Folio [27.8 x 18.5 cm], (34) pp., 1458 (i.e., 1450) pp., title with engraved architectural border, engraved initials, with the leaf inserted between ÇC5 & 6, but without the two blanks. Bound in seventeenth-century French red morocco, gilt spine, triple gilt fillet round sides, with the Arms of Jean-Baptiste Colbert [Olivier 1296 fer 4] and his interlacing monogram in the compartments of the spine; antique repairs on the joints and inner cover. Bookplate of Mark Dineley. Manuscript note “Bibliotheca Colbertina” on the title page; some paper repairs on title-page and last leaf, minor tears on a few pages not affecting text within woodcut architectural border.
First collected edition of the English works of Thomas More (1478-1535), the famous councilor to Henry VIII, lawyer, philosopher, and Renaissance humanist who broke with the King over Henry’s attempts to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and was later executed for high treason after his refusal to sign the Act of Supremacy naming Henry head of the Church of England. Edited by More’s nephew William Rastell, the volume was published in 1557 when England had been restored to Catholicism under Queen Mary (the book’s dedicatee). The present volume belonged to Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-83), the renowned finance minister under Louis XIV, and is bound in seventeenth-century French red morocco with his arms on the front cover and his ciphers on the spine.
Included here is More’s unfinished History of King Richard III, considered by many to be his finest work. More composed the History in both Latin and English versions – neither of which was published in his lifetime – and although unattributed and corrupted versions had appeared, it is printed for the first time here in its fullest form and under More’s name. (More’s characterization of the villainous King Richard III is thought to have influenced Shakespeare’s famous play.) Also included here are his (vicious) polemics against the reformer and scholar William Tyndale and the Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation, a work modeled on Boethius and written while More awaited execution in the Tower of London.
The present volume is a beautiful copy, linking the defender of Catholicism in England during Henry VIII’s reign with King Louis XIV’s most influential minister.
* STC 18076; Olivier 1296 fer 4; Pforzheimer 743.