A Chronicle at large and meere History of the affayres of Englande and Kinges of the same

Chrzanowski 1569gRichard Grafton (ca. 1513–1573) descended from a good family and seems to have been brought up as a merchant. He entered the Grocers company in 1534 and was its warden in 1555–56. But Grafton’s lasting impact was as an eminent printer of Bibles and other religious books and as an editor and writer of English chronicles.

Grafton ventured into the printing business with fellow grocer Edward Whitchurch. They published a modified version of Miles Coverdale’s English Bible, known as the Matthew Bible, in Antwerp in 1537. Lord Chancellor Thomas Cromwell, however, wanted a more “official” English Bible than the Matthew Bible. Grafton and Whitchurch began printing 2,500 copies of the first edition of the so-called Great Bible in Paris in 1539. Despite official permission to print from King Francis I at Henry VIII’s request, French authorities seized printed sheets on grounds of heresy. Printing stopped and the presses were seized; but Grafton fled and some of the leaves escaped being burnt. Grafton was later able to bring the presses to England, where printing was completed. Altogether, seven editions of the Great Bible were printed between 1539 and 1541 (a copy of a 1541 edition is in the present collection).

In 1544 Grafton and Whitchurch obtained the exclusive right to print church service books, and Grafton was appointed to be the King’s Printer soon after Prince Edward became king. He also began to contribute to English chronicling. Grafton wrote a continuation to Hardyng’s Chronicle and published the work in 1543. In addition, he edited, completed based on the author’s notes, and published Edward Halle’s famous Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York. Upon Edward VI’s death in 1553, Grafton sided with Lady Jane Grey’s attempt at succession—printing Lady Grey’s proclamation and identifying himself as printer to the Queen. That resulted in a short prison sentence. He seemingly retired from printing although his name appears as printer in few early Elizabethan copies of the Book of Common Prayer and the Psalter. Grafton, however, continued writing and abridging chronicles. His last work was the extensive A Chronicles at large and mere History of the affayres of Englande (1569).

The present copy of Grafton’s Chronicles is exquisitely bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe and in a book-form clamshell box by Zehnsdorf. The book is missing the pages of the final index and the leaf with Grafton’s printer’s mark.

Chrzanowski 1569g *

STC 12147

Title List

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