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The "1689 Chaucer": a reissue of the last black-letter Chaucer edition.

A recently discovered copy of the Collected Works of Chaucer contains a title page that claims it was printed in 1689, but it has not yet been recorded in the electronic English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). The " 1689 Chaucer" has been known to scholars at least since 1963, but it appears that until this year no descriptions were made based upon actual examination of a copy. (1) Now the 1689 Chaucer can certainly be identified as a reissue of leaves from the 1687 printing with a new title page. (2) The only point that distinguishes its title page from copies of the 1687 edition is the booksellers' description. Based on the evidence in the booksellers' lozenges on the title pages, this Chaucer edition may have been issued in four different states over the course of two years by a consortium of at least five booksellers and the printer, one J.H., generally believed to be John Harefinch. (3) The 1689 title page represents the last campaign to sell copies of the 1687 resetting of Speght's 1602 edition with a hybrid typographic style that put contemporary commentary in Roman type and Chaucer's text in Gothic, with some modernized spelling. This is a compelling visual indicator of late-seventeenth-century readers' reverence for Chaucer's poetry and of their failing ability to construe his Middle English and to read black-letter text. Though the 1687 Chaucer has little to tell scholars about Chaucer's text, the variant issues of the title page may reveal useful insights about readers' reception of Chaucer's works in the transition from the Renaissance to the modern era.

Many of the booksellers named on the title page bearing the 1689 date also seem to have participated in an emerging English rare-book market for bibliophiles. Beginning just ten years before the 1687 Chaucer printing, these same booksellers distributed numerous free auction sale catalogues describing book and art collections to promote book collecting, apparently a profitable side business to selling these same customers newly printed editions. (4) The auction catalogues' titles emphasized the learned disciplines of the books' subjects and the "antique" status of their editions. Simultaneously, older black-letter Chaucer editions, especially the 1602 Speght, appear to have become both rare and sought-after. For instance, Samuel Pepys' 1684 diary entry records his visit to St. Paul's to direct the deliberately archaic binding of his 1602 Chaucer, a volume he may have sought for as much as a year: "they were not full neate enough for me, but pretty well it is; and thence to the clasp-maker's to have it clasped and bossed." (5) This emerging market for collectable copies of old Chaucer editions may have been one factor motivating the printer and booksellers to produce this new, hybrid Speght edition in black letter with modernized apparatus which could be sold as a bargain to customers unable to acquire or to afford its rarer ancestors.

Derek Pearsall described the 1687 resetting of Thomas Speght's 1602 edition of Chaucer's collected works as the last in "what might be called a spate of Chaucerian publication" beginning in 1532. (6) The title page of the only issue recorded in ESTC listed the place of publication as London and gave the date in Roman numerals as 1687. The only evidence of the printer's identity was a one-page Advertisement signed J.H. To identify J.H. as John Harefinch, Pearsall referred to Charles Muscatine's Book of Geoffrey Chaucer, a 1963 monograph. Neither Pearsall nor Muscatine had seen a copy of the 1687 edition with the "John Harefinch" title page, however. For this, they both depended upon William Alderson's research from the 1960s, though this identification also was based upon a secondhand description of a copy that was apparently never seen again.

William Alderson wrote that P. L. Heyworth, the University of Toronto medievalist, had sent him the collation of a 1687 volume described in the 1956 catalogue of Folio Books, Oxford, whose title page listed no booksellers but specified that the books were "Printed and are to be sold by John Harefinch in Montague Court in Little Britain." (8) Neither Alderson nor any other scholar appears to know what became of this book. Alderson was the first to suggest that the 1687 reimposition of Speght's text was produced by a consortium of commercial interests as a "publisher's venture." (9) He thought they may have been attempting to establish a profitable copyright to the Speght Chaucer; that right had lain fallow since the deaths of the heirs of Adam Islip and George Bishop, the original publishers, at some point between 1611 and 1625. (10) Pearsall agreed with Alderson's assertion, but the sheer size of such a "collected works" edition in folio suggests the printer's and sellers' ambitions to profit by selling the printed leaves. Each copy is composed of 600 pages, most of it Chaucer in Gothic type, plus 60 pages of Roman type apparatus, along with Lydgates Siege of Thebes, John Speeds engraved Chaucer portrait, and the coat of arms attributed to Chaucer.

