Exhibitions Jules Verne. The Boundaries of Imagination
Exhibitions Jules Verne. The Boundaries of Imagination

Verne is the source of the curiosity, sense of adventure, discovery and knowledge of many readers who, on reaching adult age, hoped to attempt what the author imagined.

Espacio Fundación Telefónica
C/ Fuencarral, 3, Madrid
4 planta
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Nov 2015
Feb 2016
M X J V S D:
10:00 - 20:00

Verne is the source of the curiosity, sense of adventure, discovery and knowledge of many readers who, on reaching adult age, hoped to attempt what the author imagined.

The great French writer Jules Verne (Nantes, 1828 – Amiens, 1905) was one of the most prolific, popular and influential writers of universal literature and the most widely-published author in history. Verne imagined a host of fantastical world while barely moving from his study. Moreover, thanks to his profound interest in science, exploration and technological innovations, he managed to create a completely plausible imaginary world whose capacity for evocation has remained intact through to the present day.

Jules Verne is the source of the curiosity, sense of adventure, discovery and knowledge of many readers who, on reaching adult age, hoped to attempt what the author imagined. His perfectly documented novels mapped the known world and opened up the doors to other fantastical or intuited universes.

The French writer captured like no-one else the spirit of a unique era and, most importantly, he echoed it in a modified and enhanced version, with such a quality of fascination that he sparked off many other adventurers to attempt, and sometimes even achieve, the impossible.

Jules Verne. The Boundaries of Imagination is an exhibition that takes you on a journey through the Vernian universe at the Fundación Telefónica Space from 6 November 2015 to 21 February 2016, exploring on the boundaries, sometimes invisible and not always necessary, between fact and fiction. The exhibition aims to portray the virtuous circle between the imaginary and the real, and vice versa.

Curated by María Santoyo and Miguel Ángel Delgado, responsible for the project Tesla. The Future is His, shown at the Fundación Telefónica Space last year, the exhibition was designed by Fernando Muñoz Gómez. It advocates a review of the legendary author by means of a fascinating journey through his characters and his inventions, the world that surrounded him and, above all, the world that inspired him: an evocative and original overview of one of the great figures of universal literature.

The exhibition is structured as a guided experience of amazement and discovery. Visitors, in the guise of explorers, journey through the most representative of Verne’s works and the different environments in which his novels were themed: land, air, ice, water, space and time, led by contemporary Spanish and foreign guides. Thus a whole series of fascinating characters, connected in one way or another with Jules Verne, serve to guide the way. Aristocrats such as Archduke Ludwig Salvator von Hapsburg; adventurers such as Manuel Iradier and Julio Cervera; cinematographers like Segundo de Chomón, Jean Painlevé, Karel Zeman and Orson Welles; intrepid journalists of the calibre of Nellie Bly, the first woman to round the world in 72 days; Archduke Louis-Salvator of Austria, who settled in the Balearic Islands and became Verne’s literary guide to Palma de Mallorca in the novel Clovis Dardentor; tricksters like Richard E. Locke; photographers such as Nadar; submarining or aviation pioneers such as Louis-Auguste Boutan and Santos-Dumont respectively, stage directors, writers, astronomers, military historians, aeronauts and aviators, engineers, composer of opera and operetta… around thirty characters make up the chorus of chroniclers in the Vernian spirit.

The exhibition enjoys the collaboration of fourteen national and two international lenders. Jewellery has been loaned from the private collections of Francisco Javier Román Huerta, Carlos Pérez, Diego Quevedo Carmona and the American couple Clark and Joan Worswick. Other objects, some of which are being shown for the first time, have been kindly loaned by the National Library, the Naval Museum, the National Science and Technology Museum, the National Theatre Museum, the Zarzuela Theatre, the Air Force, the Filmoteca Española (Spanish Film Society), the Valencia Museum of Ethnology, the March Foundation, the Jesús Fernández Duro Aeronautical Circle and the Aerial Foundation of the Valencian Community. The New Zealand foundation Antarctic Heritage Trust has kindly loaned some photographs taken one hundred years ago in the Australasian continent which were recovered in 2014 and are being shown for the first time.


Verne imagined the world from his study, a small yet infinitely expansive space in terms of creativity. This was the haven where he dreamt up fantastical beings, incredible animals, unimaginable forms of transport and examples of ingenuity. The writer barely needed to resort to any outside inspiration or experiences. Our replica of the study thus introduces visitors to the fascinating Vernian universe. The journey starts in Montfort’s balloon, one of the oldest in existence, manufactured by one of the manufacturers of terrestrial globes in Spain in the 19th century. In this section there are also five bibliographic treasures, including the first world edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869) which due to historic circumstances was the Spanish version.
Visitors will also discover a series of 44 illustrations of some of Verne’s characters, from Phileas Fogg to Captain Hatteras; and the ingenious inventions in his novels such as the magic lantern and the Rühmkorff bobbin. And finally there is an audiovisual installation that takes you into the incredible bestiary of Vernian literature.


