Here begynneth the first volum of Sir Iohan Froyssart

Chrzankowski 1523f1Spanning the years 1322 to 1400, Jean Froissart’s Chronicles covers the antecedents to and the first half of the Hundred Years’ War. Early phases of the war were a period of English ascendancy marked by the triumph at the Battle of Crécy, only to have the French successfully push back under the rule of King Charles V. The nearly three-million-word book would end before the English resumed the war under King Henry V.

Chronicles is a vivid account of an age of chivalry and wanton destruction that survives in more than 100 illuminated manuscripts. Froissart began writing the Chronicles in 1369. He made numerous errors throughout and showed biases, but Froissart provided many lively details based on interviews of witnesses to important events. It is fitting that William Randolph Hearst was a previous owner of the present copy.

The first edition in English, translated at the command of King Henry VIII, is one of the primary sources of medieval English history. Sir John Bourchier, second Baron Berners, created a work of literature in his translation of Froissart, making a significant advance in the development of English prose. Berners completed the task while spying on the French for Cardinal Wolsey and strengthening the fortification at Calais, the last English foothold in France after the Hundred Years’ War. He was a soldier and his ease of translation was no doubt helped by his affinity with the age of chivalry. In 1520 Berners attended Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a spectacular meeting between the kings of England and France that harkened back to the earlier age.

Chronicles in English was beautifully printed by Richard Pynson in two volumes. The present copy bears a near-contemporary inscription in the first volume: “this is Jane Southampton boke.” Thomas Wriothesley (1505-1550) was married to Jane Cheney. Entering the service of Henry VIII at an early age, Wriothesley rose to become Lord Chancellor in 1544, and in accordance with the dead King’s wishes, he was created the Earl of Southampton on February 16, 1547. Henry Wriothesley, his grandson and the third Earl of Southampton, was Shakespeare’s patron. This set was in the great library formed by Henry and Alfred E. Huth (with the bookplates removed) and later in the collection of John A. Saks.

Chrzanowski 1523f1 * and Chrzanowski 1523f2 *

STC 11396 and 11397

Title List

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