"THEY WILL WONDERFULLY MEND THE WORLD": RARE FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, OF SWIFT'S GULLIVER'S TRAVELS—AN EXTRAORDINARY COPY IN CONTEMPORARY CALF
SWIFT, Jonathan. Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World. In four parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships… London: Printed for Benj. Motte, 1726. Two volumes. Octavo, contemporary full brown calf, raised bands, later morocco spine labels (late 18th- to early 19th-century). Housed together in a custom clamshell box. $182,000.
An exceptional copy of one of the scarcest and most desirable books in all of English literature, with engraved frontispiece portrait of Gulliver, six plates (four maps and two plans), in beautiful, unrestored, full contemporary calf bindings. Exceptionally rare in first issue, and most rare and desirable in contemporary bindings. Almost never seen in such beautiful condition.
A classic "at once a favorite book of children and a summary of bitter scorn for mankind," Swift's masterpiece will "last as long as the language, because it describes the vices of man in all nations" (DNB). "A remarkable feat in the creation of imaginary worlds as a vehicle for satire upon the political and religious establishments of the day" (Clute & Grant, 914). "Gulliver's Travels has given Swift an immortality beyond temporary fame… For every edition designed for the reader with an eye to the historical background, 20 have appeared, abridged or adapted, for readers who care nothing for the satire and enjoy it as a first-class story" (PMM 185). "Of all Swift's writings it best shows the merits of his mind and his gifts of expression… It is important to realize that it could be written only by one who had the highest ideals for human achievement and who despaired of the achieving" (Baugh et al., 865-66)—although Swift himself expressed this hope for his "Travells" to a friend: "They are admirable Things, and will wonderfully mend the world" (Rothschild 2104). "Swift was just short of sixty when the work appeared which was to pluck his name from the roster of 18th-century political pamphleteers and place it among the elect. He had begun to write it many years before, not as something to be tossed off and hurled into the thick of just one more partisan scrimmage, but as a general, all-embracing satiric survey of mankind that could take much time in the making…" (Winterich). First published October 28, 1726. "John Gay wrote Swift that the whole impression sold in a week" (Winterich, 215). This copy is the extremely rare first edition, first issue (Teerink "A"), with "subsidies" on Part I, 35.5; Part III, page 74 misnumbered "44" and all other necessary points. Frontispiece in second state (Teerink's state 2a), with Latin inscription on tablet and vertical chain lines as is usual with many first state copies. Teerink 290. Grolier 100 42. Anatomy of Wonder II-1114. Fantasy and Horror 2-55. Armorial bookplate (Bedingfeld); morocco bookplate (Carlebach). The 1948 Carlebach sale catalogue was titled "First Editions, Chiefly Eighteenth-Century English Authors in Original Bindings and Fine Condition." This superb copy certainly fits those criteria.
Text and plates clean and fine. A few small splits to joints near spine ends, unrestored contemporary bindings sound. A splendid and exceptionally desirable first-issue copy of this highspot of literature.