Utopia: De optimo reip. statu, deque nova insula Utopia libellus… Epigrammata [with] Desiderius Erasmus. Epigrammata. Sir Thomas MORE.
Utopia: De optimo reip. statu, deque nova insula Utopia libellus… Epigrammata [with] Desiderius Erasmus. Epigrammata.
Utopia: De optimo reip. statu, deque nova insula Utopia libellus… Epigrammata [with] Desiderius Erasmus. Epigrammata.

Utopia…
Utopia: De optimo reip. statu, deque nova insula Utopia libellus… Epigrammata [with] Desiderius Erasmus. Epigrammata.

Basel: Johann Froben, March 1518.

Three parts in one volume, small quarto, in Roman, Greek, and 'Utopian' types (there is a page of the Utopian alphabet); full-page woodcut bird's-eye map of the island, three fine title surrounds (to Utopia, More's Epigrams and Erasmus' Epigrams) with another surround to the first page of More's Preface, the first by Ambrosius Holbein, the others by Hans Holbein; fine half-page woodcut vignette (dialogue in the garden with four figures including More and his hero Hythlodaye) at the start of the Utopia text by Ambrosius Holbein, woodcut historiated initials throughout by the two Holbeins, three large woodcut printer's devices; contemporary pigskin over wooden boards, lacks clasps, an excellent, well-margined copy in a quarter morocco case.

The Holbein edition of More's masterpiece

An outstanding copy of the great 1518 Froben edition, illustrated by the two Holbein brothers, of this celebrated landmark of philosophy and voyage history, and one of the greatest pieces of Renaissance literature. For 500 years More's towering work has influenced writers, explorers, artists and mapmakers, has been the progenitor for an entire genre, and is one of a handful of works to have never disappeared from public consciousness from the moment it was published.

An outstanding copy of the great 1518 Froben edition, illustrated by the two Holbein brothers, of this celebrated landmark of philosophy and voyage history, and one of the greatest pieces of Renaissance literature. For 500 years More's towering work has influenced writers, explorers, artists and mapmakers, has been the progenitor for an entire genre, and is one of a handful of works to have never disappeared from public consciousness from the moment it was published.

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More (1478-1535) was a statesman, humanist writer, advisor to Henry VIII and for several years Lord Chancellor, but his opposition to the Protestant Reformation and, ultimately, his refusal to countenance the King's annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, led to him being tried for treason and beheaded. Although he was a writer all his life, there is no question that Utopia was his greatest book. The basic plot is well known: while travelling with an English political delegation on the continent, Thomas More claims to have met a man called Raphael Hythlodaeus who had sailed three times with Vespucci to the Americas, but had jumped ship in Brazil, setting out on a private expedition further southward. At a location unknown to More (the author claims with mock exasperation that someone coughed when the precise location was announced), Hythlodaeus discovered the island of Utopia, an ideal society of goods shared in common, where religious tolerance is the norm and universal education is practiced.

People have endlessly debated every detail of More's book starting with the word itself (which could be taken to mean both "good place" and "nowhere") let alone the name "Hythlodaeus", which means something like "dispensing nonsense," but none can dispute its influence. Three hundred years before Oscar Wilde made his famous quip about how any 'map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at', the great chart-maker Ortelius actually printed a map of Utopia in 1595 or 1596 (the sole known surviving copy was purchased by the King Baudouin Foundation in the Netherlands in 2018).

The work was first published, with simpler woodcut illustrations, with the help of Erasmus in Louvain. It was partly because of the numerous errors in the second, Paris 1517 edition (which had no illustrations), that Erasmus again took control here, with the artistic support of the Holbeins, producing this first Froben edition, the third and essentially best of the early editions: printed in Basle, its publication was a collaboration of four key figures, More and Erasmus, together with Hans Holbein and his elder brother Ambrosius, also an accomplished artist but who died as a young man; he was responsible for the famous detailed woodcut map of Utopia produced for this edition, and for the 'Dialogue' woodcut with the portraits of the protagonists – Thomas More himself, John Clement, Raphael Hythlodaye, and Pieter Gillies. Between them the two brothers produced the general title to the work and the delightful woodcut title-borders as well as the historiated initial letters.

This edition was also important textually as it was the first to include More's revisions and Erasmus's Epigrammata, was the last edition published in More's lifetime, and is widely regarded as the standard text. (A "fourth" edition published nine months later at the end of 1518 was basically a reprint of this).

On the basis of locations noted by More's bibliographer Gibson, this also appears to be the rarest of the early editions. Gibson records thirteen copies of the first edition, eleven of the second, only six of this third edition, and twelve of the derivative fourth. A further thirteen copies located could not be specifically identified as third or fourth editions. No other edition would appear for another thirty years.

Adams, M1756; European Americana, 518/7; Gibson, 'St. Thomas More... with a Bibliography of Utopiana', 3; Isaac, 14177; Lewis, 808; Printing and the Mind of Man, 47 (first edition).

Price (AUD): $125,000.00  other currencies Ref: #4505061

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