will take you to the full text, with Abbott’s original illustrations. So go ahead, click on it. You know you want to…