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with the frontispiece portrait in the 1st state

Gulliver’s Travels

Swift, Jonathan

(London, 1726)

2 vols. 1st edition, 1st printing, Terrink’s A (Terrink’s AA and B are reprints), with the 1st state portrait frontispiece (no lettering around the oval frame), and only the first 50 sets off the press had the portrait in the 1st state (50 of the slightly later large paper copies, hereafter abbreviated “l.p.” also had the 1st state portrait, but copies of our regular paper issue, hereafter called “trade” not only precede it, but are rarer. See paragraph 2 right after “Reference” for corroboration of this priority). Lush 19th century full green morocco (levant), gilt inner dentelles, edges gilt, signed in gilt by Wallis, spines faded, 2 inner blank margins indiscernibly strengthened at the time of binding, else fine condition, a tall, clean, extraordinary copy, with all the divine beauty of differential calculus, and it’s a complete one with every map, plate and plan. Bound in at the back of vol. I is a key to the roman à clef (the anagrams used in the Lilliputian debates). No slipcase or box, and none seems needed, as our set is stately, fulfilling, and all quality, compared to indifferent sets with less life than a fried shrimp, but surrounded by a fancy slipcase, much in the same way that honeysuckle is planted around an outhouse. A highborn 1st edition, 25 times as rare as one of the later pretenders with the 2nd state portrait for twice the price, and when books are 25 times as rare for twice the price, it confirms that the bargains remain at the top of a highly inefficient book market, just don’t believe that such inefficiency will always be the norm, or that such books will always be available. And here’s a clear and unambiguous axiom that you can file under “Book Code.” The best copies of the greatest novels don’t always go up in value the fastest, but that’s the way to invest. Reference: Terrink, 289. Grolier/English, 42. Rothschild, 2104– 6. Printing and the Mind of Man, 185.

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Accepted without argument is that all copies (trade or l.p.) with the 1st state portrait were produced (printed) prior to all the copies with the 2nd state portrait. Addressing the priority of our trade issue with the 1st state portrait, versus the l.p. issue with the 1st state portrait, Rothschild (2105) states, “the large paper copies were probably issued later than those on ordinary paper…” His use of the word “probably” can be discounted as the false gentility of antiquarian caution, since all the physical evidence is one–sided. The issue window is tight because publication was Oct. 28, and all copies were sold out within a week but many typesetting changes between the 2 issues are obvious and unmask their sequence. For just 1 example, E8 in vol. II has the catchword corrected in both our trade issue and the l.p. issue, but in our trade issue it is a cancel whereas in the l.p. issue the correction was made in the press, so the leaf is integral. This same point serves to identify our trade issue as the 1st binding, since a cancel (like in our copy) is necessary to replace a leaf only when the sheets are already bound (or at least sewn). The correction in the l.p. copies could, imaginably, have been made in 2 ways, either before it was printed (likely), or if already printed but unbound, by reprinting signature E and then replacing the entire signature in the stacked but unbound sheets (less likely). Nonetheless, whichever way it was done, the sequence between the 2 issues remains the same, and there are other analogous points that inarguably point to the same conclusion.

Every era is a dying dream, and the spirit of the age is the very thing that’s changed by a great man. Lemuel Gulliver is a decent sort, hopeful, simple, direct and filled with goodwill, a literal minded scientist, sea captain, traveler, and doctor, a lover of detail, an alert observer, a deceptively matter–of–fact reporter, and like Crusoe before him, encouragingly resourceful, exactly the qualities admired by an 18th century audience (hey, I admire him). So, in the end, when he becomes an embittered misanthrope, hating the world and turning against everyone, the question is, why? The answer is that the edified are involved without being attached, and Jonathan Swift was not Lemuel Gulliver. The author liked individual man amply, but he was doubtful about humanity, angry at many academic institutions, and caustic about the Whig government, and it was not his intention that the character of Gulliver be heroic. Swift didn’t believe in depending on progress, the inevitable perfectibility of man, or the panacea promised by knowledge gained through reason and logic. But to deride the bourgeois is bourgeois, so he despised himself, yet esteemed himself as a self–despiser (all hate is self hate), and it was Gulliver who became his weapon (host and parasite) against the transition from the age of reason to the age of enlightenment, contrived to demonstrate the weaknesses permeating enlightenment’s values, as well as its fast denial of the intensity of that which is irrational in man.

Gulliver is the second oldest novel in English (after Robinson Crusoe, 1719) that is still being commonly read for entertainment, the only faithful and impartial test of a novel’s classic stature. Swift wrote it as a satire with a plotline packed tighter than a ballpark sausage, but there was a byproduct (pun), a remaking of fiction, educing Harold Pinter’s query: “Apart from the known and the unknown, what else is there?” What’s not fiction is that few 18th century novels are still widely read for diversion, so analysis is easy. Defoe’s Crusoe, Swift’s Gulliver, Fielding’s Tom Jones and Voltaire’s Candide come quickly to mind, but after those 4, there is no consensus. Leland’s Longsword is the first (or the seed for the first) historical romance, Walpole’s Castle of Otranto (Printing and the Mind of Man, 211) is generally anointed as the first gothic, and Lewis’ Monk is the first horror novel incorporating the supernatural, but after the devoted, nobody reads them anymore. Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons is still a tense exercise if you can muster the fortitude to read any novel fashioned as a series of letters, but former models like Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield, Sterne’s Tristram Shandy or Richardson’s Pamela, are decomposing rapidly, and sliding off the edge of the modern reader’s radar. So, it’s the same old story (truth often is the same old story). When a novel, like Gulliver’s Travels, remains immortal for 287 years, it must be seen as a feat unlikely to be duplicated by many books from the 20th (or 21st) century, even though modern novelists have the marked advantage of being able to stand on the shoulders of, not only, the 18th century giants (Defoe, Swift, Fielding and Voltaire), but also the 19th century like of Austen, Scott, Hugo, Dickens, Dumas, Bronte, Melville, Eliot, Carroll, Tolstoy, Twain, and Dostoyevsky. Accordingly, better books should be more plentiful, and easier to write, but read that to yourself quietly, as whoever is in charge of irony may be listening.

“Satire is a…glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” –Jonathan Swift

This book has it all, quality, significance, rarity, and beauty, and these are the 4 pillars of all antiques, though each breed (kind) of antique prioritizes the 4 in a different order. For books it starts with significance, since perfect 1st editions of unwanted books are worthless, raising the question, how should you estimate unwanted books? Or maybe I mean why?

And speaking of me. My ambition is to write wise and noble things, but in the meantime I am content to write about wise and noble books, and to write my small things about them, as if somehow (by proximity) what I was writing was wise and noble.

“I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together.” –Lennon/McCartney, I Am the Walrus

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