Early Print Editions Project

       This project is intended to give you some hands-on (washed hands, of course!) experience working with one of several old Chaucer editions and translations by which English authors of the period 1598 to about 1800 would have known Chaucer's "works" and Chaucer as a historical poet.  You will get the most out of the experience if you take the time to properly prepare your mind by following the instructions immediately below.  Also, before you go to Special Collections, read this hyperlinked short page of instructions about how to handle archival materials.  Then, pick one of the available "early print editions" of Chaucer and call or email Special Collections and Archives (SCA) to arrange an appointment to work with it.  Suggestions about what to look for are included for each book.  A single one of those questions might be entirely enough to motivate your answer if you think carefully about it.  Seniors' reports are due by the Wednesday of exam week, and returning students' reports are due by the following Friday.  Extensions for returning students can be arranged, but senior grades are due much sooner.

        You may work in a small group of no more than two or three if you wish.  Sometimes, having more eyes on the object helps you all see it better.  Take reading/viewing notes in pencil while you are working in SCA, and write a report about your findings that you will send me by the time the final exam period is over. Because the assignment is meant to replace the fifth annotated bibliography assignment, use a good, thorough "bib"'s length as your guideline for how much writing I'm looking for, though if you go longer and better, you're in extra credit territory.  As always, if you get stuck or just cannot get started, please ask me for help.

       Begin by familiarizing yourself briefly with the manuscript orders in which vellum and paper manuscripts of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales have survived by consulting this web page and talking with the instructor: http://faculty.goucher.edu/eng330/ct_tale_orders.htm.  Especially note that the "families" of manuscripts from which the tale orders are reconstructed are composed of unique documents, each differing from the others in countless ways, including some fairly dramatic differences in which some of the tales occur.  Most importantly, all of the manuscripts of Chaucer's works contain no "front matter" or notes, the editorial guidance and aids modern students are used to encountering in the Norton Anthology or Riverside editions of Chaucer's works.  Short scribal notes, that the Riverside prints in italics, are the most reading aid manuscripts supply.  For example, page through the first few leaves of  the Oxford University Corpus Christi Manuscript 198, which begins in mid-sentence with the General Prologue description of the Knight's "not good" array in very faded ink at the top of the page.  (If you have trouble reading the faded letters, scroll down to the darker ink which picks up the Squire's description at "and karf biforne his fader atte table.")  If you want to see more images of medieval Chaucer MSS, see some of the library's printed facsimiles in the Goucher library collection.

        Next, look at the first leaves in digital facsimile of William Caxton's first printed edition ("editio princeps") of Canterbury Tales (London: 1476) or his second printed edition (London: 1483) at the British Library web site.  Note what Caxton does not give his readers that the Norton and Riverside editors give their readers before they begin reading Chaucer's works.  How does the presence of that editorial "apparatus" affect/shape readers' reception of what Chaucer wrote?

        Then, consult one of these rare printed editions in Goucher's Special Collections and examine their editorial apparatus, tale order and selection, and layout, to see what kind of "Chaucer," the works and the poet, the book presents to its readers.  How might that have affected Chaucer's reputation, his works' reception by later poets, and his influence on English poetry?

1)  The 1689 reprint of the Speght Chaucer edition (1598, 1602, 1687).  Though not in the Goucher Library collection, this book is available for research from my collection.  It probably is related to the 1598 edition below by its choice of which Chaucer texts to print, and much of the front matter (introduction, biographical note, etc.) and "hard word glossary" at the back.  The main question we need to answer is whether this Chaucer may be a "nondescript" edition  That is, it seems not to have been described in any of the official scholarly bibliographies of Chaucer editions.  In addition to this copy, I have been able to find evidence of the existence of just two more copies in online records.  It may be a new discovery of considerable importance, or it may just be a sort of "knock-off" of the 1687 edition.  Previously, according to Editing Chaucer: The Great Tradition (1987) and the Early English Short Title Catalog, the 1687 edition was the last printed in "black letter" or gothic type, and the last Renaissance Chaucer edition in Middle English.  The next one, Urry's 1721 edition, was printed in Roman type and involved a complete re-edition of Chaucer's works rather than reprinting Speght's 1598 edition without changes other than typographical errors.  The title page of my copy of the 1698 edition is distinctly different from the title page of the 1687 edition, which lists no printer or sellers, and includes the Arabic date "1687." 

