Britanniae Utriusque Regnum et Principum origo

Paris, Badius Ascensius. 1517.


8vo. ff. (viii) 101 (ii). 2A8, A-M8, N6. [last blank]. Roman letter. Badius’ beautiful, large woodcut printer’s device of printing press and workshop on title, armorial woodcut on verso of AA8, white on black initials criblé initials. Contemporary autograph on verso of final blank, “Liber Robti [Robert] Shakeltoni ex dono mti. [monasteri] triscase”, “Jesus be with me” below, “liber monasteri …?” above, verses in Latin in the same hand below, 19C armorial bookplate of George Ormsby Gore, 3rd Baron Harlech on papstedown. Title-page slightly dusty, very light waterstaining on margins of last few ll., closed tear in blank margin of C5 and 6, rare spot or stain. A very good, crisp copy in nineteenth century English calf richly blind stamped, fine contemporary blindstamped panels inlaid on covers, upper cover with gryphon, rose and acorn ornaments, [Hobson Blind Panels AC. 5] lower panel with floral border with vertical strips, diapered at sides with bees and flowers at centres, [not in Hobson].

Edited by Yves Cavellat, this is the second edition of this celebrated history of early Britain, first published by Badius in 1508. Geoffrey (1100?-1154) Bishop of St Asaph, “a man whose like could not be found for learning and knowledge,” (Girentian Brut), drew together from earlier sources the ancient British legends and reduced them into respectable medieval Latin history. “The Historia Britonum marks an epoch in the literary history of Europe. There followed in less than half a century after the completion of Geoffrey’s Chronicle, the romances partly based on it of the Grail, Percival, Lancelot, Tristan, and the round table; and Geoffrey’s stories of Merlin and King Arthur were naturalised in Germany and Italy, as well as in France and England. … Of the larger portion of his text and its principal elements, his own work is the oldest existing specimen; but there can be little doubt that he compiled it from the Latin ‘Nennius’, still extant, and a book of Breton legends which has perished… The Historia Britorum exercised a powerful influence in the unification of the people of England. The race-animosities of Breton, Teuton and Frenchman would probably have endured much longer than they did but for the legend of an origin common to them all…” DNB. “L’intéret poétique des traditions que contenait cet ouvrage lui assura une immense popularité….Enfin, un siècle après sa production le Roman de Geoffroi de Monmouth fut généralement adopté par tous ceux qui écrivirent sur l’histoire d’Angleterre,” (Hoeffer). Although of contested historical value this “history” has had immense influence on  Europe’s literature.

The two blind panels on the covers could well have been on the original binding as Hobson dates the first as being from 1515 to 1530. [Hobson Blind Panels AC. 5] They are very well preserved examples of the large panels used on English bindings that were copied from French examples. The second panel is very fine and is not identified by Hobson. The Contemporary English provenance is intriguing, though we have not been able to identify the Robert Shackleton, or the monastery from which the book was given.

BM STC Fr. p. 196. Renouard, II p. 462. Adams G 445. Brunet II 1459, “La source d’ou Rob. Wace a tiré son poem du Brut; c’est aussi celle de presque tous les romans de la table Ronde”(another edition). Lowndes 1194.


Print This Item Print This Item