From an Early Printing of aLEGENDARY BOOK
Voragine, Jacobus de. The Golden Legend [single leaf]. [Westminster: Wynkyn de Worde, [20 May 1493]. 4to (25 cm, 9.875"). Single leaf.
Click the image for enlargement.
The collection of saints' lives called the Legenda sanctorum, or Golden Legend (Legenda aurea) — “worth its weight in gold”! — was composed in the 13th century by the Dominican hagiologist Jacobus de Voragine (ca. 1230–98, elected Archbishop of Genoa in 1292), and first printed in Latin at Basle in 1470 with William Caxton printing the first English version in 1483. This is folio cxvi (116) from the English incunable edition of ten years later, distinguished as “the only ed. to omit the stories from the Bible” (STC), and it concerns the life of St. Ambrose — containing also as a bonus, just above, the end of the story of St. Mary the Egyptian, whom we see buried in a sepulchre “delved” by a lion that then “depart[s] debonayrly.” Ambrose's own tale includes a recounting of the famous incident of the bees' coming to his cradle, and breaks off at the time of his bearing the “assaultes and presecucions” [sic] of the Empress Justina.
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The text is in English printed in Bâtarde type (i.e., a modified English gothic), double column, with 44 lines and a headline to a page, and decorated on the recto with two large
woodcut initials against a foliated ground and acolumn-wide woodcut of St. Ambrose with
the bishop's mitre and scepter (10 x 7 cm; 4" x 2. 875"), the woodcut frame being only partially printed and completed by hand in early ink.
The printer, Wynkyn de Worde (a.k.a., Jan van Wynkyn), was England's first typographer and worked with William Caxton, England's first printer. In 1495, he took over Caxton's print shop conclusively, but this was only after a difficult three-year litigation following Caxton's death in 1491.
Goff J150; Copinger 6474; Ricci, A census of Caxtons, 107; Pellechet, Jacques de Voragine, 113; Duff, Fifteenth century English books, 410; STC 24875; Walsh 3993; Rhodes, Oxford Colleges, 992; Bod-inc J-069; Sheppard 7426; Proctor 9691; BMC,
XI, 184; GW M11436; NCE online (Voragine). On The Golden Legend, see: S. Reames, The
Legenda Aurea: A Reexamination of Its Paradoxical History (1985). Leaf
(with red fore-edge) mounted within a light grey mat, both sides visible. Evidence of former
binding along gutter and two small wormholes in inner margin, with very light toning where not
covered by mat; one light stain in upper left quadrant and minor smudges from early ink around
woodcut. An elegant, beautiful leaf, fine and bright. (30905)
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