831G Geoffrey Chaucer ca. 1340, d. 1400
Workes of our Antient and lerned English Poet, Geffrey Chaucer, newly Printed. Edited by Thomas Speght.
London: Impensis Geor[ge] Bishop , 1598. $17,000
Folio 11 1/2 x 8 inchhes , 394,  leaves. With errata leaf bound at the end. Lacking the initial and final blank leaves. Black letter. Double columns. Engraved portrait of Chaucer on ¶7v after Hoccleve. Woodcut arms of Chaucer on A6v, and woodcut illustration for the “Knight’s Tale” at head of B1r. Woodcut title border (McKerrow and Ferguson 148) and three divisional titles within repeated woodcut border (McKerrow and Ferguson 75).
First Speght edition. (sixth edition overall) Eighteenth-century paneled calf, rebacked with (possible original) spine laid down. A bit of rubbing to boards and spine. Some worming sporadically throughout, mainly marginal. Some toning and browning throughout. Previous owner’s old ink signature on title-page, and old ink notes on dedication page, top margin. Overall a very good copy. Housed in a custom quarter morocco clamshell.
Chaucer’s work is the cornerstone of English poetry. Next to Shakespeare’s folio, it is probably the most influential literary work in English.
The importance of Chaucer’s role in the development of vernacular English literature would take volumes to describe.Included in this volume are several of Chaucer’s works: The Canterbury Tales, The Romaunt of the Rose, Troilus and Cressida, Chuacer’s translation of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, among others.It is also interesting to note that “The Seige of Thebes” by John Lydgate is also published in this volume of Chaucer’s works. Interesting because the two were contemporaries, but more because of intertextual references in their work. In Chaucer’s “Troilus and Creseida,” we read of Creseida quietly reading at home in Troy Lydgate’s “Seige of Thebes,” surrounded by her maidens. Despite the loss of her husband, Lydgate’s text brings her partial happiness…
This is the first edition of Chaucer edited by Thomas Speght (fl. 1600).
He introduced, for the first time, a biography of Chaucer in English, a glossary of Chaucerian words, and the spurious “Dreame” and the “Flower and the Leaf” (both of which Francis Beaumont apologized for in the preface). “This is the first edition edited by Speght who had the assistance of John Stowe, Francis Thynne, Francis Beaumont, the elder, and Robert Glover. The most remarkable feature of this edition is the glossary which was largely the editor’s production and was the main object of Francis Thynne’s Animadversions” (Pforhzheimer).
Grolier, Langland to Wither, 43. Pforzheimer 177. STC 5077.