Auctions | May 28, 2021

First Edition of Gulliver’s Travels Leads Bonhams Sale

Courtesy of Bonhams

First Edition of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Estimate: $80,000-120,000

New York — The must-read novel of 1726 was an unsparing satirical work that ridiculed its author’s many bêtes noires and dealt a sideswipe at the contemporary fashion for travel writing. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift was an overnight success and has never lacked for readers since. A pillar of English literature, its withering dissection of human folly still carries a satirical punch centuries later. A very fine first edition of this biting masterpiece bound in calf shortly after publication leads Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in New York on Thursday 17 June. It is estimated at $80,000-120,000.

Courtesy of Bonhams

Bonhams Book specialist Darren Sutherland said: “When Swift published Gulliver’s Travels he declared that his intention was to vex the world rather than to divert it. The novel remains a Gold Standard of satire and anyone who relishes the sight of human absurdity mercilessly laid bare will find much to enjoy. This is an exceptionally fine copy of this extraordinary work, rarely seen in a contemporary binding.”

Oher highlights include:
    •    An exceedingly scarce, first edition of Virtudes del Indio by Juan de Palafox y Mendoza. This clandestinely published memorial was addressed to King Phillip IV of Spain by Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, bishop of Puebla (1639-49), the largest diocese in New Spain. It is a part humanitarian, part pragmatic defence of the Indians against unlawful cruelties, slanders and misrepresentations perpetrated against them by colonial Spaniards. Palafox was born illegitimate to noble parents but recognized by his father, the Marquis of Ariza in 1609. This afforded him a privileged life, the opportunity for advanced study, and eventually a position at court. He was ordained as a priest in 1629 and held increasingly powerful positions as a member of the Council of the Indies. In 1640, he was ordained as Bishop of Puebla. Concurrently, he also served as interim Archbishop of Mexico and even Viceroy, exposing him to the brutal realities of colonial politics which form the backdrop to Virtudes del Indio. This is almost certainly the scarcest book of such importance on the market concerning colonial Mexico, and not present in numerous prestigious institutional collections. Estimate: $80,000-120,000.
    •    First appearance in America of America (My country ‘tis of thee). Included in Urania: A Choice Collection of Psalm-tunes, Anthems and Hymns. Adapted to the Use of Churches, and Private Families. Complied by James Lyon and printed in 1761, this is the first recorded American appearance of the music later used as the tune for America (My country ‘tis of thee) written in 1831 by Samuel Francis Smith. Urania is the first book of printed music by an American. Estimate: $20,000-30,000