Gulliver’s Travels is a complex work of adventure, satire, comedy and profound philosophical exploration. For this edition we approached the artist and writer Peter Suart, whose response is at once wickedly comic and engagingly cerebral.
Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts, purports to be the account of a voyage by a surgeon and captain, Lemuel Gulliver. In fact, this biting satire on contemporary society was the work of the Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift (1667–1745). A friend of the poet Alexander Pope and a member of the Scriblerus Club, which lampooned bad literature and scholarship, Swift was acknowledged as the greatest satirist of his age. He was the scourge of corrupt politicians and has been an inspiration for other writers from Voltaire to the present day.
Limited to 1,000 copies
Printed on Cordier Wove paper
Hand-printed etching, signed and numbered by the artist, and tipped onto a special limitation spread
17 colour plates and borders, numerous tailpieces, endpaper and binding designs all by Peter Suart
Titling calligraphy by Stephen Raw
Set in Founder’s Caslon
Gilded top edge
Presented in a solander box
Book size: 13" × 9¾"
A superb new limited edition of Jonathan Swift’s best-known work
‘It is universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery.’ JOHN GAY
In Gulliver’s Travels the narrator visits a range of fantastic lands, bearing such outlandish names as Brobdingnag and Glubbdubdrib, and meets an array of peoples, from the belligerent Lilliputians to the gentle Houyhnhnms. Through these imaginary societies, Swift makes a veiled
but unmistakable assault on contemporary institutions, including the legal profession, the press and the Whig government. First published in 1726 by a bookseller willing to risk the wrath of the authorities, Gulliver’s Travels was an overnight success, its first print run selling out within days. The book has never been out of print since.
‘For a time, he dictated the political opinions of the English nation’ SAMUEL JOHNSON
The humour, colour and lively adventures in Gulliver’s Travels have made it a favourite for generations, while its satire continues to resonate. The true brilliance of Swift’s vision is that his target is not just the establishment, but humanity in general. After listening to Gulliver’s description of human beings, the King of Brobdingnag declares, ‘I can only conclude the bulk
of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth’. By the end of the book, Gulliver heartily agrees with him.
A beautiful collectors' edition
Limited to just 1,000 copies, this publication from The Folio Society joins a series of newly illustrated collector’s editions of classic works. Peter Suart has created an extraordinary sequence of colour images, as well as numerous tailpieces. Each colour plate is tipped by hand onto a page printed with a golden border. The details of the edition are printed letterpress on the verso of a special limitation spread, and a hand-printed etching, signed and numbered by the artist, is tipped on the recto page. Each book is quarter-bound in vellum with vellum tips, and the spine is hand-blocked in 22-carat gold. The binding design, also by the artist, is blocked in three colours and gold foil.
The binding design of this collector’s edition encapsulates Peter Suart’s ingenious approach to the book. It portrays Gulliver seated on a globe. The giant wasps refer to his adventures in Brobdingnag, while his hat placed atop a mountain is an allusion to his name in Lilliput, ‘the man-mountain’. The harbours of the two cities are carefully drawn to spell out the two letters G and T, and Gulliver holds a diminutive effigy upon his hand, who holds one upon his hand – a figure of infinite recession that reminds us not only of the scale, but also of Swift’s numerous personae within the story.
Each copy in the edition contains a limitation page, printed letterpress. Opposite is a hand-printed etching, tipped onto the page. One thousand etchings have been hand-printed by the Pauper’s Press, a process which required several months to complete. Each print has been signed and numbered by the artist. In this etching, Gulliver stands astride a broken bridge – the link between the vile Yahoo on his right and the noble Houyhnhnm on his left. Suart plays with tricks of scale – a giant’s finger and thumb appear to snatch Gulliver, just as he himself holds a tiny figure. The picture’s composition subtly alludes to the famous frontispiece etching in Hobbes’s Leviathan, a major inspiration to Swift.
