Recyell of the Histories of Troy, Caxton, 1473-4

LE FEVRE, Raoul (fl. 1464). Recuyell of the Histories of Troy. Translated from French into English by William Caxton (c. 1420-1491). [Bruges:] William Caxton, [1473 or 1473-early 1474].

Chancery 2° (268 x 191 mm). Collation: [1-1410 158 (1/1 blank removed, 1/2r title printed in red hEre begynneth the volume intituled and named the recuyell of the historyes of Troye, composed and drawen out of dyverce bookes of latyn into frensshe by … Raoul le ffevre. preest and chapelayn unto … Phelip duc of Bourgoyne of Braband etc In the yere … a thousand foure honderd sixty and foure, And translated and drawen out of frenshe into englisshe by Willyam Caxton mercer of ye cyte of London, at the comaundement of … Margarete … Duchesse of Bourgoyne … begonne in Brugis in the Countee of Flaundres the fyrst day of marche … a thousand foure honderd sixty and eyghte, And ended and fynysshid in the holy cyte of Colen the. xix. day of septembre … a thousand foure honderd sixty and enleven, 1/2v Caxton’s prologue, incipit: [W]Han I remembre that every man is bounden, 1/3v Le Fèvre’s prologue, incipit: Whan y behold and knowe the oppynyons of the men, 1/4v heading to bk. I printed in red The begynnyng of this book sheweth the Genelagye of Saturne, 1/5r text, incipit: What tyme alle the Children of Noe were sprad, 15/8v explicit: Thus endeth the first book of the recueyll or gadryng to geder of the historyes of Troye); 16-2410 258 266 (16/1r Hiere begynneth the seconde booke … that speketh of the prowesses of the stronge Hercules, 26/6r explicit, 26/6v blank); 27-3610 (27/1r In these two bokes precedente. we have … tretyd of the two first destruccyons of Troye … Now in the thirde and laste book god to fore. we shall saie how … the sayd cyte was totally destroyed, chapter-heading printed in red How the kynge Priant reediffied the cyte of troye, incipit: For to entre than in to the matere, 36/9r Caxton’s epilogue, incipit: Thus ende I this book whyche I have translated … myn eyen dimmed with overmoche loking on the whit paper … Therefore I have practysed and lerned at my grete charge and dispense to ordeyne this said book in prynte … and is not wreton with penne and ynke as other bokes ben, to thende that every man may have them attones. ffor all the bookes of this storye … thus enpryntid … were begonne in oon day, and also fynysshid in oon day, 36/10r Latin verse attributed to HILDEBERTUS (1st half 12th century, Archbishop of Tours), incipit: Pergama flere volo. fata danais data solo, 36/10v blank)]. 344 leaves (of 352; lacking the blank first leaf, sheet 2/1.10 and fos. 19/3-7 supplied in pen-and-ink facsimile by J. Harris at the time of rebinding); fo. 19/8 probably and fos. 1/2-3 just possibly supplied from another copy at the time of rebinding.

Paper from six different stocks, but there are two principal runs: the first from Piedmont with watermark of a bunch of grapes with looped stem (Stevenson/Briquet pl. *A3), the second from Vosges with bull’s head/Tau watermark (variant of Piccard II Abt. X 13-19); the rest are essentially stray sheets: w/m mermaid (Briquet 13859), arms of France, bull’s head/X, gothic P. The paper sequence seems to indicate that the edition, set in three composition units, was printed concurrently on two presses; a set of six pins kept the sheet in position over the forme (the four outermost pinholes are visible in the corners of most sheets, the central pair remains mostly but not always hidden in the gutter). Bastarda type 1:120, presumably cut and supplied by Johann Veldener. 31 lines. Title and two headings printed in red. Rubricated in an early hand: initials, paragraph marks, some capital strokes; 7-line initial W to start the text painted in liquid gold and outlined in red (probably somewhat later). Quiring in early manuscript. (Upper outer corner of title and following leaf torn away and restored with the missing text supplied in pen-facsimile; a few other repairs, mostly marginal, otherwise in unrestored condition; slight soiling in places and occasional minor stains, but the copy is unwashed and the paper fresh.) English gold-tooled binding by Charles Lewis, c.1833, blue morocco over heavy pasteboard, wide border on sides built up from small tools including flowers, crowns, acorns, stars and dots, compartments of spine decorated with the same tools and lettered, roll-tooled border on turn-ins, gilt edges.

