Stage of the "Getting to Know Some Old Things Very Well" Project: optional extra
credit work in Special Collections
To participate in this extra
credit project, whose points will be added to the class-participation portion
(20%) of your final grade,
first read this
"over-view" web page that explains the project's purposes and provides important
training links. Then, contact me by email after you have made an
appointment with Tara Olivero, the Curator of Special Collections and Archives,
or her assistant, to examine and respond to one of the rare books below. The
investigative thread of this stage is the edition of Chaucer's manuscripts for
print in the Early Modern and Modern period.
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, none of the manuscripts of Chaucer's works
contains any "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. For example, page through the first few leaves of
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
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 to see what role they played in the evolution of the modern edition's
1) 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.
Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400
||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 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, : Printed by Adam Islip, at the charges of Bonham
||, 394,  leaves,  leaf of plates : ill., geneal.
tables, port. ; 32 cm. (fol. in 6s)
||Gothic type. Title within architectural border, with quote from
Chaucer above, and quote
from Ovid below. The Canterbury tales, The Romaunt of the rose, and
The story of Thebes: compiled by Iohn Lidgate, monke of Bury, are
each preceded by half-title within border showing the houses of York
and Lancaster, terminating in Henry VIII. The portrait of Chaucer, preceding the
life, has engraved border giving his "Progenie", with coats of arms,
||Many errors in numbering of leaves
||Initial leaf and final leaf are blank
||Leaf b1 signed c1; leaf [par.]3 signed A.iii
||Editor's dedication to Sir Robert Cecil signed: Tho. Speght
||Head- and tail-pieces; initials
||Other variants of the 1598 Chaucer
have Thomas Wight in place of Norton's name on the t.p., or have
imprint: Londini, Impensis Geor. Bishop, Anno. 1598. Cf. STC
||STC (2nd ed.)
Speght, Thomas, fl. 1600
Lydgate, John, 1370?-1451?
Siege of Thebes. 1598
||Siege of Thebes
- How many owners has this book had, that is, how many do you see evidence
for, and how many can you name? Can you tell more about who any of them
were, and were any of them historically important?
- What features of this book resemble those of a modern edition like the
Riverside Chaucer, and what features seem similar but strangely different, or
even completely different? Think about the book as a physical artifact,
as well as a collection of texts to be read. Comparison of Speght's
biography of Chaucer with that in the Norton Anthology or Riverside Chaucer
will be especially interesting. What sorts of things did Renaissance
readers think had happened to Geoffrey Chaucer that modern scholars know was
- What works are ascribed to Chaucer by Speght, and which of them do you
find in the Riverside Chaucer? What do you suppose accounts for
- Speght dedicates this edition to Sir Robert Cecil. What does he say
to Cecil in the dedication? Who was Cecil--what were his rank and status
and political connections? What is the relationship between Speght, the
editor, and Cecil, the noble patron?
- What is the modern scholarly opinion of Speght as an editor of Chaucer?
For one well-informed opinion, consult Derek Pearsall's chapter on Speght in
Paul G. Ruggiers, ed., Editing Chaucer: The Great Tradition (Norman,
Okla: Pilgrim, 1984), 71-92. 826.2
Speght Chaucer Images
2) Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. Thomas Urry, THE WORKS...three Tales are
Added...together with a Glossary...to the Whole is Prefixed the Author's Life...,
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.
Geoffrey, d. 1400
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
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
for Bernard Linot, 1721
||48 p., -626 p., 1 l.,
3-81  p., 1 l. : ill. ; 39 cm
||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
LC SUBJ HDG
Geoffrey, d. 1400. Works. 1721
English literature -- Early works to 1800
Thomas, Timothy, 1693 or 4-1751
Dart, John, d. 1730
Thomas, William, fl. 1721
- What does Urry's preface say about his method of editing Chaucer?
What does that suggest about the eighteenth-century readers' concerns, to
which the editor is appealing? Notice especially the overall
appearance of this edition, perhaps compared with your Norton Anthology
or Riverside Chaucer. What kind of book is this? If you
have examined the Speght Chaucer, how
would that compare with Speght's or a modern editor's methods?
- Compare the "front matter" (frontispiece, title page, dedicatory
material) and think about them as the editor's and printer's attempt
to "sell" the edition to the readers. What kinds of visual appeals are
being made, and do you find any of them at all unusual? Comparison
with the images of the Speght Chaucer front matter (linked above) may help
inform your eye.
- Comparing Speght's contents with Urry's, what do you see? What has
been added and what left out? When you compare Urry with the
Riverside Chaucer, how often was he fooled by spurious works and do you
see any pattern in that?
- Do you see evidence of ownership, owner's use of the volume, etc.?
- Is the binding original and do the pages appear to have been trimmed?
- What is the modern opinion of Urry's edition? For one
well-informed opinion, consult William L. Anderson's chapter on Speght in
Paul G. Ruggiers, ed., Editing Chaucer: The Great Tradition (Norman,
Okla: Pilgrim, 1984), 93-115. 826.2