EADMER OF CANTERBURY; SELDEN, John, ed. Historia Novorum in Anglia.

London, William Stansby, 1632.


EDITIO PRINCEPS. Folio. pp. [8], XVI, 218, lacking first and last blank. Roman letter, with Italic, some Anglo-Saxon. Title in red and black, one half-page and one small woodcut medieval seal, decorated initials and ornaments. Slight age browning to first two and last gatherings, very minor marginal foxing. A very good, clean copy in contemporary French polished calf, ancient reback, original spine remounted, double gilt ruled, gilt arms of Jean-Paul II de Montchal to covers, raised bands, spine gilt ruled and gilt-lettered, a.e.r., corners worn, few minor marks to covers. C19 autograph of John Brewer, Oxford, to pastedown, C20 inked ex-libris of N.H. MacMichael, keeper of muniments at Westminster Abbey, to ffep (detached), C19 ‘A.[ugustus] Jessopp D.D. Schol: Reg: (?)’ and scattered C20 pencilled notes, two loose paper slips with C19 and later bibliographical ms annotations.

Elegant copy of the editio princeps of this important medieval history of England, edited by the English antiquary and jurist John Selden – ‘central to historians’ accounts of the English state under the Norman kings and its relations to “the church”’ (Maddicott, p.95). Together with those of Florence of Worcester and William of Malmesbury, Eadmer’s work stands as one of the major medieval English histories. Eadmer (1060-1126) was an English monk based at the Benedictine Abbey of Christ Church, in Canterbury. There he met St Anselm, and became his secretary and closest companion, and composed influential theological (e.g., on the Immaculate Conception) and historical works. ‘Historia’ deals with the history of England in 1066-1122, from William the Conqueror to Henry I. The ms was unearthed by Selden (1584-1654) in Robert Cotton’s library, and here provided with a long philological, historical and methodological preface (including Eadmer’s biography and the sources consulted), copious glosses and commentaries. The ‘Historia’ begins from the last Anglo-Saxon kings – Edgar, Ethelred, Edward the Confessor, Harold. Interspersed with royal history is that of the English bishops; in particular, Eadmer upheld the pre-eminence of Canterbury over York, as episcopal seat. A long section on St Anselm during his years at Canterbury is also his first official public ‘portrait’ written by someone who knew him, together with Eadmer’s separate, and more private, ‘Vita Anselmi’. Selden’s notes appear in a separate appendix, with a selection (‘Spicilegium’) of historical information and excerpts from documents. E.g., the beginning (pp.145-54) of a document addressed to King Edgar on behalf of English Benedictine monks and nuns, here printed in the Anglo-Saxon and Latin. The laws granted by William the Conqueror to the English are also reproduced, in Latin and Norman French. A most interesting and important work.

Jean-Pierre II de Montchal (1652-98), ‘seigneur de Noyen et Grisy’, counsellor at the Parliament of Paris, was likely a discerning bibliophile, as several finely-bound books survive with his charming gilt supralibros. A. Jessopp was probably Augustus (1823-1914), English clergyman and schoolmaster in Norfolk, author of historical essays and friend to the writer M.R. James.

ESTC S121437 (one of two variants, priority not established); STC 7438. J. Maddicott, Medieval State (2000). Not in Lowndes.
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