Provenance: ?Agnes Cole 1518 (De Ricci 3.19), but there is no evidence for this ownership — Tresham family By me Thomas Trisham (inscription on final blank page), probably Sir Thomas Tresham of Rushton (fl. 1500, d. 1559, sheriff, MP for Northamptonshire); John Trishem (entry below the heading to bk. I), perhaps John Tresham of Rushton, Northants (d. 1546, son of Thomas); a signature that could be read as MA Tresham, perhaps Mary Tresham (d. 1597, John’s daughter) The Sir Thomas Wriothesley – King George III – B.L. copy of another Caxton translation, the second printed book in English (Bruges: 1474), Jacobus de Cessolis’ The Game and Play of Chess, was also owned by one of the Northamptonshire Treshams, very probably George Tresham, MP, who was probably in the household of Edward VI as prince. — John Skinner of Bristol (early inscription on 22/8v) — Delaroy (early inscription on 32/1r) — John Benet(?) (early inscription on 34/8v) — a variety of early English manuscript marginalia and calculations, including receipts of payment for wines naming a Mr. Smith and John Savery — Henry ?Sperke (ownership inscription in a late-16th/early-17th-century hand on b6v) — Beriah Botfield, purchased in 1833 from Payne and Foss for £168 (P. & F. Acquisitions p.77).

THE FIRST BOOK PRINTED IN ENGLISH AND THE FIRST PRODUCTION FROM CAXTON’S FIRST PRINTING SHOP. Caxton’s Bruges press was the second to be established in the Burgundian Netherlands after that of Johannes de Westfalia and Thierry Martens in Alost; the market for the Bruges printers (wealthy courtiers reading vernacular chivalric literature) was very different from that of the Alost and Louvain printers (cheap Latin texts for university readers). Le Fevre’s medieval version of the Trojan cycle is based more on Dictys (4th century), Dares (5th century), Benoît de Sainte-More (12th century) and Guido delle Colonne (13th century) than on Homer and also recounts at great length the exploits of Perseus and Hercules; he dedicated the work to Philip the Good, just as some years later his translator would dedicate it to Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy.

Before England’s first printer set up shop in 1476 within the precincts of Westminster Abbey, he had been active on the continent as merchant, diplomat, translator, publisher and printer. It was during his semi-exile in Cologne that Caxton was first confronted with the newly invented art of printing. In 1471-72 he commissioned from a local press, run by Johann Schilling, three Latin books of English origin (VK 296, VK 218, VK 501 in that order, see P. Needham, “William Caxton and his Cologne partners,” in: Ars Impressoria, Festgabe für Severin Corsten, 1986, p. 103-131), and there he met the typefounder and printer Johann Veldener, who later supplied the first type to be set in England. Also while in Cologne, the wealthy entrepreneur from Kent finished the translation of the Recueil des histoires de Troie, his first great literary effort, with which he had persisted since 1468 at the command of Margaret of York, sister of Edward IV of England and wife of Charles the Bold of Burgundy. Caxton then returned to Bruges where he printed at least six books (2 in English, 4 in French), starting off with the Recuyell.

Eighteen copies are extant, only two of which are complete (British Library, Morgan Library). The most important surviving copy is in the Huntington Library (ex-Roxburghe-Chatsworth), with the unique dedication engraving inserted. Five other copies remain in private hands (Marquess of Bath [Sir John Thynne’s copy, at Longleat since no later than the 1540s], Paul Mellon, Scheide Library, Duke of Northumberland, Fitzwilliam [not in De Ricci, sold Christie’s, 8 July 1998, lot 1]). Very small fragments are located in four American (3 originally belonging to the same copy; the Robert Taylor fragment at Princeton not in De Ricci) and four English libraries. The only (and excellent) census was published in 1909 by Seymour de Ricci. Since then the following changes of ownership have occurred: DeR 3.5 Cambridge UL now Paul Mellon, 3.10 Sion College now Keio University, Japan, 3.11 Duke of Devonshire now Huntington Library, 3.12 Earl of Pembroke now Texas UL, 3.13 J. Pierpont Morgan now Scheide Library, 3.16 Fitzroy Fenwick now Duke of Northumberland; 3.19 “owner untraced” is the copy here offered for sale; 3.25 one of the four sets of 2 ff. “untraced” now Yale UL. The only copy located outside England and the United States is in Paris B.N., lacking 52 leaves (DeR 3.9).

Literature: Ames-Herbert I, p. 5-9; Ames-Dibdin I, p. 16-28; HC 7048; Blades 1; CA (I) and KC II 1093a; Pr 9322; A.W. Pollard, Morgan 634; Duff 242; STC 15375; Pforzheimer 594; Oates 3837-8; BMC IX, 129 (IB. 49431); Goff L-117; Cinquième Centenaire 82; Blake (1976) pp. 107-108, 197; Painter pp. 45-48, 51-54, 59-64; Hellinga (1982) pp. 29-31, 48; CIBN L-83; Needham (1986) Appendix D, Cx 4 (incorr. coll.).