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Astonishing Victorian-Era Golf Book Predicted Bullet Trains and Television - Articles Surfing
Did you hear about the curious little book, first published in 1892, that predicted bullet trains, digital watches, television and women's liberation and other wonders decades before they came to pass?
It's a book that burst into the news in January, 2005 when a rare first edition was sold at auction for more than $2,000.
The oddest thing about the book is that it is not a work of science fiction, as we would generally understand that term, nor some obscure tome of religious prophecy. Instead it's a novel about, of all things, golf.
Written by a 19th-century professional Scottish golfer named J. McCullough, about whom little is known, "Golf in the Year 2000; or, What We Are Coming To" also predicted the advent of golf carts and international golf contests.
Published under McCollough's pen name, J.A.C.K., the book chronicles the adventures of a character named Alexander Gibson who falls into a deep sleep in 1892. He awakens 108 years later into a world, where, among other things, women dress like men, run businesses and hold most of the top positions in government.
Gibson also learns, to his considerable delight, that women do all the work in this society while men play golf full time. Upon being informed of this, he cries out that it's "the dream of my former existence come true! I am, indeed, a lucky man to see it. ... The world is evidently getting things ship-shape. ... Oh, how I would like to wake up some of my old chums. I know a few who would appreciate the arrangement."
But Gibson finds that his beloved golf has been radically transformed as well. He must adjust to the existence of driverless golf carts, golf clubs that automatically register their user's score and jackets that yell "Fore!" whenever the golfer begins to swing. He finds the jackets to be particularly annoying, but it's the rule at every club in Britain: you can't play unless you wear one.
He also watches -- via a television-like device that works through an elaborate mirror arrangement -- a golf competition between Britain and the United States, much like the Ryder Cup (an event which did not begin until 1927).
And, he learns that wars have ceased, at least among the European nations, because international disputes are now settled by ... golf matches.
One thing about golf hasn't changed, Gibson reflects following a round of golf in which he emerges the victor--and has to listen to his defeated opponent grousing about bad luck. "The same old excuses, I thought. Among all those inventions, surely they might have got something new in that line."
The main character's adventures in the year 2000 also include taking a ride in an underground tubular railway, familiarly called the "tub," and reading about a London-to-New York speed record of two hours and 32 minutes, achieved by a bullet-type train traveling underneath the Atlantic Ocean.
Little things, too, amaze him: He no longer has to shave every day; instead, he brushes a miraculous compound of some sort over his cheeks once a week and this is sufficient to keep down his beard. Similarly, he employs a hairbrush that keeps his hair at whatever length he prefers, so he never needs to visit a barber (which is good, since barbers no longer exist).
The appeal of "Golf in the Year 2000" is perhaps stronger today than it was when it was first published. Golfing fans enjoy it for its humorous commentary on the sport as practiced in the 19th century and in the "future" (our present). General readers have fallen in love with it, too. Not only is it fun to go through it count author McCullough's hits and misses on the predictive front, the book is suffused with a Victorian charm treminiscent of a Sherlock Holmes story.
Now, the world is rediscovering this little gem of a book.
In January of 2005, news services reported that an American collector named James Espinola had paid $2,240 at auction for a first edition of "Golf in the Year 2000". Although Espinola is in the process of selling off his own immense collection of golf memorabilia, he was quoted as explaining that he can't resist buying the occasional "odd thing" at auction--and this was one of those things.
The Edinburgh auction house of Lyon and Trumbull had estimated that the book would fetch less than a quarter of what it ended up bringing. The firm's golf specialist was quoted as saying that the final price took them "a bit by surprise."
Although original editions of the book are rare, it has occasionally been reprinted in facsimile editions. No one thought to make it available to the vast audiences of the World Wide Web, though, until recently.
On February 26, 2005, a little over a month following the news about the auctioned first edition, "Golf in the Year 2000" made its debut on the Web at www.golf-in-the-year-2000.com. The full text of this strange and engaging book is finally available for anyone, anywhere to read, free of charge.
At the conclusion of the book, the main character declares that he does not intend to wake up and find himself back in 1892 again, with his amazing adventure having all a dream. "No, no; I'm in 2000, and in 2000 I mean to stay." Like him, the quirky tale of his adventure seems to have found a secure place in our time.
Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).
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