University of Virginia Library

Thynne's 1532, double-column folio edition of Chaucer is the first of the series of black-letter folios constituting the early "vulgate" Chaucer.[1] The interest of Chaucerians in these editions has been two-fold: for some, they provide a record of canon-formation, with each subsequent edition adding to its predecessor.[2] For others, the interest is almost exclusively textual-critical, with the value of each edition based on the off-chance that it may be an independent witness for manuscript readings now lost. The following article looks at what might be called the extra-textual tradition of these editions--their page layout, line composition, and the mysterious marginalia typeset in the early editions' texts of the House of Fame.[3] Examination of these elements first provides evidence for printer's copy used in the various editions (a question often obscured by editorial concentration on textual matters) and secondly illustrates a process of rationalization, whereby printers reinterpreted details of their tradition they understood no better than we do.

The history of this series of editions was sketched as early as the eighteenth century, and finally presented with uncommon clarity by Thomas R. Lounsbury in 1892.[4] What is generally accepted today is the following: the


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1542 and 1550 editions (TH2 and TH3) are set from the 1532 edition; the Stow edition of 1561 (ST) is set from the 1550 edition; the Speght edition of 1598 (SP1) is set from the 1561 edition; the Speght edition of 1602 (SP2), although a reprint of 1598, is to some extent based on the 1561 edition as well. This simplified description shows that the relation between the various editions is not strictly linear, but sometimes "leapfrog," although even the most careful scholars of these editions occasionally imply otherwise.[5]

The complex relations among the later folios need clarification, particularly in view of the recent collations provided by the Variorum Chaucer. And in the initial sections below, I focus on what can be conjectured as the printer's copy for the two Speght editions--an entity to be distinguished from the various textual-critical entities known as "copy-text."[6] I will suggest that the printer's copy for a great part of the 1602 edition is not simply a copy of the 1561 edition, but the same copy previously marked up to serve as printer's copy for the 1598 edition.