1596 Savile Collection Of Medieval English Chronicles Anglo-saxon Norman History

1596 Savile Collection Of Medieval English Chronicles Anglo-saxon Norman History

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1596 Savile Collection Of Medieval English Chronicles Anglo-saxon Norman History:

[Early Printing - England] [History of England - Middle Ages] [Chronicles]

Printed in London by George Bishop, Ralph Newbery and Robert Barker, 1596.
First Edition, and Editio Princeps of all the works included.
Folio. Text in Latin (with a few words and passages in English).
With the Dedication to Queen Elizabeth by Henry Savile.

SCARCE FIRST EDITION of Savile's recension of several important English chronicles of the late Anglo-Saxon and early Angevin kings The title of the work translates: "The writers on English affairs chiefly after Bede, edited from the most ancient manuscript codices and now published for the first time, etc." Significantly, Savile's collection "uniquely preserve[s] the text of Aethelweard's Chronicle, of which the only manuscript was almost entirely destroyed in the Cotton Library fire of 1731". (ODNB)

According to both Lowndes and Graesse, this 1596 London edition is more accurate than the Frankfurt edition of 1601, and is printed on better paper.

    The works included in this important collection are:
  • William of Malmesbury: De gestis regum Anglorum, lib. V ("On the Deeds of the English Kings, in five books"), Historiae novellae lib. II ("The New History, in two books"), and De gestis pontificum Angl. lib. IIII ("On the Deeds of the English Bishops in four books");
  • Henry, Archdeacon of Huntingdon: Historiarum lib. VIII ("Histories, in eight books");
  • Roger of Howden's Annals in two parts;
  • The Chronicles of Ethelwerd, in four books;
  • [Pseudo-]Ingulf's Histories (Croyland Chronicle).

Appended at the end of the volume are extensive chronological tables.

William of Malmesbury (c. 1095 - c. 1143) was the foremost English historian of the 12th century, "a gifted historical scholar [...] impressively well versed in the literature of classical, patristic and earlier medieval times as well as in the writings of his own contemporaries. Indeed William may well have been the most learned man in twelfth-century Western Europe." (C. Warren Hollister)

William was born in Wiltshire. His father was Norman and his mother English. He spent his adult life as a monk at Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire, England. During the course of his studies, he amassed a collection of medieval histories, which inspired in him the idea for a popular account of English history modeled on the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum ("Ecclesiastical History" of Venerable Bede). William's obvious respect and even admiration for Bede is apparent in the preface to his Gesta Regum Anglorum.

In fulfillment of this idea, William completed, in 1125, his Gesta regum Anglorum ("Deeds of the kings of the English"), consciously patterned on Bede, which spanned the period from AD 449 to 1120. He later edited and expanded it up to the year 1127, releasing a revision dedicated to Robert, Earl of Gloucester. This revised version of the Gesta regum is now considered one of the great histories of England.

William's Gesta regum was followed by the Gesta pontificum Anglorum ("Deeds of the English Bishops"). For this vivid descriptive history of abbeys and bishoprics, dwelling upon the lives of the English prelates and saints, notably the learned wonder-working Aldhelm, abbot of Malmesbury, William travelled widely in England. Around this time, William formed an acquaintance with Bishop Roger of Salisbury, who had a castle at Malmesbury. It is possible that this acquaintance, coupled with the positive reception of his Gesta regum earned him the offer of the position of Abbot of Malmesbury Abbey in 1140. William, however, preferred his duties as librarian and scholar and declined. His one public appearance was made at the council of Winchester in 1141, in which the clergy declared for the Empress Matilda.

Beginning about 1140, William continued his chronicles with the Historia Novella, a three-book chronicle that covered A.D. 1128-1142, including important accounts of the anarchy of King Stephen's reign. This work breaks off in 1142, with an unfulfilled promise that it would be continued. Presumably William died before he could finish it.

William of Malmesbury is lauded by many, including John Milton, to be one of the best English historians of his time, and remains known for strong documentation and his clear, engaging writing style. A strong Latin stylist, he shows literary and historiographical instincts which are, for his time, remarkably sound. He is an authority of considerable value on the period from 1066 onwards; many telling anecdotes and shrewd judgments on persons and events can be gleaned from his pages.