        Two possibilities seem most likely to explain the appearance of the 1698 edition in only three copies. The most exciting and least likely explanation would be that the book represents a previously unknown setting of the type for Chaucer's works, with perhaps different front matter and glossing than the 1687 or other editions.  The more likely but still interesting explanation is that, two years after the 1687 printing, the booksellers still had enough unbound sheets left unsold to make up a small batch of "new" Chaucers, and paid to have a new title page run off to give the books sales appeal.  (Yes, I know you are shocked, as I once was, that deceptive marketing occurred even in the Renaissance printing business!)  If this is a true new edition, the easiest evidence to consult will be the ESTC record of the pagination and "signatures" (markers for the bookbinder at the bottom of the page.  The page count (720) is exactly the same for both editions, but this is what one would expect if the type were not reset, or if it were reset following the previous edition, letter-for-letter.  If you click on the link, you will note that the 1687 edition also has a mis-signed page, where the binder's signature should read "c1" but instead was set "d."  This, and the other signatures and pagination, would be the definitive bibliographic "points" to identify, in addition to other copy-specific features of the book as an artifact.

THE WORKS OF OUR ANCIENT, LEARNED, & EXCELLENT ENGLISH POET, JEFFREY CHAUCER: As They Have Lately Been Compar'd With The Beft Manufcripts; And Several Things Added, Never Before In Print. To Which Is Adjoyn'd, The Story Of The Siege Of Thebes, By John Lidgate, Monk Of Bury.

London: Printed by J.H. are to be ʃold by Samuel Crouch, in Cornhill, Mat- | thew Gelliflower and William Henʃhman in Weʃtminʃter-Hall, Abel Roper and | George Grafton in Fleet-Street, MDCLXXXIX


2)  The "Speght Chaucer," 1598.  This volume contains a wealth of evidence about how the Renaissance English reading public understood Chaucer, his works, his importance to English literature, and the Middle English language.  It would have been the most recent Chaucer edition available during the period when Shakespeare was adapting Chaucer's Troilus to create Troilus and Cressida (1601-2).  The initial two or three pages of the Speght Chaucer are extremely fragile.  Use great care with working with them.  When possible, prepare by examining the digital images (linked below) before you decide you need to handle those pages.

The workes of our antient and learned English poet, Geffrey Chaucer, newly printed : In this impression you shall find these additions. 1. His portraiture and progenie shewed. 2. His life collected. 3. Arguments to every booke gathered. 4. Old and obscure words explaned. 5. Authors by him cited, declared. 6. Difficulties opened. 7. Two bookes of his, never before printed

Works. 1598
Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400.
London : Printed by Adam Islip, at the charges of Thomas Wight, anno 1598.
LOCATION Call No. Status
Special Collections Oversize Vertical PR1850 1598   LIB USE ONLY
Alternate Titles
Siege of Thebes.
[28], 394, [14] leaves, [1] leaf of plates : ill., port., geneal. tables ; 32 cm. (fol.)
Signatures: [a]-c6 [pararaph]4 A-U6 Aa-Tt6 Uu-Xx8 Yy-4A6 4B8.
Edited by Tho. Speght.
Leaf b1 signed c1; leaf [par.]3 signed A.iii.
Other variants of the 1598 Chaucer have Bonham Norton in place of White's name on the t.p., or have imprint: Londini, Impensis Geor. Bishop, Anno. 1598. Cf. STC.
Price appears as £5 on second flyleaf, verso.
Etching depicting Chaucer and the Progenie of Gefffrey Chaucer signature b.
Includes John Lydgate's The siege of Thebes.
STC (2nd ed.), 5079.
ESTC, S111945.
Presentation inscription appears on third flyleaf, verso, A death-bed present from Henry Stothard F.S.A. to E.B. Price Sunday, 14 Feb. 1847. .
Former owner signatures on title page are crossed out by a later owner.
Autograph of H. Stothard appears on title page, recto.
Editor's dedication to Sir Robert Cecil signed: Tho. Speght.
Autograph appears above etching title Progenie of Gefffrey Chaucer, Hen: Crompton s Books 1666. .
Annotations appear on title page, verso.
Cat paw prints appear tracked across folios 68 and 69, apparently in ink.
Purchase; James Wilson Bright; 1926 41419
Inscribed to E.B Price from Henry Stothard F.S.A, on his deathbed. Sunday 14 Feb. 1847. Earlier inscriptions appear on the title page. 1599 and 1615. Names of those former owners are crossed out. Below appears Stothardís name and the year 1843. Henry Stothard was the son of Thomas Stothard (1755-1834) a painter and book illustrator who first apprenticed with a Huguenot silk weaver in London. He later joined the Royal Academy, exhibited his work throughout his life, but also took lucrative commissions in publishing and the industrial arts. His most famous commission was a painting for £60 of a scene from Chaucerís Pilgrimage to Canterbury. Stothard enjoyed consistent patronage during his lifetime. His work survives in abundance in the British Museum, British Library, Tate, and other collections. (See DNB entry by M.G. Sullivan).
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Speght Chaucer Images

3)  Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. Thomas Urry, THE WORKS...three Tales are Added...together with a Glossary...to the Whole is Prefixed the Author's Life..., 1721 

        NOTE: the "covers detached" descriptive note below is an important limitation on how you must work with the Urry Chaucer.  Ask for assistance in moving this extremely large, heavy book from its protective enclosure to a properly arranged foam book cradle.  Also ask for help when positioning the detached boards so that opening pages will not pull any of them loose from the binding.

