The Works Of Our Ancient, Learned, And Excellent English Poet, Jeffrey Chaucer:
Printed in the Year,
Folio, in fours. 8.5 x 13 inches.  + 660 +  pp. Main text in black letter in double columns. Bound in early full vellum gilt with leather labels to the spine for the title, edition and date. The binding enclosed by two brass clasps. All edges gilt. Marbled endpapers. This handsomely bound copy was owned by F. E. Smith, later 1st Earl of Birkenhead (1872-1930), notable barrister and Conservative politician, holding high office. Its acquisition by Birkenhead may perhaps be dated to 1921-22 as he held the title Viscount (between those of Baron and Earl) only during this period. Illustrated by engraved Gower portrait frontispiece, with genealogical tables and coats of arms and by 2 armourial wood engravings in preliminaries. Decorated by headpiece vignette. This copy has been extra illustrated by the addition of a fine mezzotint portrait of Chaucer and a smaller engraved portrait - these two occupying two blank leaves before the frontispiece. The last black letter edition of Chaucer, substantially reprinted from the editions of 1598 and 1602, with the addition of the rediscovered endings to the Cook's and Squire's tales given in the advertisement on the final page. The dedication to Sir Robert Cecil, Principal Secretary to Queen Elizabeth, is signed Tho. Speght and the text of a letter to Speght from Francis Beaumont and verses by Francis Thynne, an additional editor of the 1602 edition, are added. The Life of Chaucer is followed by an earlier dedication to Henry VIII. The Works include The Canterbury Tales, The Romaunt of the Rose, Troilus and Cresseide, The Legend of Good Women, The House of Fame, The Testament of Love, etc. and various miscellaneous works, some of which material is now known to be spuriously attributed to Chaucer. At the end is The Story of the Siege of Thebes, by John Lidgate (1370?-1451?) with a glossary of 'old and obscure' and 'hard' words in Chaucer. Thomas Speght (-1621), a schoolmaster, produced his first edition of Chaucer's Works in 1598, with the letter of Francis Beaumont (-1624) of Leicestershire, which justifies Chaucer's use of language 'somewhat too broad and plain' and his 'Incivility' and 'undecent Speeches.' For his second edition of 1602, Speght sought the assistance of Francis Thynne (1545?-1608), whose father had published an edition of Chaucer in 1532. (hence presumably the inclusion of the dedication to Henry VIII).
[Stock No. 26137]