Special Collections and University Archives is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of an incunabula leaf from the Polychronicon printed by William Caxton (c. 1422-1491), the English printer who notably brought the first printing press to England in 1476.
The Polychronicon was a popular work written by Ranulf Higden (c. 1280-1364), a Benedictine monk of Chester, which chronicled the history of the world and was primarily adapted from the Bible. This newly acquired leaf is from the first edition of this work printed by Caxton at his press in Westminster after July 2, 1482. John of Trevisa (1342-1402) first translated the Polychronicon from the original Latin into English in the late fourteenth century, a text that has been useful in the study of the English language and medieval access to Biblical ideas through the vernacular. Caxton printed Trevisa’s English translation, but he also updated the text and “somewhat changed the rude and old English” to account for linguistic changes that had occurred over the century.
This leaf contains text from chapter 12 of book 4 of the Polychronicon, which recounts history during the life of the Roman Emperor Domitian. The leaf measures 11 x 8.25” and the text is composed of 40 lines in Gothic type with red rubrics and paragraph flourishes. The leaf also includes marginal annotations in a contemporary hand. Caxton’s printed leaf supports research in the material history of the book and printing in the West and joins other examples of early printing available in the rare book collection.