Illustrating Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver's Travels - Peter Suart interprets a satirical masterpiece
Every reader, young or old, is familiar with the image of the ‘giant’ Gulliver in the land of Lilliput: it is one of the most recognisable scenes in literature. But Lilliput is only one of the strange lands visited by Gulliver in Jonathan Swift’s masterpiece. After meeting the tiny but aggressive Lilliputians, Gulliver travels to the Land of Brobdingnag, where the inhabitants are giants 12 times his size. In his third voyage, Gulliver visits a number of strange worlds, including the flying island of Laputa, whose scientists conduct complex but pointless experiments. Gulliver’s final voyage is to the country of the Houyhnhnms, horses whose gentle civilisation is in stark contrast to the vile ape-like Yahoos, with their love of shiny rocks (diamonds), violence and greed. Gulliver comes to see all humans as Yahoos and returns home
feeling disgust for them all, even his wife and children. He prefers to spend his time in the stable
with his horses. Is Gulliver mad, or does he see humanity all too clearly?
Gulliver’s Travels is a complex, multi-layered work that can be read as adventure, satire, comedy and profound philosophical exploration of human nature and society. For this collector’s edition, The Folio Society approached the artist and writer Peter Suart, whose response is at once
wickedly comic and engagingly cerebral. Each painting provides clues and sly allusions – a visual
puzzle that will entertain and delight the reader. In total Suart has produced 17 watercolours,
numerous pen-and-ink tailpieces and one very special etching for the opening limitation spread.
Peter Suart is an illustrator, writer, performer and musician. He has illustrated several books for The Folio Society, including Nikolai Gogol’s Collected Stories and Robertson Davies’s The Deptford Trilogy. He divides his time between Sussex and the Far East.
A bold artistic interpretation
The Engine Translated
‘The Professor then desired me to observe, for he was going to set his Engine at work’
Among the many useless inventions and misapplied science which abound in Lagado (a colony of Laputa) is a machine ‘whereby the most ignorant Person … may write Books in Philosophy, Poetry, Politicks, Law, Mathematicks and Theology, without the least Assistance from Genius or Study.’ Through enormous effort, however, it creates only broken sentences. The words shown in this illustration are connected either with the themes of the book or with Swift’s life. The books of ‘broken sentences’ – shown bottom left – have titles such as ‘Goafer’s Truffles’, ‘Gaffer’s Trowels’ and ‘Gulf of Troubles’. Gulliver wears a suit made for him in Laputa. The pocket has been sewn upside down and the legs of the breeches are of different lengths: evidence of the Laputans’ lack of practical skills.
The flower of England's medicine, government and nobility
‘Our young Noblemen are bred from their
Childhood in Idleness and Luxury; that,
as soon as Years will permit, they consume
their Vigour, and contract odious
Diseases among lewd Females’
In Gulliver’s personal journey from naïve, hopeful young surgeon to misanthropist, few scenes are as telling as that in which he describes to the Houyhnhnms the state of England, and the various attributes of doctors, lawyers, ministers and aristocrats.
Suart’s cadaverous doctor is complete with bloodied fingernails and a young woman peering up his skirts with a magnifying glass. The figure signifying government has a gouty leg, a nose eaten away by syphilis, a bulging purse, and a further symbolic bulge. The effete aristocrat with dandified clothes keeps his hands in his pockets as if to show just how little work he does.
A castaway from reason with a pocket perspective
‘As I was looking about for a secure Landing-place, I saw a Sail to the North North-East’
The Houyhnhnms decide that Gulliver cannot remain with them. Desperate to avoid ‘European Yahoos’, Gulliver builds himself a canoe and sets off to find an uninhabited island.
