The Firste [Laste] Volume of the Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande
London: Henry Brynneman for Lucas (Volume II Iohn) Harrison, 1577.
London: Henry Brynneman for Lucas (Volume II Iohn) Harrison, 1577. First Edition. 2 folio volumes (280 x 190 mm). 17th century blind-ruled calf with later gilding to spine; rebacked with spines laid down and corners renewed. Black letter, double column, with Roman headlines and sidenotes, woodcut title border, printer’s device, author’s woodcut arms on title versos, numerous woodcuts. In Volume I, E6-8 are canceled and F7 is a cancel as usual; in Volume II, L7 and Xxxx1 are cancels, Oooo3 is uncancelled. Scattered stains including waterstain in quire P of Volume I, headlines, sidenotes, and page numbers occasionally shaved. In Volume II, page 1385, are 18 lines of verse in a contemporary hand, beginning, “A tyme their was when sillie bees could speake” (variously attributed to John Lyly or to Shakespeare). In all a very desirable copy, housed in two full morocco pull-off cases. Provenance of Henry Mellor (16c inscription on title), Edward Saunders (inscription in Volume II), Kendrick Francis Saunders (bookplate), Frank Brewer Bremis (bookplate), Harold Greenhill (bookplate), and H. Bradley Martin (bookplate and sale at Sotheby’s, 30 April 1990, Lot 2917). This copy last selling at auction in 2005 for over $31,000.
First edition of the major Elizabethan chronicle that served as one of Shakespeare’s most important sources for his histories and tragedies. Though the ambitious project was initially outlined by Reynor Wolfe, it was his assistant Raphael Holinshed who took over the tome and finished the project following his master’s death. Following its release, the universal history became incredibly influential and shaped some of the most important literary works of the later Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. “Shakespeare used Holinshed as a source for more than a third of his plays, including Macbeth, King Lear, the Henriad and Richard III. He used it in a wide range of ways, sometimes following the text of the Chronicles closely, even echoing its words and phrases; sometimes using it as inspiration for plot details; and at other times deviating from its account altogether, either preferring other sources or his own imagination. Comparing Shakespeare’s plays to Holinshed and other sources can provide rich insight into his creative processes as well as giving us an idea of some of the context which Shakespeare’s contemporary audiences would have understood” (British Library). On its own terms, the Chronicles are one of the most important and comprehensive documents tracing the first inhabitants of the British Isles through the mid-16th century. (Item #2383)