Earliest Attainable English Edition
REYNARD THE FOX. Most Delectable History of Reynard the Fox. Newly Corrected and Purged, from all grossness in Phrase and Matter. Augmented and Enlarged with sundry Excellent Morals and Expositions upon every. London: Printed by Tho. James, for Edward Brewster , 1694.
[Bound second, after:]

[REYNARD THE FOX]. The Most Delectable History of Reynard the Fox. Newly Corrected and Purged, from all grossness in Phrase and Matter. Augmented and Enlarged with sundry Excellent Morals and Expositions upon every several Chapter. To which may now be added a Second Part of the said History: As also the Shifts of Reynardine the Son of Reynard the Fox, Together with his Life and Death, &c. London: Printed by Tho. James, for Edward Brewster, 1694.

[And:]

[REYNARD THE FOX]. The Shifts of Reynardine The Son of Reynard the Fox, Or a Pleasant History of His Life and Death. Full of Variety, &c. And may fitly be applied to the Late Times: Now Published for the Reformation of Mens Manners. London: Printed by T.J. for Edward Brewster, and Thomas Passenger, 1684.

Three parts in one small quarto volume (7 1/4 x 5 1/2 inches; 186 x 140 mm.). [168], [2, advertisements]; [112]; [8], 160 pp. Predominently black letter, with some roman apparatus. Numerous woodcut illustrations, some repeated several times, most with the initials “E.B.”

Contemporary full brown calf, double-ruled in gilt. Spine with red morocco spine label. Label lettered in gilt and spine ruled in gilt. Board edges tooled in gilt. Boards slightly rubbed. Hinges cracked, but holding firm. A dark stain along top margin of A2v and A3r in first part, not affecting text. Small neat marginal repairs to four leaves in the third part to leaves B and S4, not affecting text. Small burn-holes repaired in part 3, leaf Q3 and R3, affecting just a few letters on Q3 only. Occasional toning and light foxing, but generally very clean. With small bookplate of Justin G. Schiller designed by Maurice Sendak on front pastedown. Overall a very good copy.

A very scarce English edition of the Reynard fables, the first part of which is sometimes attributed to John Shirley (fl. 1680-1702). The Reynard tales were first printed in England by Caxton in 1481 and continued to enjoy enormous popularity in the following centuries. As the seventeenth century progressed, they appeared inincreasingly moralised form, though the woodcuts in the present edition retain a pleasingly blunt character, recalling the illustrations of the early woodcut and manuscript era. The Reynard fables were also looked to as sources of political allegory, and the present copy bears an interesting early manuscript discourse, drawn from the Dedication of Thomas Parsons’s Leycester’s Commonwealth (1641), describing the History of Reynard the Fox as “an old English Book...which now passes through the hands of old women and children only” and suggesting it to be “an Enigmatical History of the Earl of Leicester and his family.”

Though many editions were printed of the Reynard tales, relatively few survive perfect outside institutional collections. Besides this present copy, we could only find two complete instances of the present edition of three parts, which is treated as a single entry in Wing at auction in the past thirty years.

ESTC R24532, R218371, and R40614; Lowndes, p. 2076; Osborne II, p. 610 (with the first part dated 1701); Wing S3513; M2912; and S3436.

HBS # 68430 $8,500