During a stay in Antwerp in 1515, Sir Thomas More began drafting a literary work that described a self-contained society on a fictional island. He coined the term “utopia” based on the ancient Greek term ou-topos, meaning “no place.” Both playful and serious, rooted in satire but also exploring complex philosophical ideas, the text was edited by his friend Erasmus and first published in Antwerp in 1516. The revised Basel edition, on view here, was published by Johann Froben under the continued guidance of Erasmus. It included a new map showing a bird’s-eye view of the island designed by Hans Holbein’s older brother, Ambrosius, and reused a title page border that Hans designed in 1516.

Sir Thomas More (1478–1535)
Woodcut title page border by Hans Hermann (active 1516–23), after a design by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543)
Basel: Johann Froben, November and December 1518
The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan, 1912; PML 19444