MATTHAEUS, Westmonasterensis [pseud.] [Paris, Matthew.]

MATTHAEUS Westmonasterensis [pseud.] [Paris, Matthew.] Flores historiarum per Matthæum Westmonasteriensem collecti, præcipuè de rebus Britannicis ab exordio mundi vsque ad annum Domini. 1307.

London, ex officina Thomæ Marshij, anno Domini. 1570 [2 June]


Folio. pp. [x], 440, 218, [ii], 219-466, [xxii]. pi1, [fleuron] , A-2N , 2O , 3A-3S , 3T (3T1+chi1) 3V-4Q * 2* . [this issue; K3 is signed R3; signature-mark O2 is under “q; l ”; in index, **3r catchword is “Tractatus”.] Roman and Italic letter, occasional word in Greek and Black letter. Title within ornate architectural border (McKerrow and Ferguson 132) floriated white on black criblé and historiated woodcut initials, large engraved armorial bookplate, dated 1703, of William, Lord North on pastedown, Robert S. Pirie’s below, his pencil acquisition note on fly. Scattered single worm holes in the first few quires, minor light waterstain in last three quires, two rust holes in blank fore-margin of last three leaves. (from catches), very rare minor marginal stain or mark. A very good copy, crisp and clean in handsome contemporary London blindstamped calf over thick wooden boards, covers triple blind ruled to a panel design, outer two panels filled with a blind heads in medallion roll [Oldham HM a (6) 775.], central panel with blind ruled lozenge filled with another [Oldham HM a (3) 772], spine with raised bands, later (C18th) red and green morocco labels gilt lettered, brass catches, remains of clasps, ‘Historia Britannica’ mss on outer edge, some scattered wormholes in both covers, head and tail of spine restored.

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 mss. 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 Book 1, covering through the year 1066, follows closely the ‘Historia major’. Book 2 is an abridgement from the same work, with additions, covering 1067-1307. The additions from 1259-1273 have been attributed to William Rishanger. 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 BL’s ms. of the early C15.

The work begins with Adam and splits the period before 1AD into five ages, the first ending before the Flood, the second before the death of Abraham, the third introduces Brutus, the mythical fugitive from Troy who built London and founded Britain, the fourth tells of the reigns of Solomon and David, also Janus and Saturn, Romulus and Remus in Italy, it discusses early Christian Rome and gives an early Christian acrostic from Augustine’s ‘De Civitate’, the fifth recounts early Gospel history before the Nativity. From then on, dates are given in the top margin, with the reigning King of England, beginning with Cymbeline, and the reigning Emperor. The events and the political history that follows is, for early England, written mostly from Bede, the later sources, thanks partly to Parker’s additions, are dominated by Matthew Paris. Still, considerable information is made available from other chronicles, Parker sees 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, probably Westminster Abbey and St. Alban’s, and from various hands). “No English Chronicle, if we may judge from the number of Mss. that still exist, and from the use made of it by subsequent compilers, has been so popular.” Luard. Shakespeare used this work for many of the minor plot details in King John.

ESTC S113615. STC 17653a.3. Lowndes IV 1517. Brunet III 1536-7. Graesse IV 445.
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