BERNERS, Juliana (attrib.)

Literary Researches into the History of the Book of Saint Albans.

London: Re-printed by Harding and Wright, for White and Cochrane, and R. Triphook, 1810 Stock Code: 146953
£2,500.00
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First modern edition of the Book of Saint Albans, a facsimile of the original 1496 edition preceded by a lengthy bibliographic essay, one of only 150 copies printed (noted on page 104).

The Book of Saint Albans, the final book printed by the St Albans Press, marked numerous "firsts": the first printed English armorial, the first printed book on field sports and heraldry, the first book with engravings printed in colours, the first printed book containing English popular rhymes, and if the speculative attribution to Juliana Berners is correct (an attribution firmly defended in the introductory essay), the earliest English printed book with a female author. It was first published in 1486, and expanded in 1496 with a chapter on fishing.

This facsimile follows the 1496 edition, and was produced and edited by the English writer, antiquary, and Roxburghe Club founder Joseph Haslewood (1769-1833). It is notable that the facsimile was published in something of a golden age of book collecting, the age of Dibdin and the Roxburghe sale, with much aristocratic competition for Caxtons, early printing, and the "great books"; this competition drove up prices and excluded all but the wealthiest from collecting English incunabula, but created the market for high quality facsimiles, such as this, of the first appearances of the English presses.

This was the copy of Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, 1st Baron Tweedmouth (1820-1894), with his booklabel to front doublure, and with a letter to him from legendary bookseller Bernard Quaritch mounted to an initial binder's blank, September 1882. Quaritch - founder of the eponymous firm, and the figure who dominated British bookselling in the 19th century - writes to Tweedmouth to relate his purchase that year of the original 1486 edition of the Book of Saint Albans, the copy of Francis Leyborne Popham, at Christie's, for 600 guineas. Quaritch relates why he bought the book - as a young man, he had walked to St Albans and back in a day, eating only bread and butter, a few apples, and half a pint of beer. Although he says "a variety of reasons induced me to buy this book", that is the only one he gives, seemingly an expensive memento of his youth and good health - his Sunday walks, he says, generally extended over 40-50 miles. Aside from minor talk about catalogues, he thanks Tweedmouth for his continued patronage over thirty years, and notes that in the last season he has spent over 50,000 on his general stock and has a large selection for Tweedmouth to choose from, including new books from Blenheim and Hamilton palaces. The Quaritch catalogue entry for the 1486 first edition is mounted to the front free endpaper verso, the 600 guinea purchase price marked up to 735, alongside two other clippings on Quaritch's purchase to the following blank.

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Description

Folio (263 x 181 mm). Contemporary calf, neatly rebacked and recornered, wide concentric gilt and blind border, wide gilt turn-ins, brown paper doublures and free endpapers, calf hinge supports, gilt edges.

Illustrations

Printed in red and black, with numerous woodcuts after the original.

Condition

20th century bookplate of George H. Brook to front free endpaper, ink note to rear doublure. Trivial rubbing, some toning around type, notwithstanding a fine copy.

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