Within its plain cardboard covers this illustrated work encloses two unexpected literary stories separated by five centuries.
Chronicles were the predominant form of history writing in the Middle Ages – part fact, part fiction, and clothed in the popular brand of medieval chivalry and romance to intensify their potency and appeal. In this period few original manuscript sources were readily accessible to historians, and distance precluded first-hand familiarity with the places and events chronicled. Most histories were an amalgam of re-interpretations of the few extant sources and hearsay, all overlaid with the particular world outlook and opinion of the writer and their patron.
This famous 14th century chronicle was composed by medieval writer and courtier Jean Froissart (c1337-c1405) as a prose history of the Hundred Years' War between France and England. It was his second attempt at the task (the first in rhyming verse), as he wished to improve the historical accuracy and drew on several contemporary manuscripts as sources. Approaching 1.5 million words, the original four-volume history is one of the longest prose works in medieval French, and its text is preserved in more than 100 manuscript copies.
Fast forward to the late 18th century where we meet Thomas Johnes (1748-1816), politician, landscape architect, farmer, printer, writer, social benefactor and planter of over 3 million trees on his Welsh estate. Johnes was an avid book collector who built up an extensive library including rare natural history works, Welsh, French and Latin manuscripts and printed editions of medieval French chronicles, all subsequently lost in a fire which destroyed his mansion in 1807. Fortunately his wife Jane had encouraged Johnes to translate some of the works before the tragedy, including Froissart’s The Chronicles of England, France, Spain which he first published in in 1806.
Within two years this third edition (1808, including a biography and critical essays) was issued, attesting to the work’s enthusiastic reception by a new audience absorbed in the Gothic Revival. Volume IV contains reproductions of many of the colourful illustrations which embellished 15th-16th century manuscripts as two-tone line drawings. The animated renditions of armoured knights, soldiers defending embattlements, and medieval interiors and landscapes enliven the text, no doubt capturing the imaginations of 19th century readers eager to be transported to chivalric times from the comfort of their country houses and London terraces.
NoteThe engravings are traced from the finest illuminations in our libraries and in that of France: Advert. to 1st ed.Newly translated from the French editions, with variations and additions from many celebrated MSS. by Thomas Johnes.EditionThe third edition, to which is prefixed, a life of the author, an essay on his works, a criticism on his history, and a dissertation on his poetryPlace of publicationLondon PublisherPrinted for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme...and J. WhitePublication date1808VolumePlatesExtent57 unnumbered leaves of plates ; illustrationsLanguageEnglishCollectionRare BooksSub-collectionUNSW Canberra Rare BooksLink to item in Library collectionLibrary collectionContact us
Digital Collections | Library (23rd Jun 2022). Sir John Froissart's Chronicles of England, France, Spain, and the adjoining countries : from the latter part of the reign of Edward II, to the coronation of Henry IV - Plates. In Website Digital Collections | Library. Retrieved 21st Feb 2024 23:40, from https://digitalcollections.library.unsw.edu.au/nodes/view/3087