Another author of great importance included in Savile's collection is Henry of Huntingdon (c. 1088 - c. 1154), the son of a canon in the diocese of Lincoln, who served as archdeacon of Huntingdon. He was brought up in the wealthy court of Robert Bloet, Bishop of Lincoln and Chancellor of England, who became his patron.

At the request of Bloet's successor, Alexander of Lincoln, Henry began to write his Historia Anglorum, first published c. 1129, an account of the history of England from its beginnings up to Henry's time (mid 12th century). Presumably, the first version of Henry's chronicle appeared at the end of 1129 and the second in 1135, at the end of the reign of Henry I of England. He published new updated editions as the years went on, the final fifth version coming down in 1154, supposedly to terminate the History with the death of Stephen and the accession of Henry II in 1154, leaving his history organized into eight books.

Charles W. Hollister in his Henry the First calls Henry of Huntingdon "the most important Anglo-Norman historian to emerge from the secular clergy", and his History an "invaluable source for Henry I's life and reign". He further remarks: "Henry of Huntingdon's grand design, like William of Malmesbury's was the writing of a history of the English kings and people from early Anglo-Saxon times to his own. Both this historians reflect the inclination of contemporary Anglo-Normans to bring the history of the English securely within the compass of the new Norman monarchy... Henry of Huntingdon was clearly inspired by William of Malmesbury, and of course by Bede, but unlike them he cast his history in the annalistic format of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Born around 1080, Henry of Huntingdon was a contemporary witness to most of the events of Henry I's reign. Necessarily he drew heavily on both Bede and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for much of his earlier history [...] [but] added his own distinctive and entertaining touches to the sources he used... It is to him that we owe such stories as King Cnut's unsuccessful attempt to turn back the tide and Henry I's fatal decision in 1135 to ignore his physician's order and dine on lampreys. The inclusion of memorable incidents such as this contributed to Henry of Huntingdon's popularity among his contemporaries."

The book also includes the Annals of Roger of Howden, in two parts, of which the first covers earlier history of England second consists of two sections which deal with the reign of king Henry II and of Richard I, the "Lionheart".

Roger of Howden, or Hoveden (fl. 1174 - 1201) is believed to have been a native of Howden in the East Riding, Yorkshire. Nothing is known of him before the year 1174. He was then in attendance upon Henry II, by whom he was sent from France on a secret mission to the lords of Galloway. In 1175 he again appears as a negotiator between the king and a number of English religious houses. In 1189 he acted as a justice of the forests in the shires of Yorkshire, Cumberland and Northumberland.

Hoveden went on the Third Crusade with Richard I of England, joining him in Marseille in August 1190. He left for Europe in August 1191, in the entourage of Philip II of France. On his return, about the year 1192 he began to compile his Chronica, a general history of England from 732 to his own time. For the period 732-1148 he chiefly drew upon an extant, but unpublished chronicle, the Historia Saxonum sive Anglorum post obitum Bedae (BM MS Reg. 13 A. 6), which was composed about 1150. From 1148 to 1170 he used the Melrose Chronicle and a collection of letters bearing upon the Thomas Becket controversy. From 1170 to 1192 he drew upon his own earlier Gesta Regis Henrici II and Gesta Regis Ricardi, revising the text and inserting some additional documents.

From 1192, the Chronica is an independent and copious authority. Hoveden is sedulously impersonal, and makes no pretense to literary style, quotes documents in full and adheres to the annalistic method. Both on foreign affairs and on questions of domestic policy he is unusually well informed. His practical experience as an administrator and his official connections stood him in good stead. He is particularly useful on points of constitutional history.

The final work in the volume is the notorious 'pseudo-Ingulf', perhaps the most well-known medieval literary forgery. The Historia Monasterii Croylandensis, also known as the Croyland Chronicle, attributed to Ingulph, an 11th century Abbot of Croyland, but is generally accepted to be a 14th century work, although its author may have had access to genuine traditions or documents at Croyland, he misunderstood or garbled these original sources. A number of distinguished 19th century historians attempted to extract reliable original material from Pseudo-Ingulf.

The compiler and editor of this collection, Henry Savile was born on November 30, 1549 in Over Bradley, West Riding, Yorkshire, the son of a relatively prosperous landowner. Savile was brought up to value learning and was tutored in the classics, reading Terence, Ovid, Virgil, Horace and Cicero in his childhood before attending Oxford University. He matriculated at Brasenose College at the age of twelve, where he excelled in mathematics and astronomy. He graduated BA in 1566 and MA in 1570. He became warden of Merton in 1585 and provost of Eton in 1596, largely due to his close relationship with Elizabeth I, resulting from his appointment in 1582 as her Greek tutor.

