Important First Basel Edition of Sir Thomas More's Utopia

  • Utopia and Epigrammata.
  • Utopia and Epigrammata.
  • Utopia and Epigrammata.

Utopia and Epigrammata.


Item Number: 67077

Basel: Froben, 1518.

The first Basel edition (the third overall), the first with these illustrations, and the first edition of More’s Epigrams. Two parts (of three issued; the final part issued contained the Epigrams of Erasmus). Octavo, bound in full calf, gilt titles and tooling to the spine, all edges sprinkled red. Woodcut architectural title border by Hans Holbein on title, woodcut map and headpiece by Ambrosius Holbein, woodcut title border to More’s epigrams by Urs Graf. Henry Edward Bunbury’s copy with his bookplate, ownership inscription of John Burns, 1916. In excellent condition with only light toning and wear. An important early edition of More’s Utopia.

Written while Thomas More was a London lawyer, Utopia “inveighs against the new statesmanship of all-powerful autocracy and the new economics of large enclosures and the destruction of the old common-field agriculture, just as it pleads for religious tolerance and universal education… More had been born and brought up in the law, the most traditional and the most English of all professions: to him, human institutes were not a matter for radical, theoretical reform, but were organic things to which change came slowly. In Utopia More is concerned to show that the old, medieval institutes, if freed from abuse, are the best; not the new theoretic reforms, which he justly feared… Utopia is not, as often imagined, More’s ideal state: it exemplifies only the virtues of wisdom, fortitude, temperance and justice. It reflects the moral poverty of the states which More knew, whose Christian rulers should possess also the Christian virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity” (PMM 47). Through its invention of the word ‘utopia,’ a Greek pun meaning ‘no place’, “Moore’s Utopia has given its name to a whole genre of literature—Utopian literature—as well as to a way of thinking” (Bronowski & Mazlish, 44).

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