The Deeds of the Romans; A Shakespeare Sourcebook
GESTA ROMANORUM. Gesta Romanorum. cum applicationibus moralisatis ac mysticis. Augsburg: Anton Sorg , 1487.
Folio (10 1/2 x 7 3/8 inches; 265 x 187 mm.). 98 leaves. Gothic letter. Text in double columns. Fifty or fifty-one lines per page. Initials supplied in red, rubricated throughout.

Original wooden boards rebacked with half modern calf tooled in blind. Spine lettered in gilt. With brass hardware but lacking the clasp closure. Wooden boards chipped along the edges and with some minor worming. Newer endpapers, over partially exposed original endpapers. Previous owner's old ink manuscript index on front pastedown. A contemporary religious note at the bottom of leaf b8v and an old owner's inscription on the final leaf "Bartholomaeus Weldpach dated 1528. Some minor worming throughout, mainly marginal. The final few leaves have few more wormholes within the text, but text remains fully legible. A marginal closed tear to leaf n5, not affecting text. Leaves a bit wrinkled and some minor dampstaining to upper margin at the end. Overall a very good, clean copy.

The Gesta Romanorum, “a Latin collection of anecdotes and tales, probably compiled about the end of the 13th century or the beginning of the 14th. It still possesses a twofold literary interest, first as one of the most popular books of the time, and secondly as the source, directly or indirectly, of later literature, in Chaucer, Gower, Shakespeare and others. Of its authorship nothing certain is known; and there is little but gratuitous conjecture to associate it either with the name of Helinandus or with that of Petrus Berchorius (Pierre Bercheure). It is even a matter of debate whether it took its rise in England, Germany or France. The work was evidently intended as a manual for preachers, and was probably written by one who himself belonged to the clerical profession. The name, Deeds of the Romans, is only partially appropriate to the collection in its present form, since, besides the titles from Greek and Latin history and legend, it comprises fragments of very various origin, oriental and European. The unifying element of the book is its moral purpose. The style is barbarous, and the narrative ability of the compiler seems to vary with his source; but he has managed to bring together a considerable variety of excellent material. He gives us, for example, the germ of the romance of ‘Guy of Warwick’; the story of ‘Darius and his Three Sons,’ versified by Occleve; part of Chaucer’s ‘Man of Lawes’ Tale’; a tale of the emperor Theodosius, the same in its main features as that of Shakespeare’s Lear; the story of the ‘Three Black Crows’; the ‘Hermit and the Angel,’ well known from Parnell’s version, and a story identical with the Fridolin of Schiller” (Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh Edition), XI, p. 910).

BMC. Goff. GW. Hain. Polain. Proctor.

HBS # 67456 $15,000