In Search of Utopia. On the Trail of the Most Influential Book Ever Published in the Low Countries

(Derek Blyth) THE LOW COUNTRIES - 2016, № 24, PP. 114-123

In December 1516, thanks to help from Erasmus, the first edition of Thomas More’s Utopia came off Dirk Martens’ presses in the university town of Leuven. Originally published in Latin, the fable begins in Antwerp, where More bumps into Gillis, state secretary of the city, on his way from the Cathedral. Gillis introduces More to an old Portuguese seaman called Raphael Hythlodaeus who has recently returned from a four-year stay on the island of Utopia. Raphael reveals the existence of an ideal society on an island on the other side of the world where private property is abolished, men and women are treated equally and different religions are allowed to exist. More’s Utopia was an enormously disruptive book that raised the possibility of an orderly human society where life could be very different from the brutal reality of early 16th century Europe.

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