1687 EDITION OF CHAUCER’S WORKS, THE LAST GOTHIC TYPE EDITION
CHAUCER, Geoffrey. The Works of Our Ancient, Learned, & Excellent English Poet, Jeffrey Chaucer… To which is adjoyn’d, The Story of the Siege of Thebes, by John Lidgate, Monk of Bury. Together with the Life of Chaucer. London: [no publisher, probably John Harefinch], 1687. Folio, period style full brown calf, elaborately decorated spines and boards, red morocco spine label, raised bands. $6500.
Third Speght edition of Chaucer’s works, the last edition to be set in Gothic type, with engraved frontispiece “Progeny of Chaucer,” incorporating a full-length portrait of the author and an image of his tomb. A beautiful volume in period-style calf-gilt.
“Except for Shakespeare, Chaucer is foremost among writers in the English language” (Bloom, The Western Canon, 105). This third printing of Thomas Speght’s edition, which “held sway for well over a hundred years, far longer than any other. It was the text read and owned by Milton, Junius, Pepys, Dryden, and Pope” (Derek Pearsall). This edition marks a highspot of Chaucerian editorship; after it, editorial quality declined, and did not revive until the 1775 Tyrwhitt edition of the Canterbury Tales. This edition is essentially a reprint of Speght’s 1602 edition, being the eighth collected edition, and includes for the first time the printing of the conclusions to the Cook’s and the Squire’s Tale, then recently discovered, on the verso of the last leaf. The list of “Old and Obscure Words in Chaucer explained” is here marked with derivations, and a glossary has been added translating the Latin and French “not Englished” by Chaucer. Beautifully printed in two columns of Gothic type, with a divisional title to the “Works” containing a three-quarter page woodcut arms and small woodcut armorial diagram on leaf a2v, errata slip pasted over relevant text on G1v. The imprint statement omits mention of printers, since the copyright of Chaucer’s works belonged to the Stationer’s Company; the identity of the publisher has been a matter of speculation, based on the initials “J.H.” given in the “Advertisement to the Reader” (leaf b4). The initials may refer to John Harding, who taught Bernard Lintot (publisher of the succeeding edition), but more than likely they identify London bookseller John Harefinch (Ruggiers, 91). Pforzheimer 179. Wing C3736. Owner’s inscription dated 1838. Owner’s small inscription to title page. Pencil markings to recto (blank) of frontispiece.
Occasional light dampstaining to corners of text block. Beautifully bound in period style calf.