London: John Kyngston for John Wight, 1561. First Thus. First edition by John Stowe and fifth edition overall. Folio in sixes (pages 308 x 207 mm), collating , 378: complete. Black letter in two columns with 56 lines. A pleasing copy of this rare book, with some marginal notes and minor restration to title page and 5 other leaves. Decorative woodcuts initials throughout as well as Chaucer's woodcut arms dated 1560 on title and divisional titles A1 and Aa1 featured within larger woodcuts of the genealogies of the houses of York and Lancaster. Very early blind ruled calf binding with two clasps, expertly rebacked and retaining original spine, with manuscript title on the spine re-inked. Clasps with original hardware and newer thongs. Binding work and endpapers done by Zaehnsdorf. A handsome copy of one of the most important literary works in the English language.
Stowe's edition is found in two issues, with different title pages and with or without woodcuts in the Prologue. The priority of the two issues has been debated, with one authority arguing that the printer came into possession of the cuts belatedly, and this unillustrated issue appeared first (see David R. Carlson, "The Woodcut Illustrations in Early Printed Editions of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales", in Chaucer Illustrated: Five Hundred Years of the Canterbury Tales in Pictures, British Library, 2003). The unillustrated issue is the more common of the two.
A sumptuous collection of literature from one of England's greatest early masters. Geoffrey Chaucer is credited with setting the style of Middle English literature. He is often considered England’s first “poet laureate” – after he received a reward from Richard II for one of his poems. Although Chaucer is famous chiefly for his medieval-era masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, his works are also thought to have help make the English vernacular a poplar literary language. While famous in their own right, Chaucer's works have also influenced just about every major luminary of English literature to come after him.
Grolier 42. STC 5076. (Item #2396)