Froissart’s Chronicles - The Bute Copy - In a Contemporary London Binding

Froissart, Jean (1338?-1410?); Bourchier, John, Lorde Berners (1467–1533), translator

Here begynneth the fyrst volum of Syr Iohan Froyssart: of the cronycles of Englande, Fraunce, Spayne, Portyngale, Scotlaude [sic], Bretayne, Flaunders: and other places adioynynge. Translated out of frenche into our materall [sic] Englysshe tonge, by Iohan Bouchier [sic] knyght lorde Berners: at the co[m]maundement of our moste highe redouted souerayne lorde kynge Henry the. viii. kynge of Englande Frau[n]ce, [and] Irelande defe[n]dour of the fayth and of the churche of Englande and also of Irelande in earth the supreme heade

London: In Fletestrete at the sygne of the George by. [Richard Redman, ca. 1535, and] Wyllyam Myddylton, 1542


[Bound with:]

Here begynneth the thirde and fourthe boke of sir Iohn̄ Froissart of the cronycles of Englande, Fraunce, Spaygne, Portyngale, Scotlande, Bretayne, Flaunders, and other places adioynyng, translated out of Frenche in to englysshe by Iohan Bourchier knyght lorde Berners, deputie generall of ye kynges towne of Calais and marchesse of the same, at the co[m]maundement of our most highe redouted souerayne lorde kyng Henry the eyght, kynge of Englande and of Fraüce [sic] [and] highe defender of the Christen faithe. [et]c

London: In Fletestrete by Rycharde Pynson, printer to the kynges moost noble grace, 1525

Folio: Two volumes bound as one: 30.5 x 21 cm. Vol. I: [10], CCC.xxii lvs. Collation: A6, B4, a-v6, aa-uu6, aaa-nnn6, ooo4. Vol. II: [8], CCC.xix [i.e. 326] lvs. Collation: a8, A-V, AAA-NNN6, OOO8

FIRST EDITION OF THE SECOND VOLUME. SECOND EDITION OF THE FIRST VOLUME. An excellent set, bound in contemporary London calf over beveled wooden boards, paneled in blind with two rolls (Oldham, Panel Bindings 504, pl. 34; and 913, pl. 54). With two brass clasps and catches, the spine in six compartments with raised bands, later lettering piece; rebacked. The contents are in excellent condition with very minor cosmetic blemishes. Vol. I with attractive woodcut title-border composed of seven ornamental woodcut blocks. The title of Vol. II has a woodcut border after Holbein (McKerrow & Ferguson 8). The full-page woodcut arms of Henry VIII appear on the verso of both title pages, and Pynson's full-page woodcut arms are on the verso of the colophon leaf in Vol. II. The text is set in black letter, in two columns, with historiated and criblé woodcut initials.

Provenance: Sir Philip Mainwaring, probably the Secretary for Ireland (1589–1661) (signature and note "pret:18s" on front free endpaper) — Sir Henry Mainwaring (eighteenth-century bookplate) — Rev. Thomas Corser, bought at his sale, Sotheby's, 17–20 March 1869, (pencil note) by John Wilkinson for William Tite (letter from Wilkinson to Tite dated ?20 March 1869 pasted in) — John Patrick Crichton Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute (bookplate on lower pastedown; sale, Christie's London, 15 March 1995, lot 109)

Chronicling the Anglo-French wars that took place between the years 1327 and 1400, Jean Froissart’s “Chroniques de France, d'Angleterre et des pais voisins” is an undisputed masterpiece of 14th c. chivalric literature. It was translated into English by John Bourchier, Lorde Berners (1467–1533) at the command of Henry VIII “to remind Englishmen that France was their traditional enemy and to inspire its readers to feats of glory on the battlefield. Pynson published the first volume of the Chronicles when Henry was once more claiming France as his rightful inheritance. The Crown almost certainly delayed the publication of the final part, describing the close of the Hundred Years’ War, to coincide with the signing of the peace treaty between England and France at Wolsey’s residence on 30 August 1525.”(Pamela Neville-Sington)

"The Chronicles were a new sort of history, fresh and lively and related with enthusiasm—a far cry from the dull heavy chronicles of earlier years. Lord Berner's translation ... succeeds in making an English classic from a French one." (Cambridge Guide to Literature)

“In the 1360s, the French poet and historian Jean Froissart lived in England as clerc de la chambre of Queen Philippa. These were important years for his development as a writer and it was during this period that he gained contacts and a clientele that remained influential throughout his life… In England Froissart met not only leading knights like Bartholomew, Lord Burghersh (d. 1369), at the royal court when Edward III was at the height of his powers, but also many important French prisoners from the battle of Poitiers and hostages for the treaty of Brétigny–Calais (1360), including Gui, count of Blois, a future patron. He personally witnessed the departure of Edward, the Black Prince, for Guyenne in 1362 and the return to captivity in London in February 1364 of Jean II of France, before accompanying the latter's body for burial in France two months later. He was at Dover in October 1364 when (a favourite ploy) he was able to interview the herald who brought news of the Anglo-Breton victory (29 September) at Auray in Brittany…

Froissart began the first prose recension of what was to become his Chronicle in the early 1370s. “By 1376 Froissart had begun a revision of book 1. As time passed he also extended the work's concluding date and, besides continuing to gather oral information, he drew on other written accounts like the Chandos herald's Life of the Black Prince or the Grandes Chroniques de France, and occasionally consulted administrative or diplomatic documents. This process of compilation, adaptation, and revision (partly reflecting changes in patronage or the interests of his intended audience, and gradually moving from a position largely sympathetic to the English cause to a more French standpoint) continued for thirty years, by which time Froissart had created a gigantic panorama of (chiefly martial) events in the British Isles, France, Spain, the Low Countries, and sometimes even further afield, from 1327 to 1400, totaling about 3 million words in all…

“It is accepted that following the completion of book 1 in 1373, book 2, covering the years 1377–85 (and so including Froissart's well-known account of the peasants' revolt), was written at the request of Gui, count of Blois (d. 1394), and was essentially finished in 1387. Book 3, containing some of the most dazzling passages of writing in the whole work and covering 1385–9, was completed between 1390 and 1392, while book 4, for the years 1389 to 1400, was finished about 1400. At the same time, a third recension of book 1, thoroughly reworked but only covering the period 1327 to 1350, was also finished c.1400.

“By this stage Froissart's considerable skills as an inventive and imaginative writer had been honed to perfection; strict accuracy of historical detail seldom stands in his way if he could shape a pithy phrase, mold an account or make a moralistic point for dramatic effect. Thus despite an often apparently artless simplicity, combined with cleverly observed descriptive or visual detail for verisimilitude and great subtlety of characterization, his narrative is deceptively sophisticated and demands careful attention to its many different registers if its full implications and meaning are to be understood.”(Michael Jones, ODNB)

Vol. I: STC 11396.5; ESTC S121320. Vol. II: STC 11397; ESTC S121319