Description

    The 1598 First Speght Edition of Chaucer

    Ge[o]ffrey Chaucer. The Works of our Antient and Learned English Poet, Geffrey Chavcer, newly Printed. In this impression you shall find these Additions. 1 His Portraiture and Progenie shewed. 2 His Life collected. 3 Arguments to euery Booke gathered. 4 Old and obscure words explaned. 5 Authors by him cited, declared. 6 Difficulties opened. 7 Two Bookes of his, neuer before Printed. London: [by Adam Islip] Impensis Geor. Bishop, 1598.

    First Speght edition of Chaucer, first issue, with the Bishop imprint. Small folio. Complete, with the rare copper-plate portrait of "The Progenie of Geffrey Chaucer" after Hoccleve, the first engraved portrait of Chaucer. Double-column text in black. Elaborate woodcut title border, full-page woodcut facing first leaf of the The Knights Tale, intricate woodcut border repeated on sectional title pages to The Canterbury Tales, The Romaunt of the Rose and The Story of Thebes. Numerous woodcut initials and head-and tailpieces throughout.

    Early vellum with yapp edges. Later endpapers. Leather ties. Housed in a custom maroon half-morocco slipcase with gilt spine titles. Moderate wear to the vellum. Binding neatly rebacked. Bookplate of Edward King Tenison affixed to the front pastedown. Early unobtrusive previous owner's signatures to the title page and the last blank leaf. Minimal scattered foxing. Closed tear on 3G6 extending across six lines of text. Small amount of paper loss to the bottom corner of the first page of the Canterbury Tales text, margin and top corner of 26, bottom corner of 108, and a closed marginal tear to 13; no text affected. Faint marginal dampstaining to the fore-edge of the first few leaves and the bottom edge of most pages, not affecting any text. Light even toning, but overall, a beautiful, clean copy.

    "Except for Shakespeare, Chaucer is foremost among writers in the English language... Reading Chaucer or his few rivals in literature since the ancients - Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare - can have the happy result of restoring perspectives that all of us may be tempted to lose as we face the onslaught of instant masterpieces that threatens us at this moment when cultural justice is at work, enforcing the exile of aesthetic considerations. ... What gave Chaucer the power so to represent his persons as to make them permanent?" (Harold Bloom: The Western Canon, p. 105)

    "This is the first edition edited by Speght who had the assistance of John Stowe, Francis Thynne, Francis Beaumont, the elder, and Robert Glover. The most remarkable feature of this edition is the glossary which was largely the editor's production and was the main object of Francis Thynne's Animadversions" (Pforzheimer 177).

    Pforzheimer 177. Lowndes, 425. Hammond, 1220. STC 5077. Grolier, 35.


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    October, 2009
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