London: Printed by A.M. for C. Bates, at the Sun and Bible (etc.), 1710 (circa). Quarto (189 x 155 mm). 79 pp. + 1 p. ads. Illustrated with 16 woodcut illustrations (4 of the woodblocks are repeated). Last line of imprint cropped with loss of the words: "Spur-street, and by J. Foster at the Golden-Ball in Pye-Corner." Nineteenth-century English half-red morocco over marbled boards, spine lettered direct. Corners rubbed, moderate edgewear and rubbing. Marbled endpapers. Dark pencil notations to front free endpaper and bookplate of Justin Schiller. Foxing and minor soiling, but the paper stock is strong. Early ownership stamp of George Steevens on verso of the title-page (see below). Very good. Item #3373
GEORGE STEEVENS' COPY of this crudly printed medieval English romance, illustrated with 16 charming woodcuts. This slender volume was sold 220 years ago as lot 1176 in the epic "Bibliotheca Steevensiana" (London, May 13, 1800).
The illustrations include curious depictions of combats and jousting tourneys; the killing of the Dun Cow; the slayings of the dragon and also of a "Monstrous Bore"; Guy of Warwick on horseback, the boar's head impaled on a spear; Guy proclaming his love to Phaelice (i.e. Felice in other texts); Guy attending to Phaelice who lies in her bed, a winged Cupid above her; Guy battling Colbron the "Monstrous Gyant"; and finally Phaelice with Guy at his cave.
The chivalric romance of Guy of Warwick may have been composed as early as the 13th century. Guy's heroic adventures became known to generations of readers through cheap editions such as this one; although widely printed, many chapbooks are known in only a few copies -- as here.
Following tests of his skill and strength with dragons, monsters, giants, a great boar and the legendary Dun Cow, earning him the hand of his beloved, Guy comes to regret his violent past, and embarks on a pilgrimage (or in some version a crusade) to the Holy Land, and, on his return, secludes himself in a hermitage in repentance.
The Epistle to the Reader is signed by "John Shurly" (active 1680-1702) who has remained almost completely unknown to bibliographers. Shurly here politicizes Guy of Warwick, positioning him as a "patriot" of the British nation. The only other work by Shurly that has survived is his "Complete Courtier; or, Cupid's Academy" (1683).
On p. 79 begins a list of books printed for and sold by Charles Bates, and by John Foster, "where any country chapmen (sic) or others may be furnished with all sorts of historys, small books, and ballads, at reasonable rates." This list is important as it provides information on editions or even entire works that have otherwise DISAPPEARED from bibliographic record, among them being Bates' edition of "The Brittish Fortune-Tellar" (no permutations of the words in this title are listed in ESTC); "The Ladys Treasury Exposed" (ditto); "A New-Years Gift" by Thomas (ditto); "The Art of Ringing made Easie" (ditto); and "The Art of Ringing Made Easie" (ditto).
The owner of our copy, GEORGE STEEVENS (1736-1800), was one of the great early scholar-collectors of Shakespeare and Elizabethan literature; he owned nearly fifty Shakespeare quartos, including twelve first editions. The present volume represents the extremely broad range of Steevens' interest not only in exalted Elizabethan theater but in early English Romances - as here. Notably, Guy of Warwick is named in Shakespeare's Henry VIII (5:3).
This edition is scarce in private ownership: besides ours, only two other copies have appeared at auction in the last 70 years: there was the ugly and heavily repaired copy which sold at Forum last year (GBP 812 = USD $1109), and the acceptable copy at Sotheby's London, 21 April 1977, lot 2166 (illustrated in the catalogue).
According to ESTC, the first Shurly edition of 1681 edition is known in only one copy (British Library), as is the second edition of 1695 (National Library of Scotland).
ESTC T125807 (listing eight copies worldwide). On Steevens, see De Ricci, pp. 62-63.