The auncient historie and onely trewe and syncere cronicle of the warres betwixte the Grecians and the Troyans

Chrzanowski 1555lWe learn from astrological data in the prologue of the Troy Book that it was at 4 p.m. on October 31, 1412, when John Lydgate received the command from the Prince of Wales to take on the writing task. With his coronation to become King Henry V and triumphant victory at Agincourt in 1415 lying in his future, Prince Henry was steeped in feudal chivalry ideas and ideals that were more appropriate for the high Middle Ages than the destructive transition to the Renaissance that the 15th century would become. No subject matter seemed more appropriate to him than the heroic deeds of the knights that fought at Troy. Also, it was Brutus, the great-grandson of Trojan War hero Aeneas, that ventured far to the west, settled in the isle, and became the first king of Britain.

Lydgate, a monk of the Benedictine abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, completed his epic poem—some 30,000 lines of rhymed couplets—eight years later. It is a translation and expansion of Guide delle Colonne’s Historia destruction’s Troiae, written in Latin prose in 1287 and based on a literary tradition other than Homer. The narrative sweeps from Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece (that preceded the Trojan War), to the heroic battles and downfall of Troy, to the adventures and misfortunes of the Greeks returning from the war. The encyclopaedic work draws on sources of material in addition to Colonne. While his patron may have expected a tale of chivalry, Lydgate produced a characteristically medieval moral treatise on the transitory nature of life, the virtue of prudent behavior by princes, and the destructiveness of war and acts of revenge. Lydgate’s Troy Book exerted considerable influence in England during the late Middle Ages and into the Renaissance.

Bound in contemporary limp vellum, the present copy is the second (and final early) edition, printed in 1555. Its editor, Robert Braham, criticizes Richard Pynson and his editor of the 1513 first edition, writing in the preface that “neyther of them as it should seme eyther learned or understandynge englishe.” He is also critical of the competing vernacular story of Troy, “William Caxton in his leawde recueil of Troye…a long tedious and brainless babbling…as an idyot in his follye.”

Chrzanowski 1555l *

STC 5580

Title List

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