Voyages de Gulliver. by SWIFT, Jonathan (1667-1745).DESFONTAINES, Abbé Pierre François…

SWIFT, Jonathan (1667-1745).
DESFONTAINES, Abbé Pierre François Guyot (1685-1749), translator.

Voyages de Gulliver. Tome Premier [-Second]. Paris, Guérin, 1727.

First French Edition, First Issue. Two volumes in one, 12mo in eights and fours, pp. [vi], [vii]-xli, [v], 123, [1]; [125]-248; [vii], [i], 119, [1]; [121]-289, [3], with four engraved plates, unsigned, one to each part, in contemporary calf, sympathetically rebacked, spine gilt in compartments, red morocco label lettered in gilt, red edges, marbled endpapers, with the later bookplates of Henri Beraldi and La Goualante.

Gulliver's Travels was an overnight best-seller in France. Following swiftly on the publication of the English text in late October 1726, the first French language edition, by an anonymous translator, appeared in the Hague in January 1727. This Desfontaines translation followed some three months later, in April 1727. Although it was less faithful to the original, being heavily abridged and at times almost closer to an adaptation than a translation, it was in Desfontaines’ version that Gulliver took France by storm. This is the first issue of the first appearance of that translation and the first publication of Gulliver in France. The Privilège du Roy, advertised at the foot of the imprint, had been granted to Hypolite-Louis Guérin on 20th March 1727. On the following day he shared it with two other local printers: 'faisant part du present Privilege aux Sieurs Gabriel Martin & Jacques Guérin'. Accordingly, the same printing of this first edition appears with two other imprints on the titles of both volumes.
It was in this translation by Desfontaines’ that Swift’s work had a profound influence on French literature: ‘this shoddy but elegantly written version was repeatedly reissued in France well into the late 19th century, with a record 180 editions by the 1920s’ (Paul-Gabriel Boucé). Desfontaines went on to write his famous continuation, Le Nouveau Gulliver, which was also very popular and in turn saw translations into English, German and Italian. Graebar, who says that Desfontaines’ translation ‘outshines all later ones’, suggests that it was partly the abridged nature of Desfontaines’ version that ensured its success: ‘by reducing it to the expectations of his addressees, an approach that proved immediately as well as lastingly successful’.

OCLC lists twenty copies, but only Getty, DLC, Delware, Illinois, Harvard, Princeton and Morgan in America.

Cohen-de Ricci 210; not in Cioranescu; Teerink-Scouten 383.

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