Ihesus. The floure of the commaundementes of god

Chrzanowski 1510fTen Commandments is an English version of Fleur des Commandements, which appeared in three 15th-century editions, all of which are very rare. Little is known about Andrew Chertsey, the translator, other than the fact that he translated several devotional works for Wynkyn de Worde. The book is distinguished by its title page, which features a woodcut of Aaron and Moses together with the words of the Ten Commandments paraphrased in rhyming form—their first appearance thus in English. The verso is a full-page woodcut of the crucifixion of Jesus. A later illustration in the book depicts Jesus teaching the Apostles with the words of the Lord’s prayer in English above their heads.

Ten Commandments met the needs of confessors, priests, preachers of sermons, and literate lay readers. The book provides an explanation of what each commandment requires of the faithful. This is followed by a list of the seven deadly sins and cardinal virtues together with a long collection of exemplars illustrating, commandment by commandment, the benefits of virtuous behavior and damning effects of sin. These colorful stories draw from the Bible, the lives of saints, and Christian lore. De Worde printed many devotional works, and Ten Commandments is one of finest and most substantial of these publications. It was reprinted in 1521.

In the present copy the original binding is preserved as the book’s doublures. In Five Centuries of English Bookbinding Howard Nixon identifies it as a Westminster binding by the Caxton binder. Nixon states that the number of known works from this bindery is thirty-six, and few, if any, are in complete state. It is not known whether the Caxton binder was an employee of Caxton or an independent craftsman working for both Caxton and the Abbey. Examples of his work span from 1477 to 1510.

English catechetical works from this period faced the challenge of surviving the Reformation. The present copy features the deletion or attempted deletion of the terms “Pope” and “Purgatory” from the text, obviously made after the abolition of papal jurisdiction in 1533 and dissolution of the monasteries.

Few copies of the first edition of Ten Commandments are recorded and some of these are defective, including the three other copies located in America.

Chrzanowski 1510f *

STC 23876

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675