CATHERINE OF SIENA (St., 1347-1380). The Orchard of Syon [Dialogo]. London: Wynkyn de Worde, 28 September 1519.
PRINTED ON VELLUM, 2° (257 x 188mm). Collation: \Kp\k8(4+1) a-z6 \\i \\j \\g6 A6 B4 (\Kp\k1r title with woodcut, \Kp\k1v full page woodcut of St. Catherine, \Kp\k2r prefatory letter by Marcus Civilis to Brother Paul Sauch, \Kp\k3r second prologue, \Kp\k3v 'kalender' [chapter summaries], \Kp\k8r third prologue, a1r text, B3v colophon, B4r full-page woodcut of St. Catherine, B4v blank). 175 leaves. Red printing on title and first page of each part. 41 lines and headline, double column. Type: 93G, 114G. 11 woodcuts from 8 blocks [Hodnett 862-9] illustrating St. Catherine and her revelations, two woodcuts flanked by zoomorphic or vinework border, ALL COLOURED BY A CONTEMPORARY HAND, WITH FULL ILLUMINATED FLORAL BORDERS by a northern Netherlandish artist added to title, first prologue (incorporating the arms of the Passion in lower border), and opening of each of 7 parts, woodcut grotesque initial opening first prologue, woodcut criblé, historiated and ornamental initials. The painted borders are clearly associable with the Masters of the Dark Eyes, some of whom are known to have worked in London. (Very occasional repairs to vellum, a few edges in 10 quires slightly extended, small stain on title.) Bound for John Dent c. 1822 by Charles Lewis; crimson velvet over unbevelled wooden boards, 2 brass fore-edge clasps, vellum flyleaf at each end, gilt edges, maroon (originally blue) straight-grained morocco box with latch, also by Lewis, spine lettered in gilt (box lightly spotted and scuffed). Provenance: some textual corrections in a contemporary hand (several annotations washed out) -- Edward Knight (sale Evans, 4 May 1821, lot 1418, described as in red morocco, £72.9 to Dent) -- John Dent (Catalogue of the Library of ... (1825), p.188, velvet binding and blue morocco box by Lewis, woodcuts 'tastefully coloured'; his sale, Evans, pt.II, 25 April 1827, lot 930, £65.2 to Payne) -- George Hibbert (1757-1837, sale Evans, 24 March-May 1829, lot 6080, £61.19 to Payne) -- Beriah Botfield from Payne & Foss for £75 (P. & F. Acquisitions, p.68, full-page illuminated Botfield coat-of-arms painted on vellum flyleaf with a border echoing the painted borders in the book).
UNIQUE COPY ON VELLUM, SPECIALLY PRINTED AND ILLUMINATED FOR SYON ABBEY, OF THE FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH of St. Catherine's great mystical work. As stated in the epilogue, it was printed for Sir Richard Sutton, steward of the Bridgettine house at Syon, who found the work 'in a corner by it selfe' and 'hathe caused at his greate coste thys booke to be prynted trustinge that moche fruyte shall come therof'. Although the Botfield copy contains no contemporary inscription of ownership, it was clearly intended for presentation, perhaps to Sutton as publisher or, more likely, to the abbey itself. The arms in the painted border at the beginning of the work are those of the Passion; the Bridgettine order is dedicated to the Passion.
The Orchard of Syon is a middle English translation of the revelations of St. Catherine of Siena, commonly known as The Dialogue. It was translated for the spiritual guidance of nuns, and was early associated with Syon Abbey; De Worde's edition was the first to entitle it The Orchard of Syon, thereby linking it explicitly to that monastery. Syon, a house favoured by royalty since its foundation by Henry V in 1415, was associated with the publication in manuscript and print of a number of works. Henry VIII gave the abbey a copy of his Assertio contra Lutherum (1521) printed by Pynson, and De Worde presented a copy of his editions of Capgrave and the Hortus vocabularius. Syon maintained two libraries, one for its nuns and one for its monks, distinguished in part by language (very few English books were in the brothers' library, of which an early 16th-century catalogue survives, edited by Bateson in 1898 and by Gillespie and Doyle in 2002).
Dictated while in ecstasy, The Orchard of Syon contains dialogues between God and the soul in contemplation. The Dialogue has been a highly influential mystical text, and its translation into English (from the Latin of Raymond of Capua) at the beginning of the 15th century contributed to the burgeoning interest in English mysticism, particularly in female mystics such as Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich.
De Worde's edition was an elaborate production with its two-colour printing and woodcut series created specially for it, so that Richard Sutton's cost must have been 'greate' indeed. The woodcuts illustrate Catherine's influential images, such as Christ represented as a bridge over the troubled waters of the world. The three steps on the bridge reflect the three states of the soul climbing the ladder of perfection. Only one of the blocks (St. Catherine receiving the stigmata) re-appeared in later books. The illumination, while decidely northern Netherlandish in style, was undoubtedly executed in England, and thus bears witness to the activity of foreign book craftsmen in the late 15th and early 16th centuries; Wynkyn de Worde himself was Dutch.
Vellum copies of early books printed in England are very rare. Among the few surviving examples which pre-date The Orchard of Syon are fragments from two editions of the short-lived Oxford press of Theodoric Rood; Caxton's Doctrinal of Sapience (after May 1489); Pynson's Mirroure of gold (?1506); a few liturgical books, including books of hours, and six editions by De Worde: The Book of Hawking and Hunting, 1496 (Duff 57); Statutes of 7 Henry VII, 1496 (Duff 382); Chronicle of England, 1497 (Duff 102); Shyppe of Fools, 1509 (STC 3547); Knyght of the Swanne, 1512 (STC 7571); and the Nova Legenda Angliae (1516).
STC 4815 (citing 10 copies only, not including the present one); EETS edition by P. Hodgson and G. Liegey, 1966.