Clive A. Burden LTD. Rare Maps, Antique Atlases, Books and Decorative Prints

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This leaf is from the ‘First edition of the greatest work of middle English literature, one of the earliest books printed in England, and the first substantial book of poetry published in English … Caxton’s seven Westminster publications preceding the Chaucer or printed concurrently with it in the same type are only small half-sheet quartos.’ (Christies).

William Caxton (c.[1415-24]-1492) holds a special place in for his publications of vernacular literature. Arguably the most famous of all is William Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ printed late 1476 or early 1477, the first book to be printed in England. Only ten substantive examples are extant, none known are complete. This leaf is from the incomplete Ashburnham copy sold at auction in 1898. It was broken up and accompanies this book by E. Gordon Duff, Sanders Reader in Bibliography at Cambridge University published in 1905. Two hundred and fifty-two copies were printed of which only 148 included an original leaf, as here. This is folio 31 from the Knight’s Tale with rubricated letter.

Provenance: Bertram, 4th Earl of Ashburnham (sale Sotheby’s, 9 May 1898, lot 4061); Caxton Club, Chicago; Chas. T. Easley collection; Dorothy Sloan 21 November 1999 lot 87. British Library Treasures in Full. Caxton’s Chaucer (online); De Ricci’s census of Caxtons 22; Duff, Early English Books 87; ESTC S109814; Goff C-431; ISTC ic00431000; ODNB; USTC 500017.

CAXTON, William – DUFF, E. Gordon

(Canterbury Tales)

William Caxton/ Caxton Club Chicago, Westminster, 1478
A single leaf (242 x 167 mm.) with twenty-nine lines per page, printed in Caxton’s Type 2 in red and black, gutter margin with light water stain. Quarto book (310 x 240 mm.), publishers half calf, cloth boards, gilt ruled, spine with raised bands, blind ruled compartments, gilt titles, complete with pocket mounted onto the back board and original paper folder for the leaf, uncut. With typographic title page, pp. 118, (2), illustrated with frontispiece and 25 plates.
Stock number: 10784


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