A Substantial English Incunable, and the First Printed English Book with Musical Notation

POLYCRONICON.

(Westminster: Wynkyn de Worde, 13 April 1495). 275 x 194 mm. (10 3/4 x 7 1/2"). With the main body of the text complete: 1 p.l. (facsimile aa1 title page), I-CCCxlvi, [1] (facsimile?) leaf with printer's device, [35] leaves (consisting of fols. cc6-hh5 of the Table, usually bound at front of work; lacking blank hh6 and also lacking 13 preliminary leaves: aa2-8, bb1-6 (consisting of Proheme and the first part of the Table). Double columns, 41 lines in black letter type.Translated by John Trevisa. With the continuation for years 1357-1460 by William Caxton. Second Edition.

Recent period-style blind-stamped calf by Courtland Benson. With woodcut initials, woodcut title page (in facsimile), and printer's device (probably facsimile). Recto of n5 with musical notation. All instances of the word "pope" or related terms and all mentions of St. Thomas of Canterbury carefully struck through in ink by an early hand; occasional neat ink marginalia by a contemporary user. Front pastedown with bookplates of Robert Barclay of Bury Hill, Ross Winans, and the Fox Pointe Collection. Goff H-268; BMC XI, 195; ISTC ih00268000; Pforzheimer 490; STC 13439; ESTC S106488. First page of text a little soiled, occasional minor soiling or thumbing elsewhere, V8 with a very expertly repaired oblique tear from the bottom of the leaf halfway up the page (no loss of legibility), cc1 with smaller tear repaired with equal skill, X6 with one-inch triangular repair in fore margin, affecting a total of perhaps eight letters, final text leaf with shoulder note and a handful of words at the top of both sides mounted (but not in facsimile), other trivial imperfections, but an extremely appealing textually complete copy--almost entirely smooth, clean, and fresh, with excellent margins, with rich impressions of the type, and without any of the leaves being soft or brittle at the edge.

This is a desirable copy of the most influential chronicle in 14th and 15th century Britain and the first book published in England to contain printed music. Written in the 1320s by Benedictine monk Ranulf Higden (ca. 1299-1364) of Chester, this universal history was translated into English in 1387, and first printed by William Caxton in 1480. According to DNB, the work "offered to the educated and learned audience of fourteenth-century England a clear and original picture of world history based upon medieval tradition, but with a new interest in antiquity, and with the early history of Britain related as part of the whole." The work was originally divided into seven parts (for the seven days of creation in Genesis), and ended coverage of events in 1342. John Malvern (d. ca. 1414) added a final book covering the years 1348-81; this addition was translated by Caxton and added to his 1482 edition, along with his own continuation of the history to the year 1460. Caxton was succeeded in 1491 by his foreman (and former apprentice) Wynkyn de Worde (ca. 1455? - 1534/5), who took over the lease on Caxton's print shop in Westminster and operated there until his remove to Fleet Street in 1500. A number of the books he printed there were, like this one, new editions of popular Caxton titles. DNB notes that Wynkyn was a more astute businessman than Caxton, and liked to add special features to his books to distinguish them and make them more attractive to buyers. Here, for the first time in England, he has printed music with moveable type, the notation made up from printers' quads and rules. Caxton, in his 1482 edition of Higden, had left a blank spot for the music to be added by hand. While Caxton brought printing to England, Wynkyn de Worde popularized it. DNB says that "Wynkyn's various qualities need emphasizing: after Caxton's death he had sufficient vision to embark on a new publishing policy; to imitate his former master might have led to financial ruin. He was personable enough to get on with patrons from many classes and to run a heterogeneous household. No evidence of his involvement in litigation has been found. He was willing to give his helpers the credit they deserved, and he did not ignore their contribution as Caxton did. He probably knew several languages, and there is no reason to underestimate his learning and acumen. Previous assessments fail to give him due credit for his achievements." Former owner Robert Barclay (1751-1830) was a successful English brewer, a keen botanist and gardener, and a philanthropist whose causes included the abolition of slavery. American inventor Ross Winans (1796-1877) was one of the first multi-millionaires in the United States, thanks to the success of his locomotives and other railroad-related creations. Our copy was later in the distinguished collection of early English books amassed by Howard and Linda Knohl for their library at Fox Pointe Manor. Copies of our 1495 edition are less common in the marketplace than the 1482 printing; of the nine copies that have appeared at auction in the past 45 years, only one (sold in 1977) was complete. Three of the other copies were missing more than 50 leaves, and all had some sort of repairs. A copy like the present example--with the main text intact, unwashed and unpressed, and in pleasing condition--would be very difficult to find.
(ST17801)

Add to Cart Price: $165,000.00

PJP Catalog: 81.086

(ST17801) POLYCRONICON. RANULPHUS HIGDEN.
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