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Book of the Week — Prologue to the Tales of Caunterbury


“For hym was levere have at his beddes heed
Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed,
Of Aristotle and his philosophie,
Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie.
But al be that he was a philosophre,
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre
But al that he myghte of his freendes hente,
On bookes and on lernynge he it spente,
And bisily gan for the soules preye
Of hem that yaf hym wherwith to scoleye.
Of studie took he moost cure and moost heede.”
— Geoffrey Chaucer

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Prologue to the Tales of Caunterbury
Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400)
Chelsea: The Ashendene Press, 1898
PR1868 P8 S5 1898

This is the ninth publication of the Ashendene Press and the first illustrated work from the Press. It was printed by C. St. John Hornby and his sisters with the assistance of Cicely Barclay for private circulation only, amongst their friends and neighbors. The text is that of the Clarendon Press edition of The Complete Works of Chaucer edited by Dr. W. Skeat, Oxford, 1895. An Errata page, bound in at the front, announces “the lamentable mistake of the Printers the portrait of the Maunciple has been set in the place of the Squire and vice versa,” along with a second “the” on page 13, line 15. The colophon states that the printing began in July and was finished “in December of the year of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria 1897.” PR1868-P8-S5-1898-CoverIllustrated with twelve zinc cut reproductions of the woodcuts used in William Caxton’s 1483 edition of The Tales of Canterbury. Typefaces are Fell, cast, as a note “To The Gentle Reader” says, “from the matrices given in about the year 1670 by Bishop Fell to the University of Oxford.”

Rare Books copy bound by Miss Margie Le Lacheur, a student of T. J. Cobden Sanderson, in full green morocco with gilt tooling consisting of a blossom, leaf, and vine pattern on the front cover and spine, gilt dentelles, and boards ruled in gilt. Gilt letters “L” and “M” at the top and “L” and “E” at the bottom of the front board and rear boards. The inside of the back board, in gilt, indicates “M.L – 1900.” Apparently, the book was bound by Lacheur for a family member. All edges gilt. Lacheur was employed by the Doves Bindery. She exhibited at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in 1899. Only three other bindings by Lacheur are known.

Edition of fifty copies, signed and dated by the printer. Rare Books copy is no. 25.

View the original article on the OpenBook Blog

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