1531 English P.-incunable St German Dialogue Laws Tudor England Caxton-like Type

1531 English P.-incunable St German Dialogue Laws Tudor England Caxton-like Type

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1531 English P.-incunable St German Dialogue Laws Tudor England Caxton-like Type:

[Early Printing -England - Post-Incunabula - Robert Wyer] [Law and Ethics - England - Tudor Era]

[London,] Robert Wyer, [1531]. Second Edition in English. Date from STC. Colophon reads: Imprynted by me Robert wyer dwellynge at the sygne of saynt John Euangelyste, in saynt Martyns parysshe besyde Charyngcrosse, in the Bysshop of norwych rentes. (Wyer's first colophon, known as the "Norwich colophon," used only before 1536.)

We are offering a textually complete and well-preseved exemplar of this FINELY PRINTED AND VERY RARE ENGLISH POST-INCUNABLE, one of the earliest productions of Robert Wyer's press. Printed in charming English bastarda closely resembling Caxton's Type 4, and with Wyer's magnificent large 'St John on Patmos' woodcut device. (McKerrow 68, 69)

This is the THE SECOND EDITION IN ENGLISH of the famous Doctor and Student by Christopher St. German (or St Germain, ca.1460-1540), which is a milestone in the history of English law, and is widely considered to be "surely the most remarkable book relating to English law published in the Tudor period, and quite unlike any book to have come from the pen of an English lawyer before." (DNB)

This extremely influential and important work, written as a dialog between a doctor of divinity and a student of the laws of England, a barrister, explores the relationship between the English common law and conscience. The Dialogue was the first study of the role of equity in English law, and set the terms for later discussions. The book's enduring popularity, which lasted into the 19th century, was a result of its clear introduction to common law concepts. Until Blackstone published his Commentaries in 1765-1769, St. Germain's Doctor & Student was widely used as a law student primer.

The Doctor and Student was originally printed in Latin in 1523 (no copies of this edition are extant) and 1528 in London by John Rastell under the title Dialogus de fundamentis legum Anglie et de conscientia. An English translation, probably done by St. Germain himself, appeared in 1530. The Second Dialogue appeared in English in 1530 (printed by Peter Treveris), along with additional chapters referred to as the New Addicions. The present is the second English edition of the First Dialogue (i.e. the original Doctor and Student) further revised. It is often found bound together with the second edition of the Second Dialogue.

Plomer in his bibliography of Robert Wyer suggests that the edition offered here may actually have been printed in 1530, and was, therefore, the first edition. "[Among] the undated books with the "Norwich" colophon [...] the earliest [...] is probably the First Dyaloge in Englysshe, a book of law translated from a Latin work of still earlier date. Peter Treveris printed the Second Dialogue in English, in the earlier part of 1531, so that Wyer may have printed his in 1530 or thereabouts." (Henry R. Plomer, Robert Wyer, printer and bookseller, London, 1897, p.5). The first Wyer's printing of this work ("Hereafter followeth a dyaloge in Englysshe...", Wyer, [1530] - STC 21561) was apparently unknown to Plomer.

Printed in Wyer's charming English lettre bâtarde (Plomer's 'Type 1') with a strong resemblance to Caxton's Type 4, the book has on its colophon page (u4v) Robert Wyer's splendid woodcut device depicting St John on Patmos with an eagle, above a separate block containing Wyer's name. Plomer writes about this device: "The best example of engraving to be met with in Wyer's books is the printer's large device [...] It represents [St John] the Evangelist seated on the ground writing, and on his right hand an eagle holding in his beak an ink-well. In the background is the view of a city. Beneath this was frequently put another block having the printer's name and mark."

The text is also embellished with numerous fine woodcut initials of various styles. Plomer notes (Op. cit., p.12) that "In the matter of initial letters [...] Wyer was especially rich, for he had a large and striking assortment. [...] [Some of Wyer's initials] so closely resemble some used by Wynkyn de Worde, that they may have belonged to the same set."

