THE MOST COMPLETE HISTORY OF THE BRITISH ISLES UP TO THE LATE 1500s

The First and Second Volumes of Chronicles (with the Third) Volume.

London, John Harrison, George Bishop, Rafe Newberie, Henrie Denham and Thomas Woodcocke, 1587.

£16,500

Folio, three volumes. Volume I: pp. (viii) 250, (viii) 9-61, (xi) 183 (iii) 3-464 (xxxviii). Volume II: (iv) 202, (xvi), (vi) 798. Volume III: (ii) 799-1592, (lviii). Volume I: A5 (lacking first blank), B-X6, Y4, A-E6, AQ6, R2, A-V6, 2A-2N6, 2O4, 2P-2Q6, 2R5 (with original cancel), 2S-2T6. A6, *6, ¶7 (lacking blank). Volume II: Y5+6, A-Q6, R5 (lacking blank), B8 (all assembled from volume I). A6, B-V6, 2A-2V6, 3A-3V6, 4A-4G6, 4H1. Volume III: *1, (lacking third title, replaced here with part title) 4H2-6, 4I -4V6, 5A-5V6, 6A-6V6, 7A-7N6, 7O3 (lacking blank). C-F6, G5 (lacking last blank). Cancel leaves replaced, from the 1723 edition, in volume I on 2Q3-4 and 2S2-5 and in volume 3 on 7A-7I6, 7l 2-5, G3-5. Mostly Black letter, double column. General title within vine and tendril architectural woodcut border inscribed N.H. (supposedly the miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard, McKerrow & Ferguson 148), part title (repeated) within architectural woodcut border comprising arch, termini, figures and fruit and satyrs at sides, copied from the frame of Holbein’s portrait of Erasmus (McKerrow & Ferguson 122). Part-title (repeated) within elaborate woodcut cartouche with fruit and flowers (McKerrow & Ferguson 147). Volume III title page replaced with part title, large ornate woodcut initials and ornaments, printer’s woodcut device on verso of last, pencil inscription on volume I front free endpaper: “From Lord Londesbrough’s Library” (Londesbrough was one of the richest peers in England), armorial bookplates of Theod. H. Broadhead on front pastedowns. Light age yellowing with occasional slight browning in places, some slight marginal staining, a few ink marks, first title lightly browned and laid down, four leaves expertly re-margined in volume I, a few scattered single worm holes in places in volume II, small tears in 3G4, 3M3 and 4C5 repaired, volume III with small tears to edges and corners expertly repaired. Unusually good clean copies in superb late C18th straight grained dark blue morocco, covers bordered with a triple gilt rule and framed with alternating gilt leaf and floral tools. Gilt flowers to corners, gilt ‘temple’, comprising columns surmounted with a crescent at center of each side, spine richly gilt in compartments with the same leaf and floral tools, oval laurel wreath gilt at centers surrounded by semé of pointilé tools, inner dentelles gilt with a ‘Greek key” border. All edges gilt, extremities fractionally rubbed.

The second and best edition of the single most comprehensive and valuable early history of the British Isles, which rapidly became the standard work of its kind. Shakespeare used this edition as the source for his historical plays, as well as Macbeth, King Lear and part of Cymbeline, adopting not only the facts but sometimes whole phrases from the text (see e.g. Richard III Act IV. Sc. II). The first edition was the work of Holinshed, William Hanson and others, but Holinshed died shortly after, and the publication of this second, very much enlarged edition was prepared under the supervision of John Hooker, assisted by Francis Thynne (especially on Scotland), John Stow and Abraham Fleming, who contributed the invaluable indexes not present in the first edition.

The Chronicles were the first complete history of the British Isles (and even of England) to appear in print, of an authoritative character, composed in English and in a continuous narrative, in this edition covering the whole of British history from earliest times to 1586. Although the work borrows from earlier chroniclers, as well as more recent ones such as Hall and Stow himself, it did not do so uncritically, and the compilers themselves carried out research into original sources as well as using French and Italian materials more extensively than any previous English historians, especially for the later periods. For the history of the 15th and 16th centuries it is unequalled and irreplaceable.

Unfortunately the accuracy with which the chronicles recorded contemporary events, particularly Elizabeth’s negotiations with the Scots, the machinations of Leicester, Cecil and Burley (derived from his own manuscript), Babington’s conspiracy, Drake’s return and the lives of certain Archbishops of Canterbury, caused great offence. The work was investigated by Whitgift and the excision and cancellation of numerous passages was ordered and delegated to Fleming. In 1722-23 three London booksellers republished the castrated pages, carefully edited by John Blackburn so that possessors of the volume might perfect them. They were beautifully printed to match the original. In this copy all the castrated leaves have been replaced, and the text is therefore complete as originally intended.

The order of this copy has been altered, bringing the English parts of the history together and placing the tables by the appropriate text, creating three volumes of similar size (e.g. part of volume one has been moved to volume two along with its title page and corresponding table). Changing the order of the text and adding the reprinted cancels from the C18th was clearly done in order to create what would, in its time, be considered the best possible copy of this work, by someone who clearly knew it well enough to enhance its coherence. The sumptuous and finely worked binding in very high quality morocco, is reminiscent of work by Kalthoeber or Baumgarten, and is certainly from the period in which they were most active, c.1780. A very beautiful set, that would have taken pride of place in any Georgian library.

Theodore Henry Broadhead was born in September 1741 and was given the name of Theodore Henry Brinckman at birth though his name was legally changed to Theodore Henry Broadhead by Act of Parliament. He held the office of High Sheriff of Surrey in 1786. He lived at Holly Grove, Windsor Park. Baron Londesborough was Born Hon. Albert Denison Conyngham, In 1824, he was Attache to Berlin, Vienna in 1825 and Secretary of the Legation to Florence in 1828 and Berlin from 1829-31.Conyngham was knighted in 1829, and at the 1835 general election he was elected as Liberal Member of Parliament for Canterbury. In 1849, he changed his surname to Denison under the terms of the will of his maternal uncle, William Denison, and was created Baron Londesborough a year later.

STC 13569. Lowndes III 1086. Gibson 358. 1st edn. (ditto Grolier & Pforzheimer). Kingsford, English historical literature, p.271 et seq.

L1391

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