With 23 Woodcuts of the Canterbury Pilgrims

Chaucer, Geoffrey (d. 1400)

The Workes of Geffrey Chaucer, newlie printed, with divers addicions, whiche were never in print 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 doeth appere.

London: John Kyngston for John Wight, 1561


Folio: 33 x 22 cm. [14], ccclxxviij leaves. Collation: [fleuron]⁴ [Maltese cross]⁶ A⁴, B-V⁶, 2A-2P⁶, ²Q-T⁶, ²V-X⁸, ²Y-Z⁶, 3A-3T⁶, 3V⁸. Leaves 03/4 reversed. Complete.

FIFTH COLLECTED EDITION of the works, with an additional 20 poems.

This is the first of three issues. It is the only one illustrated with the 23 woodcut illustrations of the pilgrims.

A fine copy bound in later calf incorporating the original blind-tooled English calfskin boards. With 3 woodcut title borders. Title laid down and slightly frayed at edges, with a contemporary ownership inscription at the head, partly canceled in ink. Small wormholes to first few signatures and in the latter part of the volume. Leaf D6 lightly browned, small tear in leaf F3, corner tear to leaf E3, extreme edge of blank lower corner of signature G snipped, small stains on N1-2. Some stains on signatures Ee and Ff, portion of blank margin of leaf Ii2 torn away, Oo5 corner tear, final 2 leaves strengthened in gutter.

The general title page has an elaborate woodcut border incorporating an image of Edward VI and Richard Grafton's device (McKerrow & Ferguson 67). The woodcut borders (McKerrow & Ferguson 75) used for "Canterbury Tales" and "The Romance of the Rose" depict the genealogies of the Houses of York and Lancaster, culminating with Henry VIII. The 22 woodcut illustrations show the different pilgrims from the "Canterbury Tales." An additional woodcut of the knight on horseback introduces the "Knight's Tale."

Provenance: Daniel Dun (early signature on title) – Thomas Newton (signature dated 24 April 1576) – Richard Heigham (signature dated 1625) – John William Pease (bookplates) – Lucy Anne Pease (bookplate) – Howard Pease (bookplate) – Pease family (bookplate).

There were two series of woodcut illustrations used in 15thand 16thc. editions of the "Canterbury Tales": one by William Caxton, used in his 1483 edition, in 1498 by Wynkyn de Worde, and the 1532 and 1542 editions of the "Works". The second set, modeled on Caxton's, was made for Richard Pynson's 1492 edition of the "Tales". For the second Pynson edition (1526), some of the original 1492 blocks were used while others were re-cut on new blocks. It is this group of illustrations that appear in the 1561 edition.For an in-depth discussion of all of the Chaucer woodcuts, seeDavid Carlson's two studies (bibliography below.)

This edition, edited by the historian John Stow (Stowe) (1524/5-1605), marks the first appearance of 20 poems, some spurious, others genuine, by Chaucer and others, including John Lydgate's "Story of Thebes" (explicitly designed by Lydgate as a direct imitation and continuation of the "Canterbury Tales"), and Chaucer's "Adam Scriveyn", the source of which is a manuscript in the hand of the scribe and bibliophile John Shirley, subsequently owned and annotated by Stow (See Dane and Lerer, p. 473)

Pforzheimer 176; ESTC S107206 (STC 5075); Langland to Wither, 42; Literature: E.P. Hammond, Chaucer, p. 119-122; David Carlson, "Woodcut Illustrations of the Canterbury Tales, 1483-1602", The Library, Vol. s6-19, Issue 1 (1 March, 1997), pages 25-67; David Carlson, "Woodcut Illustrations in Early Printed Editions of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales", in Chaucer Illustrated: Five Hundred Years of The Canterbury Tales in Pictures; Joe Dane, "Press-Variants in John Stow's Chaucer (1561) and the Text of Adam Scriveyn" (with Seth Lerer). Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 11 (1999): 468-79.