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MATTHAEUS Westmonasterensis (pseud.)


Flores Historiarum.

London, Thomas Marsh, 1570.


Folio, pp. (xxxii) 466 including blank before index, unnumbered leaf inserted after Ttt5. Roman and italic letter, occasional words in Greek and black letter, woodcut initials, title page with ornate architectural border (McKerrow and Ferguson 132). Damp stain to lower margin of first few gatherings, very occasional light foxing, outer margin of title shaved at top, just touching border. Generally a fresh copy in early 18th-century English calf, covers with a roll-tooled key-motif frame and late 19th-century central armorial gilt stamp of the Society of Writers to the Signet, re-backed, boards a little scuffed. Occasional neat contemporary marginalia and brief notes on verso of final leaf, Adam Sim of Coulter’s mid-19th-century bookplate inside upper cover, Society of Writers to the Signet (binding).

Second and best edition, variant issue, of a history of the world, from the Creation to the death of Edward I in 1307. It was edited by Archbishop Parker, who had access to further manuscripts after his edition of 1567, which relied on one early C14 codex now at Eton College. The final year was taken from Trivet’s ‘Annales.’ He had also since become acquainted with Matthew Paris’ ‘Chronica Majora,’ and makes insertions from his new sources. The Preface to the Reader, presumably by Parker, explains the changes made. The first record of the putative name of the author appears in the British Library’s manuscript of the early C15.

The work begins with Adam and splits the period before 1AD into five ages, the first ending before the Flood, and the second before the death of Abraham. The third introduces Homer and Brutus, the mythical fugitive from Troy who built London and founded Britain, the fourth tells of the reigns of Solomon and David, Janus and Saturn, Romulus and Remus in Italy, and discusses early Christian Rome besides giving an early Christian acrostic from Augustine’s ‘De Civitate.’ The fifth age recounts early Gospel history before the Nativity. From then on, dates are given in the top margin, beginning with Cymbeline, the reigning King of England and Emperor.

The events and the political history that follow are written mostly from Bede for early England, while the later sources are dominated by Matthew Paris, thanks partly to Parker’s additions. Still, considerable information is made available from other chronicles. Parker uses amongst others Walter of Coventry, Roger of Hovenden, and the Chronicum Roffensis, all presumably in the C14 monastic libraries where this work was written, according to the book’s C19 editor, Luard, including probably Westminster Abbey and St. Alban’s, and from various hands.

Parker let mistakes through which we learn about easily in this copy, thanks to a diligent early reader who gives page numbers for e.g. where the daughter of King Alexander of Scotland is called Margaret or Mary, and how Pope Eugenius here dies twice, both in 1152 and 1153. He compares excerpts with the Bermondsey Chronicles and the Liber Waldensis in particular.

Adam Sim of Coulter was a councillor of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland from 1863-6, and of the Society of Writers to the Signet, which is the oldest legal society in the world, and one of the oldest professional bodies, founded by the notaries to the Scottish crown in the 14th C.

STC 17653a.3. Lowndes IV 1517. Brunet III 1536-7. Graesse IV 445.