The book begins with a short six-line poem, followed by a four-line poem and a letter of greetings from Thomas
, the author, to his friend Peter Giles
. The two poems, written by Utopians, describe Utopia as an ideal
Thomas More was the Under-sheriff of the City of London, in the service of King Henry VIII. More's friend,
Peter Giles, was a corrector at a printing press and a clerk of the city of Antwerp. The prefatory letter concerns
the printing and editing of the manuscript and also tells a story of how More first learned of the Utopians.
More recalls his meeting with Raphael Hythloday
, for it is Raphael who relayed the story of Utopia to More.
More has simply recorded what he has heard, striving to be as accurate as possible. In this regard, Peter Giles can
be of use for he was the one who first introduced More to Hythloday. In his letter, More apologizes for taking
such a long time to send the manuscript to Giles
nearly a year, when it was expected to take only six weeks.
More explains that his work has kept him very busy and when he comes home very later he must devote time to
his family. As a result, More has hardly any time left for himself. More is uncertain about a few small details, for
example, the span of a bridge that crosses the Utopian river of Anyder. More hopes that Giles might remember
the actual dimensions or perhaps for this and a few other questions, Giles might even make contact with Raphael
Hythloday. Laughably, there is one major question that does need to be addressed rather urgently: More does not
remember "in what part of that New World Utopia is located." The author confides that he is rather embarrassed
"not to know in which ocean the island lies," especially since he has devoted so much time and energy to
recounting less significant details.
There are a few individuals already prepared to go to Utopia including a theologian who would like to see the
island and meet its inhabitants. He intends to ask the Pope to be made the Bishop of the Utopians. More
concludes his letter expressing his hesitation to publish the work. Despite the good qualities of the work, Utopia
will still be exposed to the unnecessarily fierce commentary of critics. More wonders whether it will be
worthwhile in the end.
Throughout Utopia, More alludes to the scholarly and traditional literature of his period, also referencing earlier
Greek and Latin works. Almost immediately, Utopia presents itself as a book whose form is different form other
works. The full title of the work attests to this: "On the best form of a Commonwealth and on the New Island of
Utopia: a Truly Precious Book No Less Profitable than Delightful by the most Distinguished and Learned
Gentleman Thomas More, Citizen and Undersheriff of the Illustrious City of London." This book includes
several things: it presents philosophy as well as a travel narrative about a foreign place. It poses as history but it
is also a fictional adventure-story. Finally, parts of Utopia read much like a parable, aiming to improve the reader