La Haye, Henri Scheurleer, 1732.
2 volumes 12mo [161 x 95 mm] of: I/ (2) bl.ll., 1 frontispiece, (11) ll., 300 pp., (12), 6 engravings out of pagination; II/ (2) bl.ll., (7) ll., 286 pp., (10), 1 engraving, (1) bl.l. Red morocco, triple gilt fillet on the covers, spine ribbed and finely decorated, gilt inner border, gilt over marbled edges. Contemporary binding.
Precious edition, “the best one” (Brunet), of this famous satire in prose by Swift. Brunet, V, 603; Cohen, Guide de l’amateur de livres à gravures, 964, mentions only 6 engravings.
A Tale of a Tub was published in London in 1704. The explanation of the title is given in the foreword: it comes from the habit sailors have, when they meet a whale, to throw at it an empty tub to divert it from attacking the ship; similarly this satire would like to divert the attacks made by “the leviathan” and the spirits of the time against the weak aspects of religion and the government.
Thus, Swift denounces the events of the Roman church symbolized by Peter, as well as the ones of the Anglican church, symbolized by Martin (Martin Luther), as the dissidents symbolized by Jack (that is to say Calvin). The story is interrupted with fascinating deflections meant to parody erudite writers and polemists. This work, one of the most penetrating written by Swift, will provide skeptics with an obvious inspiration during all the XVIIIth century.
The very original illustration comprises 1 large engraved frontispiece depicting a whale, 7 engravings out of pagination, unsigned, 1 fleuron on each of the titles and a banner with arms on the top A 3rd volume without illustration called Traité des dissensions was published in 1733.
“As a pamphleteer against the opposition and the government, he tore or crushed his opponents with his irony or his maxims, with a tone of judge, of sovereign, and of a tormenter. Man of the world and poet, he invented the atrocious poetry, the gloomy laugh, the nervous cheerfulness of bitter contrasts, and, while dragging around like an inevitable rag the mythological harness, he created his own poetry painting the harsh details of the trivial life, and the energy of the painful grotesque.” Taine.
A seducing copy of the best French edition of this important satirical novel, finely contemporary bound in red morocco.
Provenance: Beckford-Hamilton’s copy (n°2357 in the July 1883 sale’s catalogue).