Although survival rates alone do not yield conclusive evidence about print runs or sales, the ESTC records fifty-five copies of the "London: 1687" issue in public and national libraries in Britain and North America, plus five copies recorded in Australia and New Zealand. This suggests that a wide readership for the edition may have been desired and achieved. Moreover, the existence of two different title pages, distinguished only by absence or mention of the printer, indicates active attempts to sell the books. 'The existence of a copy with a third title page listing the booksellers clearly shows signs of a continuing marketing campaign to recover the edition's cost in paper, press time, and labor.

Charles Muscatine's 1963 monograph, drawing upon Alderson's as-yet-unpublished notes, was the first published news of the existence of the 1689 title page. He described the edition as "again entered in the [booksellers'] Catalogue as being sold by S. Crouch in Cornhill; Math. Gilliflower, and W. Hensman in Westminster Hall; and A. Roper, and G. Grafton, in Fleet Street." (11) This description, depending, like Alderson's, on Edward Arber's transcription in the 1911 Term Catalogues, has been the only evidence of the 1689 Chaucer's existence. (12) Alderson and Henderson cautiously described the booksellers' title page as coming from "among the works 'reprinted' during the Easter term of 1689." (13) Alderson's note advises that the 1689 "'reprint' probably should be understood as a reissue," and that "No known copies carry the 1689 imprint." (14) Because Alderson was not actually able to examine a 1689 copy, and because Muscatine and Pearsall based their conclusions upon Alderson, the reappearance of the 1689 Chaucer gives us an opportunity to discover whether it included previously unknown text rather than conforming exactly to the content and layout of the 1687 copies. That opportunity presented itself in an eBay auction in January 2013, when I purchased the book in question with a fourth version of the title page. (15)

In a side-by-side comparison with a copy of the "London: [1687]" edition, I have confirmed that the 1689 book is a reissue of the 1687 edition with a reprinted title page; nothing else has been changed. (16) Even the title pages of both books are exactly alike to the millimeter, including all type heights outside the publication lozenge, and spacing between types and between type and ornaments. The booksellers' information was set in five millimeter capitals for the 1687 copy and in four millimeter capitals for the 1689. The gatherings of the 1687 and 1689 copies are identically signed, including signature "c" missigned as "d," and are identical in all page numbers, headers, and catchwords. In addition, I noted two identical typesetting peculiarities on different leaves that would be highly improbable to reproduce with a new setting of the type. These include a battered capital " W" beginning the first line of the poem, "Upon the Picture of Chaucer" (sig. alv), and low-set printer's ornaments on the bottom right row at the top of the first numbered page. Three of the last four ornaments at the right end of the lower row produced lighter ink deposition on both copies.

I also attempted to compare paper watermarks, but in most cases the black-letter type on both sides of each leaf frustrated my efforts. In one stroke of luck, however, on the first leaf of the missigned gathering, both the Johns Hopkins University copy with the 1687 title page and my copy with the 1689 title page reveal a distinctive portion of what appears to be the same watermark, three touching circles below a shieldlike shape. The three circles depending from a single line can be seen within millimeters of each other in the same blank space below the "bend countercharged" of Chaucer's coat of arms. (17) This suggests that the two sheets may have been printed from the same batch of paper. (18)

The basic content of the pubhsher's information for my 1689 copy largely conforms to Arber's description, but its spelling differs in so many points that it indicates yet another setting of the type in this contested piece of title-page real estate. The printer and publishers' information reads:

LONDON, Printed by J.H. and are to be Jold by Samuel Crouch in Cornhill-Matthew Gelliflower and William Henfhman in Weftminfter-Hall, Abel Roper and George Grafton in Fleet-Street, MDCLXXXIX.

Along with the trivial change from Arber's "Gillyflower" to "Gelliflower" and the provision of the first names of Crouch, Roper, and Grafton, the last name of the third seller indicates one of William Hensman's two variant spelling of his name. According to Henry Plomer, who identifies Hensman as having "a share in most of the large ventures of his time, notably a folio edition of Chaucer," Hensman also spelled his name "Henshman" and "Hinchman." (19) The ESTC indicates that Hensman was an active bookseller at Westminster from 1671 until at least 1704, and on two other occasions he collaborated with Matthew Gillyflower (also spelled "Gilliflower") in 1678 to sell the anonymous The Refined Courtier, or a Correction of several Indecencies crept into civil conversation, and in 1685 to sell Charles Cotton's English translation of Montaigne's essays. In effect, these men are using the reissued Chaucer edition to promote their bookstores, and further examination of titles they published may yield insights about their role in the literary market for such books.

