In the question What is the earliest work considered to be Science Fiction? Somnium (Latin for "The Dream") was written in 1608, in Latin, by Johannes Kepler is offered as possibly the earliest work of science siction.

As a 400 year old work by a world famous, key figure in the 17th century scientific revolution, you would think there would be multiple translations of his works into English. Some of which by their age or source would now be in the public domain.

The oldest translation I am able to find is Kepler's Dream (1965) By John Lear. Are there any English version in public domain?

I have checked Wikisource and Project Gutenberg without finding a single of his works in English.

Or even a copy of the Latin? I don't seem to be able to find the original Latin online either.


5 Answers 5


At this time there is no public domain English text of Kepler's Somnium, the first science fiction story. Johannes Kepler wrote the Somnium in Latin between the 1590s and the 1630s. The Latin text is in now in the public domain but there is no public domain English text, because the English translations are still under copyright.

In England, where Kepler's reputation was eclipsed by Newton, the Somnium was almost ignored, or read only in Latin. In Germany, interest in Kepler revived in the 19th Century when his collected works were edited by Fristch. Two English translations were published in the US, Lear/Kirkwood in 1965 and Rosen in 1967, are still under copyright and won't be in the public domain for many years.

Extracts from the best-known Rosen translation and Lear translation, both first published in the 1960s, can be found on Google Books. But the online samples do not include the storyline of Kepler's Somnium itself, only the introductory essays by the translators.

The English text of the Somnium on the Frosty Dew website are copied from the sleeve notes for the Mannheim Steamroller 1983 album Fresh Aire V, which was inspired by Kepler's Somnium. Translated by Normand Raymond Faladeau, S.S.S, who died in 2004, this English translation also is still under copyright and will not be in the public domain for many years. It looks like Frosty Dew have no copyright at all to the Faladeau translation.

You can read a new English translation of Kepler's Somnium at http://somniumproject.wordpress.com and follow @SomniumProject on twitter for line-by-line tweets from the full text of the story. More on the origins of Kepler's Somnium and other early science fiction: http://somniumproject.wordpress.com/faq/


There seems to be an English translation available online at http://frostydrew.org/papers.dc/papers/paper-somnium/pss-fdo/ but the date and license aren't clear.

The Latin text is available as part of Opera Omnia (Complete Works), Vol. 8, Part 1 at https://archive.org/details/operaomniaedidit81kepluoft in various formats, although not always properly OCR'd probably.

  • Very helpful the Latin work seems to be clearly PD, I am not sure the frostydrew publication is PD/CC at first it read like a CC release but this looks like it only covers the intro by 'Les Coleman' the translation looks like the work of 'Reverand Normand Raymond Faladeau, S.S.S.'. I have not yet found the original license for it, looks like his life was (1923-2004). Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 11:59

Falardeau's MA Thesis of 1960 includes a translation: "The Somnium Astronomicum of Johann Kepler Translated, with Some Observations on Various Sources". Found here (PDF top left "View/Open"):

  • As a Thesis written in the US (Omaha, Nebraska), the work may not have been legally "published" in 1960 so a bit of research would be required to show if is public domain. At first glance US law implies the copyright remains until at least 2047. This is implied in the existing accepted answer. Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 12:38
  • +1 But this does add to the answer by Anym and my comment there. Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 14:46

There are several English translations available. You can find more information about the different translations and editions here:


  • Can you provide a summary here in case that link ever breaks?
    – amflare
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 18:42

There is a freely accessible interlinear translation of the Somnium narrative (not of Kepler's notes which make up over half the work) on my own site at https://linguae.weebly.com/somnium.html

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. The question was specifically seeking a public domain translation; can you attest that this translation is PD, or that you are releasing it to the public domain (and are entitled to do so)?
    – DavidW
    Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 12:45

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