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Isherwood, Christopher
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Holinshed, Raphael - Holinshed's Chronicles - ( Item 127588 )

Published in London by Folio Society. 2012. First Thus. Fine Hardback. No inscriptions or bookplates. Near Fine slipcase. Slight marks to panels of slipcase. Introduction and commentary by Michael Wood. Bound in buckram. Printed and blocked with the title page from the 1577 edition. Set in Caslon. Frontispiece. Approx. 90 woodcuts. Book size: 10" 6". 480 pages. In the Tudor age, myths of national identity became increasingly important to Britain, as the newly confident nation jostled for a place at the forefront of Europe. Few documents represent this aim more clearly than Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles: a towering work intended to elevate the status of the realm, its literature and language. First published in 1577, Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland was one of the great achievements of Elizabethan scholarship and printing. The team of contributors scoured libraries to uncover hundreds of sources some of which have not survived except within these pages. This was history on the grandest of scales, even greater in scope than those of Bede and Geoffrey of Monmouth. The Chronicles stretched from Britain's legendary past, through Boudicca and King Arthur, right up to the age of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I's coronation and even the troubled reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. To include these events was controversial, even daring: history writing was a political act, and one government official commented that such matter was 'not meete to be published in such sorte'. The pages are alive with gripping stories, heroic and villainous characters, all portrayed in muscular, robust Elizabethan prose. It is no wonder that the Chronicles held such fascination for William Shakespeare. He used it for his early history plays, and came back to this favourite text at the height of his career to write Cymbeline, Macbeth and King Lear. Nor was he the only writer to be inspired by its tales of intrigue, bloodshed and revenge: Edmund Spenser and Christopher Marlowe also mined its pages, and John Milton and John Dryden did the same in later years. As well as being a crucial literary source, the Chronicles are uniquely valuable for the insights they offer into the minds of the Elizabethans: their religious concerns, their political preoccupations and their sense of nationhood.

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