In addition to the occurrence of "Henshman" on the second state of the 1689 Chaucer issue title page, the same spelling appears on three other editions found in the ESTC. There, some years before the main leaves of the 1687/1689 Chaucer edition were printed, the bookseller "William Henshman in Westminster-Hall" partners with members of a different consortium of booksellers to distribute three catalogues promoting the auction of individual collectors' libraries of "antique and modern" books. (20) These are among the dozens of auction sale catalogues for collections of paintings and books distributed by London booksellers that included the sellers of the 1687/1689 Chaucer edition. This may have given them the means and the motive to estimate the market for a black-letter type Chaucer in an era during which some readers still sought Renaissance, Middle English, black-letter editions as collectable rarities and other readers were beginning to prefer new printings of modern English in Roman type.

Goucher College


(1.) See Charles Muscatine, The Book of Geoffrey Chaucer (San Francisco, CA: Book Club of California, 1963), 33; William Alderson and Arnold C. Henderson, Chaucer and Augustan Scholarship (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1970), 40-48; and Derek Pearsall, "Thomas Speght (ca. 1550-?)," in Editing Chaucer: The Great Tradition, ed. Paul G. Ruggiers (Norman, OK: Pilgrim Books, 1984), 90-92.

(2.) Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972, rpt. 1995), 316-316.

(3.) Alderson and Henderson, Chaucer and Augustan Scholarship, 48. Harefinch has been identified as a printer who collaborated with William Hensman. Henry R. Plomer, "Westminster-Hall and Its Booksellers," The Library N.S. (1905): 386; and Henry R. Plomer, A Dictionary ofthe Printers and Booksellers Who Were at Work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1668-172S, ed. Arundel Estaile (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1922), 152.

(4.) A search of ESTC for the subject "Book auctions--England--Early works to 1800" yielded 203 entries, the earliest of which (1634) was printed by John Janson in Amsterdam with four pages of titles in English (ESTC 006206333). The next entry recorded occurs forty years later, when the Widow Page sells a broadsheet listing "A Catalogue of Mathematical Books" for sale (ESTC 006171062). Moses Pitt's 1675 sixteen-page octavo offer to purchase copies of Janson's "great atlas" to be sold at an Amsterdam auction is the first of these catalogues to record that the catalogue will be given away (ESTC 006157300). Beginning in 1680, ESTC records five such free catalogues for book auctions, most written by Edward Millington, who had previously entered the trade as a bookseller but seems to have served London booksellers as an early professional bibliographer to develop interest in the auctions. According to Antony Griffiths, he was also one of the most ambitious of the art auctioneer/booksellers. Antony Griffiths, "Early Mezzotint Publishing in England II: Peter Lely, Tompson and Browne," Print Quarterly 7:2 (1990): 132-134.

(5.) Muscatine mentions this event (Muscatine, Book of Geoffrey Chaucer, 35) but does not point out that Pepys may have had to seek for as long as a year to acquire the volume he called "my Chaucer." Samuel Pepys, The Diary of Samuel Pepys: A New and Complete Transcription, ed. Robert Latham and William Matthews (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1970-1983). The entry for July 8, 1684 is almost thirteen months after the entry for June 14, 1663, which first records Sir John Minnes's praise of Chaucer. Six months later, on December 10, 1663, Pepys describes his visit to St. Paul's Churchyard to select books for purchase, including a "Chaucer" that he had bound in July of the next year. Pepys' November 21, 1666 entry mentions his having read "something from Chaucer" to his wife and brother, possibly from his copy of the 1602 edition.

(6.) Pearsall, "Thomas Speght," 90-91. Although this "last of the black-letter Chaucers" has little to recommend it as an example of Chaucer editing, it has interested scholars such as Alderson, Muscatine, and Pearsall because it divides the work of the earnest but sometimes credulous printer-publishers, who enhanced Chaucer s canon with apocrypha, from the later, scholarly editors of Chaucer, who applied the principles used to edit classical literary texts to the first English author with claims to classic status.

(7.) Alderson's work was brought posthumously to press by Arnold Henderson in 1970, but Alderson had previously shared his research with Muscatine while The Book of Geoffrey Chaucer was being prepared (64).

(8.) Alderson and Henderson, Chaucer and Augustan Scholarship, n. 17,253, 47.

(9.) Ibid., 44-48.

