1928 The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer. Shakespeare Head Press Limited Edition of 350.


A highly regarded edition of Chaucer's Tales, printed on the beautiful paper of the Shakespeare Head Press, incorporating miniatures and woodcuts from historic printings and manuscripts of this same work, some hand-coloured.

A wonderful opportunity to own a set that is normally quite expensive. Found in an estate, it is unclear where volumes five through eight are. These first four volumes contain all of the Canterbury Tales. Volumes five through eight contained other Chaucer works (so missing are): Boece de Consolac, Troilus and Criseyde, The Romaunt of the Rose, and The House of Fame with Minor Poems.

About the Work -

The Canterbury Tales (Middle English: Tales of Caunterbury) is a collection of 24 stories that runs to over 17,000 lines written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387 and 1400. In 1386, Chaucer became Controller of Customs and Justice of Peace and, in 1389, Clerk of the King's work. It was during these years that Chaucer began working on his most famous text, The Canterbury Tales. The tales (mostly written in verse, although some are in prose) are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return.

After a long list of works written earlier in his career, including Troilus and Criseyde, House of Fame, and Parliament of Fowls, The Canterbury Tales is near-unanimously seen as Chaucer's magnum opus. He uses the tales and descriptions of its characters to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English society at the time, and particularly of the Church. Chaucer's use of such a wide range of classes and types of people was without precedent in English. Although the characters are fictional, they still offer a variety of insights into customs and practices of the time. Often, such insight leads to a variety of discussions and disagreements among people in the 14th century. For example, although various social classes are represented in these stories and all of the pilgrims are on a spiritual quest, it is apparent that they are more concerned with worldly things than spiritual. Structurally, the collection resembles Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron, which Chaucer may have read during his first diplomatic mission to Italy in 1372.

Physical Attributes -

Each vol. measures approx. 29 x 20 x 3 cm. Protected by a marbled slipcase. Buckram spines with paper covered boards. Incomplete, four of eight volumes. Number 212 of 350 copies. Printed on the Shakespeare Head's high quality paper with deckled edges. Volume 1 - 224 numbered pages. Volume 2 - 213 numbered pages. Volume 3 - 201 numbered pages. Volume 4 - 217 numbered pages.

Condition -

See pictures. Protected in slipcase; still spines faded with some thumbing, some thumbing and shelf marks to boards, and wear to edges and corners. Mylar wraps used to be taped to the inside of each binding, their marks are still on the pastedown and flyleaf (yellowed tape strip ghosts). Pencil bookseller notes on blank unpaginated front endpapers. Front endpapers of volume two have a little soiling at the bottom of the fore edge. Volume threes endpapers were not cut, and someone tore them 2" along fore edge, in attempting to open them. There is sometimes a little more crash visible at gutter than I'm used to, but I think it may just be due to the Shakespeare Head's binding style. On rare occasion there may be the lightest spot in the paper, or thumb mark, but I really didn't notice any; text block is quite clean. Natural wave due to high quality paper making process.

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