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Chaucer, Geoffrey 1340?-1400.
A Leaf from The Canterbury Tales. Westminster, England: William Caxton, [1478].
Call Number: (RARE) PR 1865 1478
Special Collections, Golda Meir Library

This leaf comes from one of the first books printed in Britain, William Caxton's printing of The Canterbury Tales. Caxton presented an honest rendering of the original text with only small spaces separating each story. In his early years, Caxton printed primarily popular works in high demand. Because his works were widely used and circulated, few surviving examples exist today in good condition.

Chaucer text

Caxton served as Chaucer's first real editor and compiler in the printing era through his work on this edition. Caxton's first edition of The Canterbury Tales is unillustrated, however, a second edition published by him in 1484 does contain one woodcut illustration for each tale.

Caxton also selected a new manuscript source for his second edition after discovering the text of his first edition was unreliable.

Both of these editions are extremely rare. Only sixteen relatively complete copies of the first edition and eight copies of the second edition have been known to exist in the twentieth century.

This leaf comes from a badly-deteriorated copy which was salvaged for its individual leaves. It is page 293/294 containing lines 1202-1258 of the Wyves Tale of Bath.

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Prepared by Christopher Barth, Virginia Haas, and Sarah McDaniel