Saint Germain's use of English, and not (at least not after 1528) Latin or legal French, is of great interest, and so is his refutation of the idea that equity and conscience were outside or above the law, or indeed that canon law was superior to civil law. It is this approach which made him one of the most important figures in the English Reformation, where legal problems loomed large, and where he was firmly on the side of the reformers. It was thus that he crossed swords with Thomas More, and a number of anonymous pamphlets by Saint Germain were published by the King's printer, Berthelet, possibly with Thomas Cromwell's patronage. The Dialogues themselves were very popular and much reprinted.

"St. Germain's Doctor and Student is a most important book for the historian of English law and, as Sir Paul Vinogradoff has shown, for scholars tracing the influx of continental ideas into fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century England. These dialogues, coming as they did at the close of the period during which the Court of Chancery had been presided over by ecclesiastical chancellors, and at the beginning of the period when its development was to be guided by the common lawyers, enabled the new chancellors to understand and apply the principles which their predecessors had applied, and must have been seized upon by the profession with avidity. Its numerous editions testify to its popularity and success, and from its first appearance in English, in 1530, to the close of the sixteenth century, it seems to have been even more in demand than that most important and valuable work, Littleton's Tenures." (Samuel E. Thorne, Essays in English Legal History, p.211)

Christopher St. Germain (or St. German), English lawyer, legal writer and controversialist, was born probably about 1460 at Shilton, Warwickshire. He was educated at Oxford, as a member of Exeter College. He then entered the Inner Temple, where he studied law and was called to the bar. According to Wood, he became a 'counsellor of note,' and 'won immortal fame among the citizens of London.' In July 1534 some of Cromwell's agents requested his services in legal matters, but as a rule Saint Germain avoided politics, and confined himself to legal and literary work, and to the collection of a large library.

Bibliographic references:

STC 21562; ESTC S104738; Plomer, Robert Wyer, no.13; Ames & Herbert, Typographical Antiquities, III, 965.

Physical description:

Small octavo (textblock measures 12½" x 8½"). Rebound in full modern brown calf.

2-78, (2) ff. Foliated in roman numerals. Signature collation: a-u4 [-a1].
The title (leaf a1) is lacking and supplied in facsimile, otherwise complete, including Tabula on leaves u3r-u4r.

Beautifully printed in gothic type throughout: Wyer's type 1, an English lettre bâtarde with 'w', 'v' and 'd' having loops going from left to right, and with a larger 'w' (Plomer notes this type's resemblance to Caxton's 'Type 4' bâtarde). Colophon in larger black letter (type 3).

Printed in single column, 27 lines per page. Numerous woodcut initials of various types, including a fine large 7-line historiated 'S' (several times repeated).

The final page (u4v) carries the colophon and a fine large woodcut device of Robert Wyer, incorporating his name and the figure of St. John.


Without the title leaf a1 (supplied in facsimile), otherwise complete and in Very Good antiquarian condition. Moderate dampstaining to top and bottom outer corners of the opening quires, gradually diminishing, and virtually disappearing towards the end of the volume. Occasional minor soiling, mostly marginal, and infrequent traces of early marginalia. Margins somewhat cropped, but with no loss of text (not even the foliation or running titles). In all, a clean and solid example, with a strong bright impression.

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The winner must contact us within three days, and payment is due within seven days after the end of the sale. Please be responsible and offer only if you have a serious intention to purchase the item.

The book will be shipped by FedEx FREE of charge to any US location. International Express shipping offered at discount cost.

On Mar-09-13 at 08:53:53 PST, seller added the following information:

A correction: textblock dimensions of the book should read "12½ cm x 8½ cm" (centimeters, not inches). The book, as stated, is a small octavo.

1531 English P.-incunable St German Dialogue Laws Tudor England Caxton-like Type:

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