Here Gulliver wears the rabbit-skin clothing which he has made for himself: the rabbit’s ears are left attached to simulate a horse’s, his hair is worn in a ponytail, and the shoes are fashioned to look almost like hooves. A horse’s head surmounts his mast. Gulliver searches for land using a telescope the wrong way round – a witty nod to the many shifts of scale in the book, which also shows the distortion with which Gulliver sees the world. The mermaids represent Esther Johnson and Esther Vanhomrigh, Swift’s friends (and perhaps lovers), whom he nicknamed Stella and Vanessa – thus making explicit the identification between author and protagonist.
Coming to rest in a strange land
‘To behold my Figure often in a Glass, and thus if possible habituate
myself by Time to tolerate the Sight of a human Creature’
At the end of the narrative, Gulliver returns home, but the company of humans disgusts him. He takes pains to conceal the whereabouts of the countries he has visited, in case they are invaded by colonisers.
Suart constructs a poignant image. On the wall is a picture of a centaur, emblem of Gulliver’s divided, impossible state; at his elbow is a little toy horse. He holds a bottle of lavender, to disguise the intolerable smell of his family, and a giant wasp sting, a poisonous souvenir of his travels. Through a closed window we see a touching embrace between Gulliver’s wife and child, a sunlit scene of physical affection in stark contrast to the grey isolation of Gulliver’s study.
"As mentioned in my review of 'The Ancient Mariner', I was so pleased with that that I did not intend to let any more such fine productions slip through my fingers. Again I'm delighted with this produc..." [read more]
"As mentioned in my review of 'The Ancient Mariner', I was so pleased with that that I did not intend to let any more such fine productions slip through my fingers. Again I'm delighted with this production of one of my favourite books which, I'm privileged to have read in first edition form as a child in my father's library. Next in line is the 'Just So Stories' which, given the popularity of Rudyard Kipling, will sell out fast." [hide full review]
Review by anon on 24th May 2013
"Gulliver's Travels is a wonderfully imaginative satire. It's hard to believe that in a little more than a decade, the book will be 300 years old! It's still poignant today. As to be expected, there ha..." [read more]
"Gulliver's Travels is a wonderfully imaginative satire. It's hard to believe that in a little more than a decade, the book will be 300 years old! It's still poignant today. As to be expected, there have been numerous illustrations and limited editions of Gulliver's Travels over the years. The most famous edition is arguably the illustrated edition of J.J. Grandville. However, there are other beautiful editions, and so I asked myself "Is the Folio Society edition something that will stand out from the other beautiful editions?" The answer: oh yes, indeed!
First, this book is nice and large! Unlike smaller editions (which are still beautiful), this is a hefty book, but not so large as to be unreadable in bed. Secondly, the cover is beautiful, and the Cordier Wove paper is sturdy, strong, and wonderful. The most striking aspect are of course the illustrations. First, there are "small" black and white illustrations (tailpieces) throughout the book. These are very nicely done, and reminiscent of the Grandville illustrations. However, the real treat here are the 17 full-colour illustrations which are hand-tipped. The illustrations are truly majestic, and of all the editions I have seen (and I have seen quite a few) are probably my favorite. The illustrations are both surreal and yet comical/cynical. I think Swift would have approved! I certainly do, and I give this my book my highest recommendation. Along with "The Wind in the Willows" Limited Edition, this is my favorite of the Folio Society editions done in this manner (the latest being "The Just So Stories"). As with other books in this limited edition series, you get a beautiful hand-printed etching signed and numbered by the artist, as well as a beautiful clamshell. Aside from the illustrations and overall quality of the book, I would also recommend it for the price. Sure, it's far from cheap, but to find a limited edition of comparable quality (such as the Rackham edition -which has the best illustrations after this edition in my opinion) in fine condition will cost in the thousands.
Bottom Lines: this book rightfully takes its place with other classic editions of this timeless work. Of all the editions I have seen (which include the Grandville and Rackham editions among others), these illustrations by Peter Suart are my favorite. One of my favorite limited editions." [hide full review]
Review by anon on 8th Nov 2012
"A fine edition, in which especially the illustrations are superlative."