(London: [R. Redman, ca. 1535] and Wyllyam Myddylton, ; Rycharde Pynson, 1525). 320 x 224 mm. (13 1/8 x 9 3/4"). ,  leaves (with some facsimile, see below). Two volumes in one. Second Edition of volume I; FIRST EDITION of volume II.
Attractive 19th century red crushed morocco by W. Pratt (stamp-signed on front turn-in), covers with gilt French fillet border and floral cornerpieces, raised bands, spine elaborately gilt in compartments with corner volutes and large, ornate fleuron centerpiece, wide turn-ins with scrolling gilt floral vine, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Woodcut borders on title page, verso with large woodcut coat of arms of Henry VIII, foliated and historiated woodcut initials. Front pastedown WITH THE BOOK LABEL OF WILLIAM MORRIS, KELMSCOTT HOUSE as well as the old armorial bookplates of William Horatio Crawford and James W. Ellsworth and the modern bookplate of Harold Douthit. STC 11396.5 & 11397; ESTC S121320 & S126450. A little rubbing to joints and bottom edges, covers faintly soiled and with trivial scratches, but the very decorative binding entirely solid and certainly pleasing. Title leaf washed and pressed, upper right corner of title and next leaf (encompassing approximately 3.5 x 2.5" of text) with some very artful replication (involving printed facsimile or, more likely, inlaid portions of another copy), about the bottom third of the penultimate leaf with the same kind of replacement, first gathering with narrow restoration at inner margin, some other margins with small, neat repairs (crossing the text on four leaves), the final leaf in excellent facsimile, using Marsh's colophon from the second edition of 1563, numerous tiny wormholes to the last quarter of the text (trivial worming elsewhere), the repaired leaves no doubt washed, and the text perhaps (but not definitely) pressed. Significant condition issues, but the vast majority of the text extremely clean, fresh, and smooth, with very good margins, and the book rare and desirable enough to encourage forgiveness of its defects.
This is an attractively bound copy of a very early printing in English of Jean Froissart's essential European history, and a volume that has an extremely interesting connection with the modern private press movement. "Chronicles" is the principal source of our knowledge of all but the final phases of the Hundred Years War between England and France. Froissart (1337 - ca. 1410) was born the year hostilities commenced and began his chronicle when only 20, eventually continuing it to the year 1400. A poet turned cleric due to disappointed love, Froissart adored chivalrous action even when it led to disaster, and he paints unforgettable pictures of such events as the battles of Poitiers and Crécy, and the rebellion of Wat Tyler. The provenance here is of great interest. The three lesser-known owners whose bookplates appear at the front were substantial collectors, but it is, of course, the appearance of the book label of William Morris (1824-96) that makes this volume resonate with importance outside the intrinsic interest of its intellectual content. Designer, author, aggressive socialist, and founder of the Kelmscott Press, Morris is said by Paul Needham to have "possessed a library of higher quality than any other major English literary figure." Moreover, Morris greatly admired Froissart, and Berner's translation in particular, so much that he intended to publish—and in the last stages of his life began to print—the "Chronicles" as a companion to the Kelmscott Chaucer. In his "Ideal Book," Morris said that "you cannot have a better text than old Berners'. It's fine old English, and . . . no book that I could do would give me half the pleasure I am getting from the Froissart. I am simply reveling in it. It's such a noble and glorious work, and every page as it leaves the press delights me more than I can say." Just 16 pages of the Kelmscott Froissart were printed (and given to personal friends) before Morris' death. Although the present copy has been sophisticated, the work has been done with the greatest skill, and the rarity of the book as well as the outstanding provenance and association here provide a significant counterbalance to the condition defects one almost invariably finds with a black letter chronicle printed in England in the first half of the 16th century. (Lhi21120)
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PJP Catalog: 81.141