The Battle of the Books

“A prose satire by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), written in 1697 and published in 1704. The complete title, A Full and True Account of the Battle Fought Last Friday, between the Ancient and Modern Books in St. James’s Library, more or less explains the gist of the piece. Swift was disinterestedly mocking the contemporary debate as to the relative merits of the ancient and modern authors. In Swift’s fantasy, Plato, Homer, Euclid, and Virgil are ranged against moderns such as Dryden, Hobbes, Milton, and Descartes. The work ends while the outcome is still uncertain.

‘Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders

do generally discover everybody’s face but their own’”

Jonathan Swift, The Battle of the Books, preface

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

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