First edition of Gulliver's Travels, 1726


Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels was first published in 1726 under the title Travels into several Remote Nations of the World. The fantastical narrative was initially presented as a factual account written by ‘Lemuel Gulliver, first a surgeon, and then a captain of several ships’. Early editions of the book even included a fabricated portrait of Gulliver in his role as author.

Pirated maps

The maps included in this edition of Gulliver’s Travels blur fact and fiction even further. They superimpose the novel’s invented lands onto authentic geographical charts, which were pirated from the famous cartographer Herman Moll. These lands are depicted at the fringes of the world as Europeans understood it: for example, Houyhnhnms Land is shown just off the southern coast of what is now known as Australia.

Fact, fiction and a satire on scientific discovery

Gulliver’s repeated claims to authenticity in his first person narrative create distance between the text and its true author. This distance allowed Swift to craft a detailed satire of 18th-century English culture, social behaviours and human nature more broadly.

One of the many targets of Swift’s satire is the Royal Society and its obsession with achieving scientific progress through empirical experimentation (as championed by Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton). In Part 3 (‘A Voyage to Laputa’) Gulliver visits ‘the grand Academy of Lagado’ where he meets scientists, or ‘projectors’, and learns about their far-fetched schemes, which include: ‘a project for extracting Sun-Beams out of cucumbers’ (p. 63); construction of a machine capable of spelling out ‘a complete Body of all Arts and Sciences’ (pp. 71–74) a contraption not dissimilar to early prototypes of the computer; and a project to ‘shorten discourse’, with the aim of ‘entirely abolishing all Words whatsoever’ to create a ‘Universal language’ (pp. 75–79).[1]

[1] All quotations from Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, edited with an introduction by Claude Rawson and notes by Ian Higgins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Full title:
Travels into several Remote Nations of the World. In four parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, first a surgeon, and then a captain of several ships. [By Jonathan Swift. With plates.]
1726, London
Book / Octavo / Engraving / Map / Image / Image
Jonathan Swift
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

Full catalogue details

Related articles

The Enlightenment

Article by:
Matthew White
Politics and religion, Language and ideas

The Enlightenment's emphasis on reason shaped philosophical, political and scientific discourse from the late 17th to the early 19th century. Matthew White traces the Enlightenment back to its roots in the aftermath of the Civil War, and forward to its effects on the present day.

The rise of the novel

Article by:
John Mullan
Rise of the novel, Politeness, sensibility and sentimentalism

John Mullan explains how the novel took shape in the 18th century with the works of Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding and Laurence Sterne, and the ways in which the book industry both shaped and responded to the new genre.

Print and perception: The literary careers of Margaret Cavendish and Katherine Philips

Article by:
Tamara Tubb
Gender and sexuality

Margaret Cavendish and Katherine Philips both wrote across a range of genres and achieved considerable success in their day. Tamara Tubb explores their different approaches to the difficulties of being a 17th-century female writer: Philips created a reserved and modest literary persona, presenting herself as the ideal woman of the time, while Cavendish openly challenged literary and feminine conventions.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

Gulliver’s Travels

Created by: Jonathan Swift

Gulliver’s Travels overview Gulliver’s Travels is a four-part prose travelogue, narrated by the ...