LE FEVRE, Raoul (fl. 1464). Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. Translated from French into English by William Caxton (c. 1420-1491). [Bruges:] William Caxton, [1473 or early 1474].

LE FEVRE, Raoul (fl. 1464). Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. Translated from French into English by William Caxton (c. 1420-1491). [Bruges:] William Caxton, [1473 or early 1474].

Chancery 2° (264 x 183mm). COLLATION: [1-1410 158] (1/1-4 lacking: first blank, title, translator's and author's prologues, heading to book I; 1/5r text, incipit: [W]Hat tyme alle the Children of Noe were sprad bi the Climates, 15/8v explicit: Thus endeth the first book of the recueyll or gadryng to geder of the historyes of Troye); [16-2410 258 266] (16/1r Hiere begynneth the seconde booke of the recueill of the historyes of Troye, that speketh of the prowesses of the stronge Hercules and of his deth etc., incipit: Howe hercules foughte ayenst thre lyons in the foreste of nemee, 26/5v translator's epilogue to the first two books: ... by the comandement of my said redoubtid lady duches of Bourgone ... whiche werke was begonne in Brugis, and contynued in gaunt And finysshid in Coleyn In ... the yere of our lord a thousand four honderd lxxi, 26/6r explicit: Thus endeth the seconde book, 26/6v blank); [27-3610] (27/1r In these two bokes precedente. we have by the helpe of god tretyd of the two first destruccyons of Troye ... Now in the thirde and laste book god to fore. we shall saie ... how for the ravysshement of dame helayne wyf of kynge Menelaus of grece. the sayd cyte was totally destroyed, chapter heading red-printed How the kynge Priant reediffied the cyte of troye more stronge than ever hit was afore, incipit: [F]or to entre than in to the matere, 36/9r-v Caxton's epilogue, incipit: Thus ende I this book whyche I have translated ... And for as moche as in the wrytyng of the same my penne is worn, myn hande wery and not stedfast myn eyen dimmed with overmoche lokyng on the whit paper ... I have practysed and lerned at my grete charge and dispense to ordeyne this said book in prynte after the maner and forme as ye may here see, and is not wreton with penne and ynke as other bokes ben, to thende that every man may have them attones, ffor all the bookes of this storye named the recule of the historyes of troyes thus enpryntid as ye here see were begonne in oon day, and also fynysshid in oon day, whiche book I have presented to my sayd redoubtid lady as a fore is sayd. And she hath well acceptid hit, and largely rewarded me ..., 36/10 lacking: Latin verse attributed to Hildebertus of Tours, verso blank). 347 leaves only (of 352; the first four leaves including one blank and the final leaf missing).

PAPER: six different stocks can be distinguished in this copy, two of which constitute the principal runs in the edition. Ninety-six sheets are a Piedmont paper watermarked with a bunch of grapes with looped stem (Stevenson/Briquet pl.*A3), mostly making up quires 2-14, 16-22 and 27; sixty-two sheets with bull's head/Tau watermark (variant of Piccard II, Abt. X 13-19), from a Vosges mill, make up practically all of quires 15, 23-26, 28-36. The other paper stocks are represented by stray sheets, watermarked with the arms of France (in quire 1), mermaid (in quires 1, 2 ,8, 19, 20), bull's head/X (in quires 14, 30, 32 and 35), gothic P (in quires 34 and 36). TYPE: bastarda 1:120, presumably cut and supplied by Johann Veldener, 31 lines, 5-line chapter heading on 27/1r printed in red. Setting the edition was done seriatim in three production units (the first being the largest, the second and third of equal size); the second unit was begun about half way through the first, and the third started just about as the first was finished. As composition progressed, the sheets were worked off page for page, perhaps concurrently on two single-pull presses. A set of six pins kept the sheet in position over the forme (the four outermost pinholes have in most cases disappeared because of the binder's knife, but the central pair is frequently visible in the gutters).

