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Chaucer, Geoffrey, 1340?-1400.
The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Compared with the Former Editions, and Many Valuable Mss. out of Which, Three Tales are Added Which were Never Before Printed. London: Printed for B. Lintot, 1721.
Call Number: (SPL)(FOL) PR 1850 1721
Special Collections, Golda Meir Library

Illustration from the Cook's Tale

This edition was designed to be a deluxe edition of Chaucer's works with a new commentary by scholar John Urry. The publishers planned a printing of 1,250 copies with a subscription price of 30 shillings for copies on fine demi paper and 50 shillings for copies on Royal paper. This subscription price must have placed the work beyond the means of many potential buyers. This edition also benefited from a heightened awareness of Chaucer and his works. A series of published modernizations, imitations, and varied celebrations of Chaucer in the early eighteenth century created an atmosphere extremely favorable to a new scholarly edition of his poetry.

Unfortunately, though conditions for this edition seemed auspicious, critical commentary on Urry's new edition condemned his editorial license and injustices to Chaucer's texts. Critics reviled it as ". . . the worst that is extant", "the worst ever published" and "the worst ever prepared." This criticism was spurred by Urry's inclusion of spurious texts as well as frequent emendations without documentation. While his collation of existing manuscripts and printed copies was exhaustive, he did not seek to retain an authoritative text.

This edition was also hampered by Urry's death less than halfway through the project, the death of his successor, Thomas Ainsworth, and the juggling of the remaining work by many different scholars with different visions for the edition. The deaths also tied up the manuscripts and books of the editors within their estates preventing work on the edition from continuing.

Urry planned this edition to be printed with a newly-cast blackletter gothic font. However, following his death, the typeface was changed, resulting in the first edition of Chaucer printed in a roman font.

Special Collections holds three copies of this edition.

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©2001 University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee -- All Rights Reserved.
Prepared by Christopher Barth, Virginia Haas, and Sarah McDaniel