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  • Jonathan Swift first edition up 5.7% in Irish auction
  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • editionfirstJonathanSwift

Jonathan Swift first edition up 5.7% in Irish auction

A first edition copy of a rare work by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) has headlined a Dublin auction, which was held October 19-20.

Jonathan Swift Proposal for giving badges to beggars
Swift's proposal was actually adopted in Dublin, with poor results



The work, entitled A proposal for giving badges to the beggars in all the parishes of Dublin, is the first London edition, which was originally printed in 1737. It details the controversial proposal from Swift, which the auction house describes as being written with a "savage tone".

The Gulliver's Travels author was known for his love of walking the streets of Dublin and was reportedly disgusted by the beggars that got in his way. His proposal suggests that the beggars should be forced to wear badges that confined them to their own parish, and any that strayed outside of these limits could be whipped and returned.

Swift was a little more lenient on the "aged and infirm", stating that "it would be sufficient to give them nothing, and then they must starve".

Remarkably, Swift's degrading scheme for beggars was actually adopted in Dublin, and the archbishop soon distributed the badges. However, the city's beggars refused to wear them or concealed them from view and the idea was eventually scrapped.

The work is exceedingly rare, with the only copy of any edition previously auctioned in recent years being a Dublin printing that sold for more than £1,000 in 1980. The London printing in the present sale is a superb example in a stiff board slip case. It sold for €7,400 ($9,670), achieving a 5.7% increase on its €7,000 high estimate.  

Paul Fraser Collectibles has a fantastic selection of rare books and manuscripts currently available. For more of the latest news from auctions across the world, sign up to our free weekly newsletter.

  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • editionfirstJonathanSwift