London: Richard Grafton, 1543. FIRST EDITION. Text in black letter, title within architectural woodcut border, woodcut initials, separate divisional title within architectural woodcut border. Eighteenth-century full calf, rebacked, edges rubbed; some small wormholes in the text and on the fore-edge, but generally an excellent copy. Three bookplates: (1) From the library of George Thomas Robinson (British architect, 1829-1897), with his engraved armorial bookplate with motto “Virtute non verbis”; (2) engraved armorial bookplate of George Arnold (“One of the gentlemen of his Majesty’s most honorable privy chamber); and (3) Charles Edward Harris St. John (1843-1917). Item #16010
First edition of this acclaimed chronicle in verse, the first of two editions printed in the same month and year. Our copy contains the passage relative to Edward IV on the verso of Fol. V of the Continuation: “for the kyng was a man that loued bothe to see and feele a fayre woman.” Though the later edition contains a more full account of the reign of Henry VIII, this passage as well as the cause of the quarrel between Edward IV and the Earl of Warwick was suppressed.
The Chronicle covers the history of Britain and England from its mythical foundation by the Greek princess Albina and her twenty-nine sisters to the end of Henry VI’s minority. Among other things, Hardyng details the origins of British history in the myth of Troy and the subsequent founding of empires by those escaping the doomed city. The work is also one of the best sources for information on King Arthur, mingling historical narrative with aspects of the myth of the Round Table and Holy Grail. Indeed, apparently Hardyng’s Chronicle is one of the major sources of Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. “Hardyng’s work offers a compelling insight into late medieval perceptions of kingship and governance on the cusp of the Wars of the Roses, and captures the tastes, hopes, and anxieties of a late fifteenth-century gentleman who had witnessed, and all too often participated in, each of the key events that defined his era.”
Harding (1378-1465), an ex-soldier and spy of Henry V, spent years writing and re-writing his verse history to accommodate swings in political power and patronage. As a boy he entered the service of Sir Henry Percy (Hotspur), and later went on to serve in the Battle of Agincourt (1415) and in the sea-fight before Harfleur (1416). He also provided documents to support English claims over the crown of Scotland, many of which were later shown to be forgeries.