First 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:  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  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 to see what role they played in the evolution of the modern edition's construction.

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.

Author Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400
Title Works. 1598
  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
Pub. info. London, : Printed by Adam Islip, at the charges of Bonham Norton., 1598
  Rare Book Room       Oversize PR1850 1598   LIB USE ONLY
Descript [28], 394, [14] leaves, [1] leaf of plates : ill., geneal. tables, port. ; 32 cm. (fol. in 6s)
Note 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, etc
  Many errors in numbering of leaves
  Signatures: a6b-c6[par.]4A-U62A-2T62U-2X82Y-4A64B8
  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.)
Alt author Speght, Thomas, fl. 1600
  Lydgate, John, 1370?-1451? Siege of Thebes. 1598
Alt title Siege of Thebes

Speght Chaucer Images

2)  Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. Thomas Urry, THE WORKS...three Tales are Added...together with a 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