The Rare First Edition of Chaucer Issued by StoweGeoffrey Chaucer. The woorkes of Geffrey Chaucer, newly printed, with divers addicions, whiche were never in printe before: With the siege and destruccion of the worthy citee of Thebes, compiled by Jhon Lidgate, Monke of Berie. As in the table more plainly dooeth appere. [London: Imprinted...by Jhon Kyngston, for Jhon Wight, 1561]. Fifth edition, second issue, and the first edition edited by John Stowe. Approximately 11.75 x 8 inches. Folio in sixes. , 378 leaves. Black letter. Fifty-six lines, double columns. Large woodcut of Chaucer's arms on title, lacks divisional title on A1 ("The Caunterburie tales") but has divisional title on Aa1 ("The Romaunt of the Rose") each within a broad woodcut border showing the genealogy of the Houses of York and Lancaster down to Henry VIII (McKerrow and Ferguson 75), woodcut of a knight on horseback on the recto of B1. Decorative woodcut initials throughout. Eighteenth-century full mottled calf, covers double-ruled in gilt, spine expertly rebacked and double-ruled in gilt, with burgundy morocco gilt lettering label. Some wear to binding, especially at spine and corners. Title-page mounted with loss of publication information, marginal repairs and some tears and chipping to first eight leaves (there is a long tear on folio seven). Trimmed a bit close at the top margin, the final leaf of text transcribed in ink by an early hand onto the first binding black. Still, a very good copy of one of Western civilization's chief contributions to world literature.
"John Stowe, born 1525?, died 1605, was a London tailor. From 1560 on he devoted himself 'to the search of our famous antiquities,' and was an ardent book collector and copyist. His first publication was the Chaucer just described...The rest of his work was historical and antiquarian" (Hammond, pp. 121-22).
The majority of pieces added by Stowe to this work are spurious. There is an earlier issue of the same date (STC 5075), which differs as follows: the title is within a woodcut border, the top of which represents a king sitting in council, and in the Prologue there are twenty-two woodcuts of the Pilgrims (thus there are fourteen preliminary leaves instead of ten). Probably because the blocks were so worn, the preliminary leaves were reprinted in the second issue without any illustrations.
Grolier, Langland to Wither, 42. Hammond, pp. 119-122. Pforzheimer 176 note. STC 5076.
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