Tyrwhitt, Thomas. The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer to Which are Added An Essay on his Language and Versification, and an Introductory Discourse: Together with Notes and a Glossary. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1798.
The 1798 edition of Tyrwhitt’s Chaucer with Mortimer’s prints
Although I have three other copies, I have finally been able to acquire a copy of Tyrwhitt’s 1798 edition which includes the Mortimer prints. And while I have known that illustrated copies did exist, I have been looking for a copy of this book for twenty years. And while I am really happy and excited to have it, the book does generate questions for which I have no answers. Watermarks on the text pages indicate the paper was made by Taylor in 1795, 1796, and 1797 with the Mortimer prints on a different, heavier paper which, since the Mortimer prints were made before this edition was produced, I would have expected. My problem is that I also have individual copies of seven of the Mortimer prints that were printed on a paper different from the paper used for the prints in the book. Their paper is thinner, and the pressure of printing was enough to cause the paper to tear along the edges of the plates. In addition, paper on most of the prints have a watermark of 1806 C. So how many copies of Tyrwhitt’s 1798 edition contain the Mortimer prints, and was 1806 the only time the Mortimer plates were used after the 1798 edition was published or were they used to print copies at a number of different times?
The following is from Notes and Queries. Oct. 23, 1880. pp. 325-6.
MORTIMER’S ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAUCER’S “CANTERBURY TALES.” Mr. Bradshaw has just called my attention to the fact that on eight of the nine engraved quarto plates from Mortimer’s Chaucer drawings published in 1787 some ten years after his death there is at the top of each to reference to volume and page of an edition of Chaucer or rather of Tyrwhitt’s text of the Canterbury Tales which is not now known to bibliographers or Chaucer students. Neither the octavo Tyrwhitt of 1775 nor the quarto of 1798 will suit. In possible explanation of the fact Mr. Bradshaw says:– Perhaps an edition in quarto was projected directly after Tyrwhitt’s came out in 1775 and Mortimer was asked to furnish a series of drawings. As He died in 1777 or thereabouts, and these nine plates were not issued till 1787, and then a by different engravers mostly, it is quite possible that the projected plan of an edition became slack at first and then fell through. But as many of the plates have an actual page reference, one would think there must have been at least a second volume and part of a third printed. If so, perhaps proofs or stock are even yet existing. It would be very nice to find in these. . . . The following are the page references:
- Prologue. No page reference. Engraved by J Hogg.
- Palarnon and Arcite fighting. vol. ii. p. 63. No engraver’s name.
- Nicholas and Robin (Miller), vol. ii. p. 168. No engraver’s name.
- Miller of Trompinqton (Reve). vol. ii. p. 193. Sharp.
- The Coke and Perkin (Coke) vol. ii. p. 212. E Williams.
- Sompnour, Devil, and Old Woman (Frere) vol. iii. pp. 71 72. J Hogg.
- Frere and Thomas (Sompnour) vol. iii. p. 93. J Hogg.
- January and May (Merchant) vol. iii. p. 191. JK Sherwin
- Three Gamblers and Time (Pardoner). No page reference (it would vol. iv.). J Hogg.
No. 1 may have been Intended for a frontispiece and so not have had a page reference; and no doubt the Pardoner’s tale was not printed when the plate to that was engraved. The same date is on them all—‘London Published Feby 12th 1787. by J. R. Smith. No. 31 King Street Covent Garden.’”
There is no J.R. Smith in Kent’s London Directory of 1786 or 1788,–1787 is not in the British Museum or in the Guildhall Library,– but Redgrave states that he was a publisher (of) and dealer in prints, as well as an engraver. Mr. Reid says that Mortimer’s original drawing of “January and May,” No. 8 in Mr. Bradshaw’s list is at South Kensington. Bohn’s Lowndes, under Tyrwhitt’s Chaucer, quarto, 1798,” says that copies of the Mortimer engravings were in the White Knights and some other copies. They were in my copy of the 1798 that I cut up to collate with Lord Leconfield’s Petworth MS. of the Tales for my Six-Text. Can any of your readers tell us whether Mortimer ever drew more than the above-named nine illustrations; where any such, including the engraved ones (except that at South Kensington), are; whether any other record exists of the edition of Chaucer that Mortimer or his engravers used Mortimer? F.J. Furnivall.