London: Printed...at the costes and charges of John Cawod, John Waly, and Richarde Tottell, 1557.
. The workes of Sir Thomas More Knyght. sometyme Lorde Chauncellour of England, wrytten by him in the Englysh tonge. London: Printed...at the costes and charges of John Cawod, John Waly, and Richarde Tottell, 1557.
First edition of the collected works in English, edited by More's nephew, William Rastell who arranged the material in chronological order and added marginal notes. This copy with the words "Printed at" in the first line of the imprint. Small folio (10 1/4 x 7 1/4 inches; 261 x 186 mm). Collates complete: [18 leaves of preliminaries, including the title and blank leaf], 1458, [lacking final blank]. Collation as in Pforzheimer, including the inserted leaf between CC5 & 6. Black letter, double columns. Title within woodcut border (McKerrow and Ferguson 81), decorative and historiated woodcut initials.
Handsomely bound in a late 18th century full calf binding. Boards ruled in gilt and blind and decoratively blindstamped. Rebacked to style with four raised bands, gilt title and stamping in the spine compartments. All edges of page block gilt with elaborate gauffering. Title page with minor soiling and contemporary ownership marginalia (dated 1583), with occasional marginalia throughout in the same hand. Previous owner's bookplates on endpapers. Page 51 with the upper corner torn, affecting a couple of words of the first two lines of text (supplied in manuscript). Closed marginal tear to page 405, entering text, but no loss. Slight browning or soiling to the occasional leaf, but on the whole a very pleasing copy.
The book, dedicated to Queen Mary, includes many of More's most controversial works, such as "A Dyalogue of Syr Thomas More, knt," which criticizes Tyndale, Luther and their followers. It also includes "A Dyalogue of Comforte Agaynste Tribulacyon," written during the earliest time of his imprisonment in the Tower of London following his refusal to condone Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and thereby accept the English throne's supremacy over Papal authority. It is a work written for the comfort of his own family, advocating prayer in times of persecution.
"The work of gathering, arranging in chronological order, and of adding the valuable marginal notes was all done by [William] Rastell, More's nephew, while an exile in Louvain during Edward’s reign" (Pforzheimer). The collection is described by R.W. Chambers in his study of Sir Thomas More as "this magnificent folio." Chambers notes that this edition preserves for us a great deal which would otherwise have been lost, including a number of English poems written by More in his youth; a correct text of "The history of king Richard the thirde," from a copy in More's own hand (the version "in Hardynges Cronicle, and in Hallys Cronicle," as Rastell complained, being "very muche corrupte in many places...and altered in wordes and whole sentences"); an unfinished Treatise "uppon these words of Holy Scripture, 'Memorare novissima et in eternum non peccabis,'" dated in 1522, and dealing with reflections on death; and several devotional works written by More while imprisoned in the Tower. Rastell also preserved the letters written just before More's death to his family and friends. The work was published during the reign of Catholic Queen Mary and dedicated to her by Rastell. The table of contents precedes an index by Thomas Paynell.
Gibson, More, 73. Pforzheimer 743. STC 18076.