A Leaf from "The Consolation of Philosophy" By Boethius, Translated by Chaucer and Printed by William Caxton
BOETHIUS. CAXTON, William. [A leaf from The Consolation of Philosophy]. [Westminster]: [Printed by William Caxton] , 1478.
One small folio leaf (10 7/16 x 7 ? inches; 264 x 184 mm). From the first English edition of The Consolation of Philosophy, (translated into English by Chaucer.) This is the first edition of the first major philosophical work in English and among the earliest works printed by Caxton after he established his press at Westminster. Leaf 90 (mis-numbered 86 in pencil). Twenty-nine lines, printed on recto and verso in Caxton's type number 2. Renewed margins to upper and inner margins and repaired lower outside corner. Repairs not affecting text. Some very minor chips to bottom margin. Overall a wonderful example of early printing.

A handsome example that is instantly recognizable, with Caxton's deep black, twenty-nine line batard standing in stark contrast against a notably bright sheet of paper that is over 500 years old.

Regarding the Type number 2, "This was the first fount used in England when Caxton set up his presses at the Red Pale in the Almonry." (The Life and Typography of William Caxton, England's First Printer ..., Volume 2. By William Blades).

Provenance: William Blades, printer and Caxton biographer; Colonel J.G. Birch, Caxton scholar; sold at Sotheby's, 1963, to Frank Hammond, Birmingham bookseller.

"Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy was one of the most widely read texts of the Middle Ages, and after Gutenberg, about ninety separate printed editions, mostly in Latin, appeared before 1500. Its great influence on medieval and Renaissance thinking in England is apparent from a list of its highly notable translators into the vernacular: Alfred the Great, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Queen Elizabeth...In the form of a dialogue with Philosophy, a majestic woman, Consolation deals with profound questions: why, if God is good, is there evil in the universe; why is vice so often seemingly rewarded and virtue punished; and with an all-knowing God, does man have free will? The work reflects a deep belief in the goodness of God, but it is uncertain whether the author’s belief is Christian or pagan. Chaucer translated Consolation probably in the 1380s. The work is indicative of Chaucer’s serious interests and reflects his orthodox attitude toward life. Boethius’s influence is evident throughout the Canterbury Tales. “The Knight’s Tale” deals with free will and destiny; “Melibeus” is a serious treatise on social and personal justice and the need to love God and obey the law; and “The Parson’s Tale” is a long sermon on penance. Like many other great works of medieval England, Chaucer’s Consolation was first printed by Caxton (in 1478). (Chrzanowski 1532b *, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library- UCLA).

"Caxton, the first English printer...established a press at Westminster in 1476-his first dated book printed there is 'The Dictes or Sayengis of Philosophres', 1477-and printed about 100 books, a number of them his own translations from the French. He used eight founts of type, the first of which he brought from Bruges; he began to use woodcut illustrations c. 1480. His importance in the history of English literature is by no means confined to his works as a printer, for he contributed by his translations to the formation in the 15th cent. of an English prose style." (The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 153).

BMC. De Ricci 8. Goff B-813. GW. Hain. Polain. Proctor.

HBS # 68307 $6,500