History of the Valiant Knight Arthur of Little Britain, The
London: Printed for White, Cochrane, and Co., 1814. Item #05513
The Key Companion To Malory's Morte d'Arthur
With Twenty-Five Hand-Colored Engravings
In Fine Contemporary Straight-Grain Morocco
[ARTHURIANA]. BOURCHIER, John Lord Berners (trans.). The History of the Valiant Knight Arthur of Little Britain. A Romance of Chivalry. Originally Translated From the French by John Bourchier, Lord Berners. A New Edition. With a Series of Plates, From Illuminated Drawings Contained in a Valuable MS. of the Original Romance. London: Printed for White, Cochrane, and Co., 1814.
First edition. Quarto (9 3/16 x 7 3/8 inches; 233 x 188 mm.). [xii], [i-iii], iv-xxvii, [1, blank], iv, 544 pp. Twenty-five hand-colored plates engraved by Charles Heath, one woodcut. Title-page printed in black and red.
Contemporary full ochre straight-grained morocco with fillets in blind and gilt, small corner-pieces featuring gilt ornaments. Spine with five shallow double bands, richly decorated and lettered in gilt in compartments, gilt board edges and turn-ins, brown liners and endleaves, all edges gilt. Minimal rubbing to corners and extremities - still a wonderful copy of a very scarce book.
Edited by Edward Vernon Utterson (1776-1856) and reprinted from the edition published by Robert Redborne c. 1555. With a reproduction of original title-page: Arthur of Brytayn [on scroll]. The hystory of the moost noble and valyaunt knyght of lytell brytayne ... [woodcut].
"John Bourchier Lord Berners (1467-1553) is best known for his English translations of various European worlds of history and literature, especially the fourteenth century Chronicles of Jean Froissart. Because of their literary merit many of Berner's translations influenced the work of later Elizabethan writers and chroniclers" (Wagner, Enclyclopedia of Tudor England, p. 157); Berner's Arthur of Britain is said to have influenced Spenser.
Arthur of Lytell Brytayne is Berner's translation of Artus de la Petite Bretagne, a fourteenth-century prose chivalric romance which was first printed in Lyons in 1493; Berners appears to have used the second version of 1496. The Arthur cycle of legends began with Geoffrey of Monmouth's 12th century Historia Regum Britanniae. The Arthurian legend spread through Europe, particularly in France and Germany. It should be noted that Malory based Le Morte d'Artur on existing French as well as English stories; it is no accident that Malory's title is in French.
"It gives me great pleasure to bear testimony to the manner, equally spirited and faithful, in which the artist has executed these Engravings, which I am confident the possessors of this work will agree with me in considering as accompaniments infinitely more elegant and appropriate to a 'Romance of Chivalry,' than the rude and shapeless wood-cuts given in Redborne's edition' (Utterson, Preface). Landscape and figure engraver Charles Heath (1785-1848) was one of the most active and influential figures in British book production over the first half of the nineteenth-century.
Cf. Esdaile, p. 13 (1st & 2d Redborne editions).