Abbreviated title
Gulliver's Travels
JSA Identification Number
11_1_1_1
Teerink/Scouten Number
289
ESTC Number
T139451
Copy and its Location
CUL , Williams 229
Publisher and Printer
Travels into several remote nations of the world. In four parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, first a surgeon, and then a captain of several ships, Vol. 1, pp .
London, Motte, Benjamin, 1726.

Commentary

This is the first volume of the first edition of Gulliver’s Travels, containing the voyages to Lilliput and Brobdingnag. The edition as a whole was printed in London for Benjamin Motte by five printers who took different sections of the text: Edward Say (first sheet), Henry Woodfall (rest of Part I), James Bettenham (Part II), William Pearson (Part III except the final two sheets), and Jane Ilive (rest of Part III, and Part IV). Swift took elaborate steps to maintain his anonymity, and had set off on the return journey to Ireland by the time the parcel containing the manuscript was left on Motte’s doorstep.

The nature and quality of the text of the first edition is disputed. Swift says in letters that Motte had ‘mingld and mangled’ his text. His friend Charles Ford wrote to Motte (posing as a friend of someone rumoured to be the author) with a list of literal mistakes along with complaints about some passages. He also prepared an interleaved copy of this edition (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum) in which the literal errors were corrected in the margins and the longer passages were entered on interleaved blank pages. These passages (except for the Lindalino episode, referring to the affair of Wood’s halfpence, which appears in no lifetime edition) had generally been taken as restorations of the censored text, but in the early 1980s F. P. Lock argued with stamina and ingenuity that they were later revisions. Michael Treadwell has since revealed that Revd. Andrew Tooke, referred to by Swift as the incompetent reviser of the text, was a man with a track record of revising others’ work, who also had a financial interest in Motte’s business. In addition, there are two cancels in the second volume at the same points as the major interleaves, suggestive (though not proof) of interference with the text. In my view, an open-minded reading of the passages replaced by the interleaved material suggests Tooke’s bungling attempt to avoid giving any political offence.

This first edition is attractively printed. There are a few mistakes as a result of Motte’s haste in publishing a work (he was to pay £200 for the copy and would not have wanted material hanging around to be pirated), but the printing was from a transcription of Swift’s original manuscript and probably closely reflects the original writing, except in those passages that were censored. For those it is necessary to turn to Faulkner’s edition in volume III of the 1735 Works.

Benjamin Motte, Jr.’s father was a printer and a friend of Swift’s bookseller, Benjamin Tooke. He had intellectual interests, like his son, who published an Abridgement of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Motte, Sr., died in 1710 and Motte, Jr., took over the printing business from his mother when he came of age in 1715. He became a bookseller at the end of 1723 or the beginning of 1724, when he joined the Tooke business as a partner. Benjamin Tooke, Jr., had died in May 1723, leaving his bookselling business to his brother Samuel but a financial interest to an older brother, Revd. Andrew Tooke, who was soon to become the censor of Gulliver’s Travels. Benjamin Motte joined Samuel Tooke in partnership shortly afterwards; perhaps he was helping out family friends, but it proved an expensive move. Samuel Tooke died in December 1724, leaving Motte in charge of the business, but presumably with the financial responsibility for Samuel’s share of it as well as his own. When Andrew Tooke died in January 1732, Motte owed him £1,645. Motte’s financial problems with Gulliver’s Travels and the Miscellanies should be seen against this background. Motte gave up his Aldersgate printing house in 1723 or 1724; he bound Charles Bathurst as apprentice for the large sum of £80 in 1727; he took Bathurst into partnership in 1734; he died intestate in April 1738; Bathurst carried on the business until he died in 1786. All my information on Motte comes from the innovative research of Michael Treadwell.

References: The Prose Writings of Jonathan Swift, ed. Herbert Davis and others, 16 vols. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1939-74), vol. xi; Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age, 3 vols. (London: Methuen, 1962-83), vol. iii, pp. 442-72, 497-508; Gulliver’s Travels, ed. Claude Rawson and Ian Higgins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); F. P. Lock, The Politics of Gulliver’s Travels (Oxford, 1980), pp. 66-88; F. P. Lock, ‘The Text of Gulliver’s Travels’, Modern Language Review, 76 (1981), 513-33; Michael Treadwell, ‘Benjamin Motte, Andrew Tooke and Gulliver’s Travels’, in Proceedings of the First Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift, ed. Hermann J. Real and Heinz J. Vienken (München: Wilhelm Fink, 1985), 287-304; Michael Treadwell, ‘The Text of Gulliver’s Travels, Again’, Swift Studies, 10 (1995), 62-79; Michael Treadwell, ‘Observations on the printing of Motte’s Octavo Editions of Gulliver’s Travels’, in Reading Swift: Papers from the Third Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift, ed. Hermann J. Real and Helgard Stöver-Leidig (München: Wilhelm Fink, 1998), 157-77.