Author Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400
Title The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer : compared with the former editions, and many valuable mss. out of which, three tales are added which were never before printed / by John Urry, student of Christ-Church, Oxon. deceased; together with a glossary by a student of the same College. To the whole is prefixed the author's life, newly written, and a preface, giving an account of this edition
Pub. Info. London: Printed for Bernard Linot, 1721
 Special Collections  Oversize PR1850 1721  LIB USE ONLY
Descript 48 p., [1]-626 p., 1 l., 3-81 [1] p., 1 l. : ill. ; 39 cm
Note The work was left unfinished at Urry's death, and the final revision and completion were intrusted to Timothy Thomas, who wrote the preface and glossary. The life of Chaucer was originally written by John Dart, but was revised and altered by William Thomas
  Bound in brown leather, stamped in gold. Covers detached
  From the library of Paul Louis Feiss
LC SUBJ HDG Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400. Works. 1721
  English literature -- Early works to 1800
Alt Author Urry, John, 1666-1715
  Thomas, Timothy, 1693 or 4-1751
  Dart, John, d. 1730
  Thomas, William, fl. 1721

4)  John Dryden, Fables Ancient and Modern: Translated into English from Homer, Ovid, Boccacce, and Chaucer . . . , 1713

Dryden, John, 1631-1700.
London : Printed for Jacob Tonson, at Shakespear's Head over-against Katherine-Street in the Strand, MDCCXIII [1713].
LOCATION Call No. Status
Special Collections PR3418 .F3 1713   LIB USE ONLY
[48], 550, [2] p., [1] leaf of plates : ill. (front.) ; 19 cm. (8vo)
Frontispiece engraving signed "P. L'Vergne"
Signatures: A⁸ a-b⁸ B-2M⁸ 2N⁴.
Preface -- Palamon and Arcite: or, The knight's tale [from Chaucer] -- To my honour'd kinsman, John Driden, of Chesterton -- Meleager and Atalanta, out of the eighth book of Ovid's Metamorphosis -- Sigismonda and Guiscardo, from Boccace -- Baucis and Philemon, out of the eighth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses -- Pygmalion and the statue, out of the tenth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses -- Cinyras and Myrrha, out of the tenth book.
ESTC T145034.
Purchase; James Wilson Bright; 1926; 41406
Provenance: Goucher copy has signature of "James W. Bright" on front free endpaper; signature of "John A. Worsop" appears on title page; The Knight's Tale has stanzas numbered in pencil.
Goucher copy rebound in red library buckram.
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5)  John Dryden, Fables Antient and Modern (1771 edition)

Fables antient and modern : translated into verse, from Homer, Ovid, Boccace and Chaucer: with original poems / by John Dryden Esq.

Dryden, John, 1631-1700.
Glasgow : Printed by Robert and Andrew Foulis, 1771.
LOCATION Call No. Status
Special Collections PR3418 .F3 1771 v.1  LIB USE ONLY
Special Collections PR3418 .F3 1771 v.2  LIB USE ONLY
2 v. ; 13 cm. (12mo)
Pagination: v.1: 243, [1] p.; v.2: 223, [1] p.
Signatures: v.1: A-U⁶ X≤ ; v.2: A⁴ B-T⁶.
v.1. Dedication to His Grace the Duke of Ormond. -- The preface. -- Poem to Her Grace the Dutchess of Ormond. -- Palamon and Arcite, or, The Knight's tale, from Chaucer. -- To my honoured kinsman John Dryden of Chesterton. -- Meleager and Atalanta, out of the eighth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses. -- Sigismonda and Guiscardo, from Boccace. -- Baucis and Philemon, out of the eighth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses. -- Pygmalion and the statute, out of the tenth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses. -- Cinyras and Myrrha, out of the tenth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses. -- Homer's Ilias.
v.2. The cock and the fox, or, The tale of the nun's priest, from Chaucer. -- Theodore and Honoria, from Boccace. -- Ceyx and Alcyone, out of the tenth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses. -- The flower and the leaf: or, The lady in the arbour, a vision out of Chaucer. -- Alexander's feast: or, The power of music. -- The twelfth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses wholly translated. -- The speeches of Ajax and Ulysses, from Ovid's Metamorphoses. -- The wife of Bath, her tale, from Chaucer. -- Of the Pythagorean philosophy, from Ovid's Metamorphoses. -- The character of a good parson imitated, from Chaucer, and enlarged. -- The monument of a fair maiden lady, who dy'd at the Bath. -- Cymon and Iphigenia, from Boccace.
Gaskell, Philip. Foulis Press, 525.
ESTC, T131621.
Purchase; James Wilson Bright; 1926; v.1, v.2: 44194, 44195
Goucher copy rebound in olive library cloth.
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