The workes of Geoffrey Chaucer, newly printed, with diuers addicions, which were never in printe before
After William Thynne, John Stow (1525–1605) was the next editor to take on the works of Chaucer. Believed to be self-taught, Stow became an apprentice tailor and was admitted into the Merchant Taylor’s Company in 1547. Stow may have not completely given up the trade until old age, when he became a pensioner of the company.
Stow’s first literary work was his 1561 edition of the Works of Chaucer. His admiration for Chaucer is reflected in his choice to reprint the laudatory preface from the William Thynne editions. Thynne praised “the bokes of that noble and famous clerke Geffray Chaucer, in whose workes is so manyfeste comprobacion of his excellent lerning, in al kindes of doctrines and sciences, soche frutefulnesse in wordes, well accordinge to the mater and purpose, so swete and plesaunte sentences, soche perfection in metre, the composycyon so adapted, soche freshenesse of inuencion, compendiousnesses in narration, soche sensible and open stile, lacking neither maiestie ne medicritie, couenable in disposicion, that it is moche to be maruailed, howe in his time,…soch an excellente Poete in our tong, should as it were…spring and arise.”
This respect for the poet led Stow to seek out and add new pieces to the Chaucer canon, mostly short ballads and much of it is now deemed to be apocryphal. The one important poem that appeared in his edition for the first time is The Court of Love. Stow’s attention was on antiquarianism. As a writer, he became a chronicler—and not merely a recompiler of what had already been written. In particular, he helped prepare the expanded second edition of Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587). Stow sought out new historical information by searching records and avidly acquiring manuscripts, charters, and legal documents. His many purchases drove him to poverty, but Stow’s industry led him, late in life, to assist the next Chaucer editor, Thomas Speght. Speght first published Chaucer’s The Flower and the Leaf, Jacke Upland, and Chaucer’s A B C.
The present copy is the second of two issues of the 1561 edition; the first included twenty-two woodcuts in the Prologue from blocks used by William Caxton in his second edition. It has the leather bookplate of Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. Houghton was president of Steuben Glass, arts patron, philanthropist, and rare book collector.
Chrzanowski 1561c *