JACOBUS DE VORAGINE (c.1230-c.1298). The Golden Legend. Translated and enlarged by William Caxton. Westminster: William Caxton, [?after] 20 November 1483.
Royal 2° (360 x 257mm). Collation: \Kp\k6 (\Kp\k1 blank, \Kp\k2r large woodcut, Caxton's prologue, \Kp\k3r woodcut Arundel arms with letterpress motto, Caxton's account of the Earl of Arundel's patronage of the edition, \Kp\k3v index, \Kp\k6v blank); a-z8 &8 \\n6 (life of Christ, histories of feasts of Pentecost, Corpus Christi, Dedication to the Church, e4v saints' lives [Winter part]); A-U8 X6 Y2(2+1) (saints' lives [Summer part]); aa-ff8 gg-ii8 kk6 (supplementary saints' lives, ii4r exposition of the mass, kk4v 12 articles of faith, kk5r colophon, kk6 blank). 446 leaves (of 449, \Kp\k6 in facsimile and without first and final blanks), k3 or 6 supplied from another copy. 6 sheets (i1.8, 12.7, A2.7, M4.5, Q4.5 and ii4.5) are rubricated by a different hand and may also be supplied from another copy. 55 lines and headline with foliation from a1, double column, printed guide-letters. Type: 4*:100G (text), 3:135G (headlines and chapter titles). Contemporary English rubrication probably executed in Caxton's shop, consisting of 4- to 6-line initials in red, those opening the first prologue and text, and 8 others with blue penwork decoration, red paragraph marks. 87 woodcuts from 69 blocks (Hodnett 237-305), ALL COLOURED BY A CONTEMPORARY HAND in light green, yellow, orange, magenta, blue and black [woodcut on u5 uncoloured]. (Final 3 leaves defective and repaired with missing text replaced in facsimile, 20 leaves with repaired tears into text without loss, 4 leaves with small loss of text, 20 repaired marginal tears, 8 leaves with marginal section replaced, small stains in about 20 leaves, face of the devil in woodcut on k2v scratched out, tiny puncture in s6, small adhesion on E6 with loss of a few words, small marginal wormholes in final two quires.) Early 19th-century gold-tooled tan morocco, sides with wide fillet border and Botfield arms at centre, crimson endpapers, gilt edges (a few scuff marks). Provenance: Robert Hedrington (ownership stamp 'Robert Hedrington his Bookes 1577' and variant thereof repeated 11 times on \Kp\k2.3, a1,4 and kk4,5); autograph letter laid in from the Caxton biographer and scholar William Blades to Botfield dated 20 September 1861 informing him that the Winchester College library copy of Life of St. Katheryn was also owned by Hedrington and has his stamp -- William Pickering, sold to Botfield.
FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH, first issue, of Caxton's most substantial piece of printing. Reminiscent of Margaret of York's urgings to finish translating the Recuyell of the Histories of Troy (see lot 43), Caxton relates in the prologue how he had virtually given up translating the Golden Legend, but was persuaded to complete it by William FitzAlan, 9th Earl of Arundel, who promised in return to take a certain number of copies of the completed book and to grant Caxton two deer annually for the remainder of his life, a buck every summer and a doe every winter. Indeed, the Golden Legend represents Caxton's most extensive work of translation. He took as his sources the original Latin Legenda aurea by Jacobus de Voragine, an expanded French version by Jehan de Vignay, and an expanded version of the anonymous Middle English translation of 1438, the Gilte Legende. He augmented these sources with material from Petrus Comestor's Historia scholastica, his own paraphrasing of Biblical stories, and even personal interjections, such as his having seen a painting on the altar of St. Augustine at the Dominican convent at Antwerp depicting the miracle of the child by the seashore.
Bibliographers long believed that Caxton had printed two editions of the Golden Legend; more recently it has been recognised that only about half the quires (all but a-t and A-E) exist in two settings. Setting B compressed the first quire from 6 leaves into 4, and replaced quire Y (containing a singleton) into an expanded quire X. In addition, the smaller type 5 was used for the headlines and chapter headings. Needham (Printer and the Pardoner) has suggested that printing the two settings may have been nearly concurrent, a view confirmed by Hellinga, whose findings will be incorporated into the forthcoming volume XI of BMC. It is, however, certain that setting A preceded B.
Of the 33 copies of the Golden Legend whose existence could be traced by De Ricci in his 1909 Census, only 3 are as complete as the Botfield copy: the Spencer-Rylands copy at Manchester (originally lacking the preliminary quire and quire M, supplied in about 1822); the Chantilly copy (lacking one text leaf); and the Duke of Newcastle's copy (lacking one text leaf). The 16th-century owner of the Botfield copy, Robert Hedrington, whose ownership stamp dated 1577 is one of the earliest, owned at least 3 other Caxtons: a Gower, Eneydos, Life of St. Kathryn, and Godefroy of Bolougne. One leaf (\Kp\k6) was apparently removed from the present copy and inserted into the Spencer copy, where it is the only leaf with Hedrington's stamp; that leaf is replaced in facsimile in the Botfield copy. (Christie's is grateful to Jane Parker at the Rylands Library, Manchester, for information about the appearance of the Hedrington stamp in that copy.)
The Golden Legend is one of Caxton's most extensively illustrated publications. The series of woodcuts, the work of Caxton's second and third anonymous woodcut artists (Hodnett), appears here for the first time. Some of the cuts were subsequently used to illustrate later editions.
Concerning Caxton's sources, see N. Blake 'The Biblical Additions in Caxton's "Golden Legend"', William Caxton and English Literary Culture, 1991, esp. footnote 1 citing previous literature.
C 6472; Goff J-148; De Ricci Caxton 98:59; Duff 408; Needham, Printer & the Pardoner, Cx 67; Oates 4087-91; Pellechet Ms 6514 (6491); STC 24873.