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For-fered of his deth, as thoughte me,
I yave him all min herte and all my thought,
And whan he saw the thing so fer ygon,
So ravished, as it semed, for the joye,
Ne were worthy to unbocle his galoche,
THE works of Chaucer remained in manuscript for more than seventy years after his death; and, if we may judge of their popularity by the number of copies which have come down to us, it must have been very great7. Upon the introduction of printing into this country by Caxton, 'The Canterbury Tales' were one of the earliest productions of his press: this was probably about 1475 or 1476. But it was unfortunately an incorrect manuscript which Caxton used. About six years after he printed another edition, and in a preface apologized for the errors of the first. Pynson printed two editions; the first in 1491, and the second in 1526; the latter was for the first time accompanied by a few of the other poems of Chaucer. "The Troilus and Cresseide' had been previously printed in a separate form by Caxton.
In 1532 William Thynne gave to the world a collection of the works of Chaucer, which he dedicated to Henry the Eighth. His son, Francis Thynne, in his animadversions upon Speght's edition, published by Mr. Todd, tells us that his father had commissione to serche all the libraries of England for Chaucers workes, so that out of all the Abbies of this Realme (which reserved any monuments thereof) he was fully furnished with a multitude of bookes, emongst which, one coppye of some parte of his works came to his hands subscribed in divers places with Examinatur Chaucer. By this booke, and conferringe manye of the other written copies together, he delivered his Editione, fullye corrected,' &c. He further says, that of these 'written copies there came to me after my father's death some fyve and twentye; whereof some had more and some fewer tales, and
7 Mr. Tyrwhitt enumerates twenty-six manuscripts, which he had opportunities of consulting; and Mr. Todd has added to the number. Thynne, in the reign of Henry the Eighth, had got together upwards of twenty-five manuscript copies of various parts of his works.
some but two, and some three.' This is most probably the edition printed in 1532 by Thomas Godfrey, which has Thynne's dedication to the king prefixed; it is printed in double columns, and not with one columne on a side,' as Francis Thynne describes his father's edition to have been; but no other edition has yet been discovered which more exactly answers to his description.
It is with this edition, and that of 1542, which are in general very correctly printed, that the minor poems of Chaucer have been collated for the present impression, with the exception of a few which appeared for the first time in Speght's edition of 1597. The Flower and the Leaf' is given from Mr. Todd's collation of Speght and Urry. ‘The Canterbury Tales' are given from Mr. Tyrwhitt's edition, who, has taken much pains, and in many instances to excellent purposes, with the text.' How much it is to be desired that the remaining works of Chaucer should meet with similar collation and correction at the hands of some skilful editor! The unwarrantable liberties which have been taken in Urry's edition, in order to make the verse read smoothly to the modern unpractised ear, render that edition of little value. The time which a collation of manuscript copies with the printed text would occupy precluded the possibility of having recourse to their aid upon the present occasion; yet it is hoped, that the reader is here presented with a more correct copy of the minor poems than has been hitherto given to the public.