As a scholar, Savile is best known as the translator of Tacitus and editor of John Chrysostom, though he wrote numerous theological and mathematical texts of his own. In 1604, he was knighted by King James and appointed to work on the Authorized Version of the Bible, eventually heading the "fifth company" in translating the gospels, Acts of Apostles, and Book of Revelation. Savile is also remembered as a great contributor to the Oxford libraries and for having improved both the Eton and Merton libraries. Despite an initial disagreement, Savile was great friends with Thomas Bodley, who required his assistance many times in the Bodleian Library's early days. Savile was one of the first donors to the Bodleian and ensured the completion of that library after Bodley's death in 1613.

Bibliographic references:

Brunet V, 156; Graesee VI, p.279; Graves 1119; STC 21783; Lowndes p.2195.

Physical description:

Folio, textblock measures 318 mm x 214 mm, i.e. 12½"x 8½"). Late 16th-century full limp vellum binding (almost certainly, original!) with manuscript title to spine.

Foliation: [2], 520, [30] leaves (forming 1104 pages). Numerous errors in foliation.
Signatures: ¶2 A–R6 S8 T–Dd6 Ee4 Ff–Rrrr6 Ssss4 *4 **4 ***6 2A2–2H2. Collated and COMPLETE.

Text printed in single column, with Latin mostly in Roman (with some italic) types and English in black letter (Gothic). Line numbers printed in the inner margins of each page and printed marginal notes in the outer margins.

Woodcut printer's device on title, and four divisional titles printed within elaborate woodcut architectural borders (McKerrow & Ferguson, #148) on leaves A1r, Ff1r, Qq1r and Kkkk4r. Woodcut and letterpress illustration of the Great Seal of king William of Sicily on leaf Ggg4r.

Numerous woodcut head- and tail-pieces and grotesque, floriated and historiated initials, including a series of exceedingly fine large (12-line) historiated initials with mythological scenes.

Dedication to Queen Elizabeth I by Henry Savile on ¶2r,v. Chronological tables (Fasti regum et episcoporum Angliae usque ad Willielmum seniorum) occupy the 30 unnumbered leaves at end. Errata on leaves Ee4r, Pp6r and Kkkk3v.


With a book-plate of Daniel Rock (Very Reverend Canon Rock, D.D.) (1799 - 1871), an English Catholic priest, ecclesiologist and antiquarian. Rock was one of the first students sent to reopen the English College at Rome, where he took the degree of D.D. in 1825. He was the author of "Hierurgia or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass" (in 2 volumes) and the monumental 4-volume work "The Church of Our Fathers", his greatest book, in which he analyzed the Sarum Rite and a vast array of other medieval liturgical observances. The book profoundly influenced liturgical study in England, and caused Dr. rock to be recognized as the leading authority on the subject, he studies. Dr. Rock was a prominent member of the Adelphi, an association of London priests working together for the restoration of the hierarchy. When this object was achieved, he was elected one of the first canons of Southwark (1852). He also contributed frequent articles to the Archaeological Journal, the Dublin Review, and other periodicals. For many years before his death he held the honorable position of President of the Old Brotherhood of the English Secular Clergy.

Also with a bookplate of St. John's Seminary; presumably the one in Wonersh, Guildford (England), the principal seminary for the Archdiocese of Southwark, and the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.

Both bookplates (dating to mid to late 19th-century) are elegantly designed in woodcut in the "Gothic Revival" or "Arts and Crafts" style.


Very Good antiquarian condition. Complete, wide-margined exemplar of this scarce first edition. Binding slightly soiled, a bit rubbed with light wear to edges, some harmless tears to pastedowns (typical to limp vellum bindings). Minor chipping to fore-edge of the first two leaves. Occasional light spotting or minor soiling. Occasional moderate browning (on a few leaves somewhat heavier). Faint pencil notations (easily removable) to margins of several leaves and rear endpapers (possibly, by Dr. Rock). Otherwise, very clean and solid.

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1596 Savile Collection Of Medieval English Chronicles Anglo-saxon Norman History:

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