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AMONG the earliest productions of the press, will be found Books upon the subjects intended to be comprised in this catalogue. The following curious document in the History of Printing, which relates to the Most Noble Order of the Garter, has been attributed, by Mr. Dibdin, to Caxton, the father of English Typography.
Propositio Clarissimi Oratoris Magistri Johannis Russell decretorum doctoris ac adtunc Ambassiatoris Xpanissimi Regis Edwardi Dei gracia regis Anglie et Francie ad illustrissimu principem Karolum ducem Burgundie super susceptione ordinis garterij, etc.
No date. Quarto. 4 leaves.
This unique tract was accidentally discovered by Mr. Brand, bound up with a collection of MSS. At the sale of his library it was ob
tained by the Marquess of Blandford, and when the White Knights collection was disposed of, Mr. Dibdin purchased it for 1267.
The commission for the investiture of the Duke of Burgundy with the Garter bears date 10th Jan. 1469, and he notified his acceptance on the 4th Feb. same year.
The orator was Dr. John Russell, archdeacon of Berkshire, who has curiously enough introduced the Knights of the Round Table and the Holy Trinity, in the speech. Caxton, it is known, held a situation in the household establishment of Margaret, sister of King Edward IV. who married Charles Duke of Burgundy, to whom this oration is addressed. This Tract is supposed to be Caxton's second attempt in the art of printing, Colard Mansion, a printer at Bruges, assisting him in the necessary materials. Cens. Lit. vol. viii. p. 351. Dibdin's Ames, vol. i. p. 11.
The Order of the Golden Fleece was instituted at Bruges, Jan. 10, 1429, by Philip Duke of Burgundy. A MS. exhibiting the arins of the Knights of that order, including those of King Edward IV. a beautiful specimen of illumination, is in the British Museum. Harl. MS. 6199.
REIGN OF KING RICH. III.---1483-1485.
The Heralds, whose duty it was to regulate all Ceremonies, whether regal or noble, had hitherto been considered as the household servants of the King. The College of Arms is indebted for its first incorporation to this monarch.
"A copy of the Letters Patents of King Richard ye 3rd; whereby he did incorporate in one Body Pollitique all the King's Heraults and Poursoivts of Armes, and gave them a Howse in London to resort unto, and dwell in, called Cold Harbore, in the first year of his reign;" will be found in Antiq. Repert. vol. i. p. 161, and “Literæ de incorporatione Heraldoruin," in Rymer's Fadera, vol. xii. p. 215, and in the Appendix to Noble's Hist. of College of Arms.
A MS. entitled The First Fondacion of the Office of Armys, and whereof it bygan, translate owte of Latyn into Englis," 4to. 136 leaves, is in the Ashmolean Library at Oxford.
The only book connected with our subjects, printed in this reign, was.
The Boke of the Order of Chivalry or
Translated and printed by Wm. Caxton. No date. 4to. 52 leaves.
This work has no regular title-page, but opens with the following proheme and table of the contents:—
¶ Here beginneth the table of this present book, entitled 'The Book of the Order of Chivalry or Knighthood.' Unto the praising and divine Glory of God, which is Lord and Sovereign King above and over all things celestial, and worldly, we begin this book of the Order of Chivalry. For to shew that to the signifiance of God the Prince Almighty, which signoreth above the seven planets, that make the course celestial, and have power and seigniory in governing and ordaining the bodies terrestial and earthly, that in likewise owen the kings, princes, and great lords to have puissance and signiory upon the knights, and the knights by similitude oughten so have power and dominion over the moyen people. And this book containeth viij chapters. ¶ The first chapter saith how a knight being an hermit devised to the squire the rule and order of chivalry. The second is of the beginning of chivalry. The third is of the office of chivalry. The fourth of the examination that ought to be made to the esquire, when he will enter into the order of chivalry. ¶ The fifth is in what manner the esquire ought to receive chivalry. The sixth is of the significance of the arms longing to a knight, all by order. The seventh is of the customs that appertain to a knight. The eighth is of the honour that ought to be done to a knight.
The first chapter presents us with a narrative of events which are supposed to have given rise to the composition of the work. The sixth chapter is especially worth the attention of those who are curious in the lore of chivalry: it presents us with the moral application of the several parts of the accoutrements of a knight equipped for battle.
The conclusion of the volume is highly interesting, and contains a curious dedication to King Richard III.
"Here endeth the book of the Ordre of Chivalry, which book is translated out of French into English, at a request of a gentyl and noble esquire, by me William Caxton, dwelling in Westminster, beside London, in the most best wys that God hath suffred me, which book is not requisite to every common man to have, but to noble Gentlemen, that by their virtue intend, to come and enter into the noble Order of Chivalry, the which in these late days bath been used according to this book heretofore written, but forgotten, and the exercise of Chivalry not used and honoured, nor exercised as it hath been in ancient time, at which time, the noble acts of the Knights of England that use Chivalry were renowned through the universal world," &c.
" and this little book I present to my redoubted natural and most dread sovereign lord, King Richard, King of England and France, to the end that he command this book to be had and read unto other young Lords, Knights, and Gentlemen within this royame, that the noble Order of Chivalry be hereafter better used and honoured than it hath been in late days passed. And herein he shall do a noble and virtuous deed. And I shall pray almighty God for his long life and prosperous wellfare, and that he may have victory of all his enemies, and after this short and transitory life, to have everlasting life in heaven, where al is joy, and bliss, world without end. Amen."
This book is one of the smallest and scarcest, and is also said to be one of the most amusing of those printed by Caxton. The account of it here given is principally derived from the first volume of Mr. Dibdin's Typographical Antiquities. It was selected for description by Oldys, in his British Librarian. Ames had a copy of it, but speaks of it as very scarce. See also Herbert's Edit. of Ames.
The only perfect copy known is in the British Museum, which volume contains also a MS. probably coeval, "Of makyng of Knyghts of the Bath." A copy is also in the Bodleian Library, and in Earl Spencer's collection.
At the sale of Richard Rawlinson, LL. D. in 1756, a copy was sold for 11s.
One in fine condition, and bound in russia, belonging to James West, Esq. was sold in 1773 for 5 guineas: this is probably now in his Majesty's library.
The original from which Caxton translated this work was the "Ordene de Chevalrie," of Hue de Tabarie; which contains an exact and circumstantial detail of all the ceremonies performed in the Dubbing of a Knight; as well as an enumeration of the duties and privileges of the same person.