CONDITION: wormhole in the first couple of quires affecting some printed letters; repair to outer corner of fo. 1/5 affecting several words; hole in fo. 10/8 affecting six words; fos 10/5-8, 17/1-4 and 19/6 defective and repaired, their missing text mostly replaced in manuscript; fo. 22/10 detached; tears in fo. 36/9 affecting a few words; occasional old marginal strengthening; moderate staining and soiling throughout. The copy is unwashed, the paper unpressed, the type impressions deep and sharp and their recto/verso sequence clearly visible. IT IS ONE OF THE FINEST AND MOST COMPLETE COPIES TO COME ON THE MARKET IN THIS CENTURY.

BINDING: second quarter of the 16th century, plain polished brown leather (possibly sheep), over wooden boards, the lightly bevelled edges of the covers flush with the bookblock, across the spine five thick leather cords to which the gatherings have been sewn, a single brass clasp broken off the front cover, original pastedowns, vellum strip cut from a 15th-century manuscript spine-lining the final gathering, stitching intact. A secondary binding (manuscript marginalia cropped), perhaps from Cheshire. (The leather is badly worn, defective on spine.) Nineteenth-century citron morocco pull-off case, gilt-blocked with the Fitzwilliam arms and gilt-lettered.

PROVENANCE: rubricated by a contemporary hand, 2-, 3-, 4- and 7-line initials and chapter marks in red. -- Some early-16th-century manuscript marginalia marking passages and names in the text. -- ALLEN family, yeomen of Brindley near Nantwich, in the county of Chester: John, Thomas and William Allen (early and later 16th-century inscriptions in a number of places), who invited their friends - mostly from Brindley - to write Latin and English mottoes, calligraphic exercises, simple verse and their names in the book, including John Tapper, Elisabeth and Robert Prynce, Randell Bebyngeton of Chorley (also near Nantwich), ? Frances Wilbraham (possibly a relation of Margaret Allen, daughter of William, who married Richard Wilbraham of Worleston 1580), George Sorgiant, Thomas Hassell, John Ludlow. [-- Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham (1730-82), whig Prime Minister 1765-66 and again 1782, repealed the Stamp Act, supported independence for the American colonies, owner of Wentworth Woodhouse (by bequest to his nephew). -- William Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam (1748-1833)]. -- William Charles De Meuron, 7th Earl Fitzwilliam (1872-1943, armorial bookplate).

THE FIRST BOOK PRINTED IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, THE FIRST PRODUCTION FROM CAXTON'S FIRST PRINTING SHOP, AND THE FIRST BOOK PRINTED AT BRUGES. Le Fèvre's medieval version of the Trojan cycle is based more on Dictys (4th century), Dares (5th century), Benoît de Sainte-More (12th century) and Guido delle Colonne (13th century) than on Homer; it recounts at great length the exploits of Perseus and Hercules. The author dedicated the work to Philip the Good, just as some years later Caxton, his translator, would dedicate it to Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy, sister of Edward IV of England and wife of Charles the Bold.

Before England's first printer set up shop in 1476 within the precincts of Westminster Abbey, he had been active on the continent as merchant, diplomat, translator, publisher and printer. It was during this semi-exile in Cologne that Caxton was first confronted with the newly invented art of printing. In 1471-72 he commissioned from a local press, run by Johann Schilling, three Latin books of English origin (VK 296, VK 218, VK 501 in that order, see P. Needham in the Severin Corsten Festschrift 1986, pp 103-31). He also met there the typefounder and printer Johann Veldener, who later supplied the first types to be set in England. While in Cologne, the wealthy entrepreneur from Kent finished the translation of the Recueil des histoires de Troyes, his first great literary effort, with which he had persisted since 1468 at the command of Margaret of Burgundy. Caxton then returned to Bruges where he printed at least six books (2 in English, 4 in French), starting off with the Recuyell. His press was the second to be established in the Burgundian Netherlands, after that of Johannes de Westphalia and Thierry Martens at Alost; the market of the Bruges printers, Caxton and later Colard Mansion, was one of wealthy courtiers reading vernacular chivalric literature, very different from the university readership of cheaply produced small-format editions of Latin texts at which the Alost and Louvain printers aimed. Caxton left Flanders towards the end of 1475, taking type 2 with him to his Westminster shop and presumably as his foreman and later successor, the Alsatian Wynkyn de Worde, and no doubt already planning his most important production, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (see lot 2).

