The most famous and renowned historie, of that woorthie and illustrous knight Meruine sonne to that rare and excellent mirror of princely prowesse, Oger the Dane,

London, By R. Blower and Val. Sims, 1612.


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. Two parts in one. pp [viii], 352. A-Y8, Z4. Black letter, some Roman. First title within typographical border, typographical head and tail-pieces, second title with small woodcut device, historiated and floriated woodcut initials, stamp at foot of A2 “Duplicate. Bridgewr. Liby.”. Title-page dusty with blank lower outer corner expertly restored, lower outer corner of last leaf restored with the loss of five words on recto, a few thumb marks, mostly marginal stains and spots. A very good copy in modern calf antique, covers bordered with a double blind rule, spine with raised bands, red morocco label gilt, all edges marbled.

Exceptionally rare first edition in English of this medieval Romance translated, possibly by Gervase Markham, from the 1540 Paris edition of ‘L’histoire du preux Meurvin.’ This copy is a duplicate from the Bridgewater library, “the oldest large family collection in England to survive intact into modern times” Stephen Tabor, now at the Huntington Library. Presumably the Huntington copy, which is one of only four American libraries to record owning this work, is the other copy from Bridgewater. Estc records two other copies, at the BL and at Oxford Bodleian. This work was described by J. Payne Collier in his “A Catalogue, Biographical and Critical: Of Early English Literature; Forming a portion of the library at Bridgewater House, the property of the Rt. Hon. Lord Francis Egerton.” 1865. He states “From the phraseology this is obviously a translation from the French. The fact is not stated by J.M., who subscribes the address “to the readers whosoever they may be”, preceding the ‘first part’ of the work; but it is admitted by the printer in his brief preface to the second part. The initials J.M.would point to John Marston, among the authors that time, but it is not likely that he, who was then a popular dramatist, would engage in such an undertaking, and bears no marks of his vigorous, although somewhat rugged style. In the preliminary matter to the first part, he promises the second part “the next term, and if I live,” and the title page to the second part bears the same date. The paging and the signatures run on from one part to the other; and, although this is the first edition known, it is very possible that was printed at a somewhat earlier period, and that the paging and signatures of the two parts were then distinct. Two poetical pieces are inserted in the first division of the work, but they are of no merit.” Collier also includes this work in his ‘A Bibliographical and Critical Account of the Rarest Books in the English Language” 1865.

The story of Mervine first appears as part of a series Old French chansons de geste, ‘The Chevalier Ogier’ (ca. 1220) which belongs to the Geste de ‘Doon de Mayence’ or the “cycle of the rebellious vassals”. “A later romance in Alexandrines (Brit. Mus. MS. Royal 15 E vi.) contains marvels added from Celtic romance. . The prose romance printed at Paris in 1498 is a version of this later poem. The fairy element is prominent in the Italian legend of Uggicri il Danese, the most famous redaction being the prose Libra dele halaglic del Danese (Milan, 1498), and in the English ‘Famous and renowned history of Morvine, son to Oger the Dane, translated by J. M. (London, 1612). The Spanish Urgel was the hero of

Lope de Vega’s play, the Marques de Mantua.” Encyclopædia Britannica.

“This tale of medieval chivalry is a very late outgrowth of the ‘chansons de geste’ and is intended as a sequel to the thirteenth-century epic of ‘Ogier le Danois’ .. This tale begins with the introduction of Ogier to Morgan le Fay by Artus; they fall in love and a son, Mervin, is born to Morgan. She arranges for him to be brought up as his own son by a knight who instructs him in the whole practise of chivalry. Mervin grows up to become the typical crusading knight of the medieval tale, encountering all kinds of dangers, natural and supernatural, performing great deeds of valour in tournaments at home and in battle against the saracens abroad, with the love of some fair lady as his reward for victory in both. Markham’s English version is of a higher literary quality than the original, but is not one of his better pieces. Although its character might lead us to suppose that it belongs to his earliest period his preface makes it clear that it was written in 1612, during a severe illness, and he promises the second part ‘next term (if I live)’” Poynter.

An exceptionally rare work. We have located no copy at auction.

ESTC S112619. STC 17844. Poynter, Markham, pp. 72-74.


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