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Flying firemen and fish-powered buses! Surreal futuristic visions of life today created in 1899

Posted on 25/07/2019 in Press Coverage

Mind-blowing visions of the future from 1899 depicting life in the year 2000 have been discovered by chance.

The 120-year-old illustrations, created by French artists, are set to go under the hammer on July 31 and Hansons' auction experts say not only are they extremely rare, it could be the first time ever an original set of the weird and wonderful prints has been offered for sale.

The illustrations include everything from an underwater sea bus powered by a giant fish and underwater croquet to flying fireman with wings tackling blazes from the air, people riding on fish under the ocean and Aero Cabs flying people around a city.

But though many of the designs are surreal others predict scientific advancement and inventions such as helicopters. The world’s first practical helicopter didn’t take to the air until 1939 – 40 years after the artists let their imaginations run riot.


The prints were found by Jim Spencer, works on paper specialist at Hansons Auctioneers, and he thinks they could spark major interest when they go under the hammer due to their rarity.

He said: “I was going through a box full of old pictures at Hansons’ saleroom near Derby and spotted these vibrant prints with surreal visions of the future. I was instantly captivated. I was even more surprised when I started researching them and realised their scarcity.

“The series is called ‘En L'An 2000’ (And In 2000). A number of French artists, including Jean-Marc Cote, were asked to illustrate the future for a World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 and the original set was published in 1899.

“They were intended for inclusion in cigar/cigarette boxes but, due to financial difficulty, were never distributed. Some more designs were added – there are 87 in total – and postcards were also made but, again, not released.


“They were completely lost to history until the 1980s when science fiction author Isaac Asimov stumbled across a set of the postcards and featured them in his book Futuredays: A Nineteenth Century Vision of the Year 2000.

“The set I unearthed includes French titles chromolithographically printed on eight uncut stock cards/press sheets, and total 78 individual designs.

“This has to be from the very beginning of the story, published circa 1899 for the World Exhibition and never released. I think this is the first time an original set has ever been offered for sale.

“I have no idea how the market will respond to something like this, but they deserve to rocket away. This is a really important bit of retrofuturism. I am guiding the set of prints at £300-500 but it will be exciting to see what happens.”

The set of prints will be sold on July 31 at Hansons’ Library Auction, Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge, Staffordshire, ST17 0XN. To find out more, email [email protected]

To find out more or place a bid CLICK HERE