Abbreviated title
Gulliver's Travels
JSA Identification Number
Teerink/Scouten Number
293 (1)
ESTC Number
Copy and its Location
CUL , Williams 237
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. To which are prefix’d, several copies of verses explanatory and commendatory; never before printed, Vol. 1, pp .
London, Motte, Benjamin, 1727.


This is the first volume of the first properly revised London edition of Gulliver’s Travels. It has ‘The Second Edition’ and ‘The Second Edition, Corrected’ on its title pages. On 3 January 1727, Charles Ford wrote to Motte in the guise of someone who had read the book partly because there was a rumour that one of his friends was the author. He had been through it carefully, he said, and found ‘many gross Errors of the Press’. These he then listed, while in other places he said he was sure something had gone wrong and the author had been misrepresented. My own view is that Ford could see omissions and rewritings in these places through comparison with the manuscript, but that he couldn’t claim the authority to correct them without revealing Swift’s authorship, something he didn’t want to do because he and Swift were wary of government action. Motte presumably took a similar view of the passages in question and would have been unwilling to restore them even if he hadn’t destroyed the manuscript, as he probably had. In this revised edition, therefore, Motte corrected the mistakes in Ford’s list (all except three) but ignored the more general complaints. It was published on 4 May 1727, at which point Erasmus Lewis confirmed that Motte had met all his obligations

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 as well as his own. When Andrew Tooke died in December 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.