Utopia: against the new statesmanship of all-powerful autocracy

More, Sir Thomas. De optimo reip. statu deque nova insula Utopia libellus vere aureus [...].

Basel, (Johann Froben, 1518).

4to. 162 pp., fol. 163-164, (2) pp. (a-s4 t6 u6, without the 'Epigrammata' announced on the title). With woodcut title border and a border in the text by Hans Holbein the younger, 2 woodcuts in the text (1 full-page) by Ambrosius Holbein, and 6 woodcut initials; printer's device on final page. Modern giltstamped full calf.


Rare third, revised edition (the first one printed in Basel) of the famous "ideal state" novel that gave its name to a whole literary genre. Edited by Erasmus of Rotterdam, whom More had sent the manuscript in 1516. The second part, about the ideal constitution for a state, was written first, while More was an envoy in Flanders in 1515, while part one was written only in 1516, after his return to England. The two woodcuts by Ambrosius Holbein, Hans's elder brother, include the famous bird's-eye view of the island of Utopia (a full-page illustration) and the charming scene showing the story's fictional traveller, Raphael Hythlodaeus, in discussion with More himself and his Antwerpian friend Peter Gilles (Aegidius), with More's young assistant John Clement (later to become a Royal Physician and More's son-in-law) approaching them. Like 'Gulliver's Travels', Utopia was written "as a tract for the times, to rub in the lesson of Erasmus; it inveighs against the new statesmanship of all-powerful autocracy and the new economics [...], just as it pleads for religious tolerance and universal education [...] More had all Swift's gift for utterly convincing romance: the beginning, when Rafael Hythlodaye recounts his voyages, has a vividness which draws the reader on into the political theory. [More] is a saint to the Catholic, and a predecessor of Marx to the Communist. His manifesto is and will be required reading for both, and for all shades of opinion between" (PMM).

Insignificant browning; endpapers somewhat fingerstained, but a beautiful, clean copy. Handwritten ownership of Gerard van Assendelft, dated 1603, at the top edge of the title-page.

VD 16, M 6299. Adams M 1756. Panzer VI, 205, 222. Isaac 14177. Heckethorn 100, 90. Bezzel (Erasmusdrucke) 912. Hieronymus 260. Kat. Basel 1960, 343, 341, 120f. Gibson 3. Van der Haeghen III, 41. Cf. PMM 47.

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