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Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
London: B. Motte, 1726
First edition
PR3724 G7 1726

When Travels by “Lemuel Gulliver” was first published, only a few close friends knew that the real author was Jonathan Swift, the Dean of the Anglican St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. Swift, a native Dubliner, was involved in several political controversies during his lifetime, particularly in relation to the treatment of the Irish by the English.

Travels was a none-too-subtle, bitter satire of English royalty, politicians, scientists, and historians. Styled after popular travel and exploration narratives of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the imaginative storytelling lambastes the much-lauded human reason of the Enlightenment. In Travels, Swift suggests that no change in governmental form would ever effect any lasting change in political behavior. Mankind, never noble for long under any circumstances, would always face the same unequivocal self: full of greed, excess, corruption, exploitation, violence, and decadence.

Benjamin Motte, a London printer, received an anonymous letter requesting that “Captain Gulliver’s” memoirs be published. A manuscript, probably copied in a hand other than Swift’s, was delivered, and one short month later, the book went on sale, after the publisher negotiated the softening of several passages. The book’s first printing sold out in a week. The combination of deadpan reporting, exotic experiences, and jaundiced backward glances at English society made the book an immediate success. Thus, the successful publication of a book politically loaded in a time before freedom of the press was but a gleam in a few revolutionary’s eyes.

The frontispiece is a fine example of eighteenth-century English book illustration. The engraved portrait of Swift is by John Sturt and William Sheppard (II?). University of Utah copy (“Teerlink B” edition) gift from Robert Steensma, second University of Utah copy (“Teerlink AA” edition) gift of Anonymous.