[Westminster]: [Printed by William Caxton], 1483.
A Leaf from the Second Edition of The Canterbury Tales, Printed by William Caxton A Foundational Text of English Literature
CAXTON, William. CHAUCER, Geoffrey. LEAF. [A leaf from The Canterbury Tales]. [Westminster]: [Printed by William Caxton], 1483.
CAXTON, William. CHAUCER, Geoffrey. LEAF. [A leaf from The Canterbury Tales]. [Westminster]: [Printed by William Caxton], .
One folio leaf from the second edition of Caxton's Canterbury Tales, leaf [dd6], lines 628-703 from the Prologue to "The Canon's Yeoman's Tale." (9 7/8 x 7 1/8 inches; 250 x 180). Thirty-eight lines printed on recto and verso in Caxton's type 4* and 2*. Laid down in a portfolio with two small pieces of mounting tape to secure it. Some minor chipping along edges and some light dampstaining to inner margin. Lower outer corner browned. None of this affecting text. Several lines underlined in very old ink. Housed in a matted folder. A wonderful example of early printing.
The second printing by Caxton of Chaucer's foundational work is said to be more rare than the first edition of 1476 and it was the first to contain woodcut illustrations. "For the revised text of his second edition of the Canterbury Tales, Caxton used a manuscript supplied by a dissatisfied customer. The first edition, printed from 'an incorrect book brought to me six years past' (possibly by a patron, as a commission) had been "sold to many and divers gentlemen, of whom one gentleman came to me and said that this book was not according in many places unto the book that Geoffrey Chaucer had made. To whom I answered that I had made it according to my copy, and by me was nothing added ne minished. Then he said he knew a book which his father had and much loved, that was very true and according unto his own [i.e. Chaucer's] first book my him made, and said more if I would emprint it again he would get me the same book for a copy, how be it he wist well, that his father would not gladly part from it'. Caxton agreed to print a second revised edition, 'for to satisfy the author, whereas to fore by ignorance I erred in hurting and defaming his book in divers places', and maybe to oblige the gentleman. "And he full gently gat of his father the said book, and delivered it to me by which I have corrected my book." (British Library Quincentenary Exhibition Catalogue, William Caxton, 1976, no. 57, P. 58).
"The Canon's Yeoman's Tale is told by a character who joins the pilgrims at this late stage (VIII. 554 ff) with his master, the suspicious Canon whose alchemical skills the yeoman praises. The first 200 lines of the tale tells of the Alchemist's arcane practice and its futility, before proceeding to the tale proper which tells of how an alchemical canon (who is not his mater, he protests, perhaps suggesting that it is) tricks a priest out of £40 by pretending to teach him the art of making precious metals. The dishonesty of the alchemists was much discussed and condemned in the 14th cent.; there is a close analogue to Chaucer's story in one of Novelle of Sercambi. The most significant literary parallel, of course, is Jonson's The Alchemist." (The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 1985, p. 167).
Goff C 432; HC 4922; GW 6586; STC 5083; De Ricci, Census of Caxtons, 23.