CENSUS: Seymour de Ricci's A Census of Caxtons (1909), brilliant as it was and annotated with much detail, is not surprisingly very outdated. In conjunction with ISTC and with patient searching, it can still be used; in fact, for many editions strikingly little movement of copies has taken place and few new ones have come to light. Although the Recuyell is by no means Caxton's rarest book, the present Wentworth copy was the only one unrecorded by De Ricci. Eighteen copies are extant, probably only one of which is truly complete. Eight changes of ownership have occurred since 1909. The order given here follows De Ricci 3.

1. New York, Pierpont Morgan Library: ex-Fairfax-Jersey-Amherst. Complete

2. Longleat, Marquess of Bath: Sir John Thynne's copy listed in the 1549 inventory. Rebound by Thomas Whitaker. Lacking 2 leaves

3. London, British Library: ex-Rawlinson-Harley-West-George III. Completed

4.Cambridge, University Library: ex-Bishop John Moore. Lacking 16 leaves

5. New Haven, Yale Center for British Art: ex-Bishop John Moore-Cambridge University Library-Mellon. Lacking 10 leaves

6. Cambridge, Trinity College. Lacking 11 leaves

7. Oxford, Bodleian Library: ex-James Bowen. Lacking 4 leaves

8. Oxford, Bodleian Library: ex Selden. Lacking 10 leaves

9. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France: ex-Thomas Pike-Steevens-Spencer-Inglis. Lacking 52 leaves

10. Tokyo, Keio University: ex-Matthew Forster-Sion College. Modern half morocco. Lacking 16 leaves

11. San Marino, Huntington Library: ex-Elizabeth Grey-Major Swinton-Roxburghe-Devonshire. Lacking 2 leaves, but with the unique dedication engraving

12. Austin, University of Texas: ex-Pembroke-Pforzheimer. Lacking 71 leaves

13. Princeton, Scheide Library: ex-Lloyd-Hibbert-Wilkes-Utterson- Ashburnham-Bennett-Morgan. Lacking 49 leaves

14. Manchester, John Rylands Library: ex-Tutet-Austen-Spencer. Lacking 2 leaves

15. London, Royal College of Physicians: ex-Elizabeth Carew. Contemporary binding. Lacking 2 leaves

16. London, Duke of Northumberland: ex Phillipps. Imperfect

17. Untraced: ex-Dr Francis Bernard (1698 sale, pt III, lot 119)

18. Untraced: ex-Ratcliffe (Christie's April 1776, lot 1667)-Dr William Hunter, but not in the bequest to Glasgow. Perhaps the present copy, although it cannot be found among Lord Rockingham's bills

19. Longleat, Marquess of Bath: ex-Sir Thomas Tresham-Botfield. Bound by Charles Lewis. Lacking 8 leaves

20. Untraced: ex-Guildford Grammar School (disappeared before Herbert Powell's 1900 catalogue of the school's library)

21. London, British Library: a single leaf, ex-Bagford-Harvey

22. Oxford, Bodleian Library: one bifolium, ex-Bagford-Hearne

23. London, St Bride Printing Library: a single leaf, ex-William Blades
24. Windsor, Royal Library: a single leaf, ex-Ames-Jacob Bryant-George III

25.a. Philadelphia, Library Company: bifolium, ex-Henry Stevens
b. New York, Public Library: bifolium, ex-Stevens-Lenox
c. New York, Public Library: bifolium, ex-Stevens-Astor
d. New Haven, Yale University: bifolium, ex-Stevens-Rosenbloom
e. Princeton, University Library: bifolium, ex-Stevens-Taylor

LITERATURE: Ames-Herbert I, pp 5-9; Ames-Dibdin I, pp 16-28; HC 7048; Blades 1; CA (I) and KC II 1093a; Pr 9322; Pollard, Morgan 634; Duff 242; STC 15375; Pforzheimer 594; Oates 3837-8; BMC IX, 129 (IB. 49431); Goff L-117; Cinquième Centenaire 82; Blake (1976) pp 107-8, 197; Painter pp 45-48, 51-54, 59-64; Hellinga pp 29-31, 48; CIBN L-83; Needham Appendix D, Cx 4


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