(10.) Ibid., 45-60. Alderson points out that the last link in that commercial and hereditary chain appears to be one George Hebb, to whom Thomas Adams's widow, Elizabeth, sold the rights to many works (not specifically the works of Chaucer) on May 6, 1625. After this date, no further evidence of copyright claims for Speght's edition of Chaucer's works has been found. It seems noteworthy that by 1652 Elias Ashmole already believed he was safe in publishing both the Speght text of the "Canon's Yeoman's Tale" and the Westminster tomb engraving made for Speght's edition in Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, an anthology of otherwise anonymous and pseudonymous alchemical works. The right to print Speght's Chaucer edition, if anyone seriously cared to contest it, was already "in play" by the middle of the seventeenth century.

(11.) Muscatine, 33.

(12.) Edward Arber, The Term Catalogues, 1668-1709A.D.; with a Number for Easter Term, 1711 A.D., vol. 2 (London: Edward Arber, 1905), 261.

(13.) Alderson and Henderson, Chaucer and Augustan Scholarship, 41. Alderson's evaluation of the 1721 Urry Chaucer was used for Chapter 5 of Editing Chaucer: The Great Tradition, ed. Paul G. Ruggiers on that edition. Later researchers have been extremely dependent upon Alderson, whose untimely death kept him from seeing publication of this work.

(14.) Alderson and Henderson, Chaucer and Augustan Scholarship, n. 16, 253.

(15.) J &J Fine Books (Indian Land, SC) reported to me on February 10, 2013, that they had purchased the book at a 2006 auction of the collections of Jack Palance, a television and movie star of the 1950s and sixties, but they were mistaken. On November 24, 2012, about a month before the eBay auction, Merrill's Auction Gallery (Williston, VT) advertised and sold what appeared, based on the auction house's title-page image, to be an identical copy of this issue (see "Lot 229: 1689 Works of jeffrey Chaucer--London printed by J.H.," Invaluable: The World's Premier Auctions, available at http://www. Duane Merrill & Co. would not confirm the sale of this Chaucer edition to J & J Fine Books, but digital images of the spine and pages 32-33, kindly provided by Adam DeMasi of Duane Merrill & Co., match perfectly the spine wear marks and two stains on pages 32 and 33 of my copy. The only other provenance information is contained on the front pastedown, which carries the undated bookplate of Colonel Thomas Glyn, who maybe the same man mentioned in Burke's Annual Register for August 28,1778 (115). In addition to Alderson's description of the 1689 copy with the abbreviated booksellers' names, a third copy bearing the 1689 date but without bookseller information is recorded in the Catalogus van de boeken der Nationale Bibliotheek (The Hague, Holland: Lands Drukkerye, 1700), 295, as entry 3312 under "English Dichters": "The Works of our ancient, learned and excellent English Poet, Jeffrey Chaucer: &c. to which is adjoyn'd the Story of the Siege of Thebes, by j. Lidgate, Monk of Bury. London 1689. in fol. 2.28." This information can be retrieved from a GoogleBooks image pg=PA295&dq=Chaucer+Works+l689+%22Nationale+Bibliotheek%22 &source=bl&ots=YlMd_xddST&sig=TTOS_aVvR7TLisGEZvR9EqDi7 pw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=j0osU4icA6KGyAGFl4H4DA&ved=0CDkQ6AE wAg#v=onepage&q=Chaucer%20Works%20l689%20%22Nationale%20 Bibliotheek%22&f=false. The current online catalogue of the Bibliotheek contains no record of this volume (

(16.) I thank Earle Havens, Amy Kimball, and the Johns Hopkins University Library for granting me access to one of two Johns Hopkins copies of the 1687 Chaucer, shelf mark PO 1850 1687. Digital images for comparison are available at "Links to Parallel Comparison Images: '1687' Issue vs. '1689' Issue," to parallel comparison images_1687_1689.html.

(17.) Based on a comparison with Briquet watermarks, this partially visible watermark most closely resembles the "arms of Basel with three circles" seen in types 656, 12103, 12122. Briquet attributed paper with this mark to the firm of Diking, which is first noted in Swiss and French books printed in the sixteenth century and was active into the seventeenth century. Charles-Moise Briquet, Les fdigranes: Dictionnaire historique des marques du papier des leur apparition vers 1282 jusqu'en 1600 (Paris: A. Picard & fils, 1907), 106, 109.

(18.) Because of the edition's heavy use of Gothic type on both sides of most leaves, no more than the slightest traces of watermarks could be discovered with the aid of a Zelco lamp and shade. The coat-of-arms page of each copy is the only leaf with enough blank space to allow the watermark to be seen.

(19.) Plomer, "Westminster-Hall and Its Booksellers," 386; and Plomer, Dictionary of the Printers and, 152.

