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The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families o

The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families o by HALL, Edward (1550)
Author: HALL, Edward
Title: The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre & Yorke [Hall’s Chronicle]
Year: 1550
Publisher: Richard Grafton
Place: London
Dust Jacket: No
Signed: No
Price: £3600
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Not Shakespeare’s copy but annotated profusely in English during the late sixteenth century, plausibly by a chronicler such as Holinshed or one of his collaborators.

Bound in seventeenth century sheepskin over wooden boards, a thick-thin blind double fillet to the boards which are scuffed and rubbed. The spine has tooled onlays from around 1700 with a red morocco label, loss to the leather at the head of the spine and cracking along the outer hinges. The gilt decoration uses an unusual toolset which includes a repeated thistle motif set at right angles, perhaps suggesting a Scottish origin to this refurbishment of the binding.

At the time of the onlays the book was provided with new endpapers and the engraved title page was laid down. Both endpapers have split along the gutter. The front pastedown has a nineteenth century oval leather book label for ‘Granville Hastings Wheler 1725’ - probably the date when the English scientist and presumed former owner married his wife Catherine Maria Hastings. The title page is browned and stained with fraying to the edges and a closed tear at the head of the page; the first few leaves are stained and torn and only partly attached along the gutter. The text lacks twenty leaves of text: folios xxv and xxviii are lacking from ‘Kyng Richard the iii’ and from ‘King Henry the. viii’ folios cxxvii-cxliv are also missing together with the terminal blank following Grafton’s colophon. There is no trace of any of these which suggests that they were already missing when the book was rebound in the seventeenth century.

Otherwise the book collates: [4], xxxii, [2] (Henry IV); l, [2] (Henry V); Cii, C.i-C.ii, [4] (Henry VI); Lxi, [5] (Edward IV); xxiiii; [1] (Edward V); xxxv, [2] (Richard III); lxi, [5] (Henry VII); CClxiii, [12] (Henry VIII).

This version coincides with ESTC’s description of the ideal and earliest state of the sheets, so the second leaf is signed ‘A.ii.’ and line 2 up has ‘reson’. The third leaf verso mentions a separate table for each king and the fourth leaf recto has the ‘Englyshe wryters.’. Each king has separate register and foliation and roman numeral line numbers in the inner margin; A1r last line has "kyng henry", B2r line 35 has "[and] committed [i.e. using the Tironian sign]".

A reader from the late sixteenth century has left around 1500 verbal annotations to the text and many more underlinings and marks for emphasis, often connecting his underlining with vertical marginal lines. Using a hybrid Elizabethan secretary and italic hand the writer’s annotations begin on the first page of printed text, Aii and continue throughout the book, covering every king and every aspect of the text including the tables that follow each book, where he underlined and highlighted the most important characters - invariably the ones who appear in the Tudor chronicle plays that owe a debt to this work.

Hall’s chronicle matters as a direct source for Elizabethan history plays, notably Shakespeare’s Henry VI dramas, but it was also mined by subsequent chroniclers, notably Holinshed. While it seems most unlikely that this copy was owned by an Elizabethan playwright, either Shakespeare or one of his contemporaries, the pattern of annotation would certainly match that of a historian such as Holinshed, who must have prepared a copy of Hall for subsequent reuse without much regard for the usual process of commonplacing the text. Candidates for such an owner and annotator would include Holinshed himself or one of his successors and subsequent editors such as William Harrison, Edmund Campion or John Hooker.

The annotations are systematic and run across the entire, huge text. In Henry VI the annotator is much concerned with the activities of Joan of Arc or ‘Joan the Pucelle’ as the annotator (and Shakespeare) dub her. The annotations to Henry VI contain one of the most interesting convergences with Shakespearean language. At folio lx Hall deals with the disagreement between the Duke of Gloucester and the Cardinal of Winchester which is glossed by the annotator as ‘New dissension between the D. of Gloucester and… Cardinall of Westminster.’ The characterisation of ‘dissension’ does not appear in Hall’s printed account of the Cardinal’s ‘sore’ envy and ‘disdayne’ but it is the very word chosen by Shakespeare when he dramatised Hall’s scene in I Henry VI, Act III scene I: ‘Gloucester I do defy thee… And for dissension, who preferreth peace/ More than I do, except I be provok’d?’

The annotator treats all forms of conflict and battle with the greatest seriousness: he counts up numbers of dead nobles always paying particular attention to Scottish involvement. The printed account of the Battle of Verneuil ends with the mournful note ‘The French and Scottish Army vanquished’ and again the swirled flourish for emphasis. The Battle of Flodden in 1514 when James IV of Scotland became the last British monarch to die in battle attracts the densest pattern of annotation in the whole volume with half a dozen marginal notes per page which make sense of the chronology and, finally, record that the ‘K. of Scots dead body was brought to Margaret’ - plus flourish.

The annotator’s reading is extremely detailed, so the misprint ‘waies’ becomes a corrected marginal note - ‘Wales’ - and on the same leaf (Richard III xxxv) ‘bearying’ is corrected in the margin to ‘burying’. The annotator takes special notice of the Christian reconquest of Spain - ‘Granada wonne from the Moores by the K. of Spaine’ (Henry VII, xxiii) - and Perkin Warbeck does not escape attention. The annotator seems impressed with Henry VIII’s youthful exuberance, making repeated mentions of ‘a mask’ as well as ‘sports Revelinge… a fine Showe.. A Juste. King at Greenwich’ (Clv). Repeatedly the annotator interests himself in taxation and legal instruments such as an order from Henry VIII about the payment of alms: ‘Ord de H. 8e Almes.’ (Cic v) another of ‘Note this taxe…’ (Cii) and a fascinating coinage, ‘unhedged’, to refer to fields around London not yet enclosed. The identity of the annotator remains a mystery but he was assiduous and committed in his engagement with this core text of English history.
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