Known and unknown lands

Verne was very familiar with the great expeditions that took place during his lifetime – the great discoveries in unknown, far-off lands that were taking place at the height of colonialist expansion – through the various international publications to which he subscribed. The author had access to a vast library which he consulted when writing his novels. The exhibition includes a recreation of Verne’s library with some bibliographic gems such as books by military officer Julio Cervera on the Rio de Oro expedition in the Sahara and other expeditions he joined in North Africa along with geologist Francisco Quiroga. Pieces such as Die Balearen (1869-1891), which belonged to Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria, a scientist engaged in the exhaustive study of the fauna, flora, anthropology and history of the Balearic Islands, who Verne consulted to document the locations for his novel Clovis Dardentor.


This section pays homage to the travellers and explorers of the world and all the scenes discovered by Phileas Fogg on his challenge. More than 30 period photos from the collection of Clark and Joan Worswick – one of the most important collections in private hands – known for their collection of the legacy of US photographer Walker Evans – recreate all the places travelled to by Fogg. Visitors will also discover the regions in Around The World in Eighty Days from a theatrical perspective, as many set designers and film directors also recreated Verne’s work.
The admiration that Verne professed for globetrotters and wanderers is reflected in this section in a series of vintage films by Spanish cineaste Segundo de Chomón, who was inspired for several of his films by Verne’s work, notably Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1909). The figure of the globetrotter is also represented by Nellie Bly, the US journalist, who between 1889 and 1890 managed to journey around the world in 72 days, beating Phileas Fogg’s record as well as being the first woman to achieve such a feat.

Mobilis in Mobili

A passion for the sea is without doubt one of the recurring themes in Verne’s literary universe. Although several novels are based around this theme, such as The Children of Captain Grant, there is no doubt that Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea was Verne’s most representative work in this respect. This section of the exhibition features models and posters of the first commercial steam ferries of the 19th century, images of the Great Eastern, the biggest oceangoing vessel at that time, on which Verne travelled in 1867, and some astonishing memorabilia of Isaac Peral.

Ice deserts

In Verne’s time, the poles represented the boundary between the known and the unknown worlds; they were a topic that fascinated Verne’s contemporaries. This curiosity about uncharted wastes, which was so typical of that epoch, is exemplified in several of his characters who embarked on expeditions to those inhospitable lands of ice that Verne imagined in The Sphinx of the Ice Fields (1897) and The Adventures of Captain Hatteras (1886).

This part of the exhibition features images of different polar expeditions. There are ten photographs from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition, the frozen negatives of which were discovered last year in the Antarctic, which are being shown in Spain for the very first time. There are also 50 images of the expedition of Argentinian Hernán Pujato, whose intention was to found the first stable colony on the ice continent.

Floating or Flying

Aerostats and airplanes
In the early years of aeronautics there was heated debate between those who advocated the aircraft that were lighter than the air – hot-air balloons – and those who were committed to heavier craft: the first airplanes.
This section pays homage to all those visionaries who dreamt about conquering the air: people such as Brazilian Santos Dumont, who many consider to be the first person to fly an airplane in 1906; Asturian Jesús Fernández Duro, who in 1909 crossed the Pyrenees for the first time in a hot-air balloon; the Valencian duo Juan Olivert and Gaspar Brunet, who flew the first airplane in Spain, and French photographer Nadar, the author of the first aerial photographs in history and a passionate aerostatic enthusiast, which Verne portrayed in the novel From the Earth to the Moon & Round the Moon.

Around the Moon

A fascination with the moon, or rather travelling to the moon, was a regular topic of popular culture in the 19th century, and in Vernian literature too. His novels From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and Around The Moon (1870) took deep root in the collective imagination and today they reveal startling similarities with Man’s eventual arrival on the Moon in 1969.

A geodesic installation shows twenty ways of travelling to the moon as represented in universal literature. This lunar fever is also reflected in a series of posters related to the moon, representing stage shows of the era through to images from George Méliès’ films and the operas inspired by Verne created by Jacques Offenbach. It also shows the creative documentary piece Vivir en una bala (Living in a Bullet), which recreates From the Earth to the Moon: the journey that Verne imagined in a lunar projectile launched by a cannon.


There are two novels in which the French author really proved to be way ahead of this time and even beyond: Paris In The Twentieth Century (1863), about progress based on the dictatorship of reason, and The Day of an American Journalist in 2889 (1891), a much more positive story in which technology brings benefits to humankind. Two very distinct visions of Verne’s concept of progress.
The exhibition’s epilogue takes us into these two futurist works by means of illustrations of French authors in the 19th century which imagine scientific advances in the year 2000, and the engravings of French artist Albert Robida, who anticipated certain inventions in the far-off 20th century around the same time as his contemporary Jules Verne.