(20.) Catalogus librorum, in quavis lingua epfacultate insignium instructissimarum bibliothecarum Reverendi doctissimiq[ue] domini D. Doctoris Gulielmi Outrami (1681), Bibliotheca Smithiana (1682), and Catalogus variorum librorum quavis facultate insigniorum bibliothecarum instructissimarum Rev. Doct. Amb. Atfield (1685). The 1681 auction catalogue describing the libraries of Dr. William Outrami and Thomas Gataker was distributed by booksellers William Cooper, Richard Chiswel, Christopher Wilkinson, William Nott, Robert Horn, and William Henshman. Richard Smith's library, described in the 1682 catalogue, was distributed by nearly the same syndicate of booksellers, with Sam[uel]Tidmarsh taking Robert Horn's place. Ambrose Atfield's 1685 library sale catalogue was distributed by Henshman/Hensman, Nott, and Wilkinson, together with William Miller, a Mr. Southby and a Mr. Stephens. Southby was probably John Southby, active as a bookseller from 1684 to 1691, and Stephens may have been Anthony Stephens, active in 1685 in Oxford, according to the Dictionary of the Printers and Booksellers, 277, 280.


Alderson, William L, and Arnold C. Henderson. Chaucer and Augustan Scholarship. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1970.

Arber, Edward. Ihe Term Catalogues, 1668-1709 A.D.; with a Number for Easter Term, 1711 A.D. Vol. 2. London: Professor Edward Arber, 1905.

Briquet, Charles-Moise. Les filigranes: Dictionnaire historique des marques du papier des leur apparition vers 1282 jusqu'en 1600. Paris: A. Picard & fils, 1907.

Catalogus van de boeken der Nationale Bibliotheek. [The Hague]: Lands Drukkerye, 1700.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Works of our Ancient, Learned, and Excellent, English Poet Jeff [e] ry Chaucer, as they have lately been compared with the best Manuscripts; and several things added never before in print. To which is adjoined, The Story of the Siege of Thebes, by John Lydgate, Monk of Bury. Together with the Life of Chaucer; shewing his Country, Parentage, Education, Marriage, Children, Revenues, Service, Reward, Friends, Books, Death. Also a Table wherein the old and obscure Words are explained; and such words (which are many) that either are by nature or derivation, Arabick, Greek, Latin, Italian, French, Dutch, or Saxon, mark'd with particular Notes for the better understanding their original. London: [1687].

--. The Works of our Ancient, Learned, and Excellent, English Poet Jeff [e] ry Chaucer, as they have lately been compared with the best Manuscripts; and several things added never before in print. To which is adjoined, The Story of the Siege of Thebes, by John Lydgate, Monk of Bury. Together with the Life of Chaucer; shewing his Country, Parentage, Education, Marriage, Children, Revenues, Service, Reward, Friends, Books, Death. Also a Table wherein the old and obscure Words are explained; and such words (which are many) that either are by nature or derivation, Arabick, Greek, Latin, Italian, French, Dutch, or Saxon, mark'd with particular Notes for the better understanding their original. London: Printed by J.H. and are to be sold by Samuel Crouch in Cornhill, Matthew Gelliflower and William Henshman in Westminster-Hall, Abel Roper and George Grafton in Fleet-Street, [1689].

Editing Chaucer: The Great Tradition, ed. Paul G. Ruggiers. Norman, OK: Pilgrim Books, 1984.

Gaskell, Philip. A New Introduction to Bibliography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972. Rpt. 1995.

Griffiths, Antony. "Early Mezzotint Publishing in England II: Peter Lely, Tompson and Browne." Print Quarterly 7:2 (1990): 130-145.

Muscatine, Charles. The Book of Geoffrey Chaucer. San Francisco, CA: Book Club of California, 1963.

Pearsall, Derek. "Thomas Speght (ca. 1550-?)." In Editing Chaucer: The Great Tradition, ed. Paul G. Ruggiers. Norman, OK: Pilgrim Books, 1984, 71-92.

Pepys, Samuel. The Diary of Samuel Pepys: A New and Complete Transcription, ed. Robert Latham and William Matthews. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1970-1983.

Plomer, Henry R. A Dictionary of the Printers and Booksellers Who Were at Work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1668-1725, ed. Arundel Estaile. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1922.

--. " Westminster-Hall and Its Booksellers." The Library, n.s. (1905): 380-390.
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Title Annotation:Nota Bene: Brief Notes on Manuscripts and Early Printed Books: Highlighting Little-known or Recently Uncovered Items or Related Issues
Author:Sanders, Arnold
Publication:The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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