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Translated By John Allen
No part of a book is so intimate as the Preface. Here, after the long labor of the work is over, the author descends from his platform, and speaks with his reader as man to man, disclosing his hopes and fears, seeking sympathy for his difficulties, offering defence or defiance, according to his temper, against the criticisms which he anticipates. It thus happens that a personality which has been veiled by a formal method throughout many chapters, is suddenly seen face to face in the Preface; and this alone, if there were no other reason, would justify a volume of Prefaces.
But there are other reasons why a Preface may be presented apart from its parent work, and may, indeed, be expected sometimes to survive it. The Prologues and Epilogues of Caxton were chiefly prefixed to translations which have long been superseded; but the comments of this frank and enthusiastic pioneer of the art of printing in England not only tell us of his personal tastes, but are in a high degree illuminative of the literary habits and standards of western Europe in the fifteenth century. Again, modern research has long ago put Raleigh's "History of the World" out of date; but his eloquent Preface still gives us a rare picture of the attitude of an intelligent Elizabethan, of the generation which colonised America, toward the past, the present, and the future worlds. Bacon's " Great Restoration" is no longer a guide to scientific method; but his prefatory statements as to his objects and hopes still offer a lofty inspiration.
And so with the documents here drawn from the folios of Copernicus and Calvin, with the criticism of Dryden and Wordsworth and Hugo, with Dr. Johnson's Preface to his great Dictionary, with the astounding manifesto of a new poetry from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass "—each of them has a value and significance independent now of the work which it originally introduced, and each of them presents to us a man.
PREFACES AND EPILOGUES
BY WILLIAM CAXTON THE RECUYELL OF THE HISTORIES OF TROY
Title And Prologue To Book I
HERE beginneth the volume entitled and named the Recuyell of the Histories of Troy, composed and drawn out of divers books of Latin into French by the right venerable person and worshipful man, Raoul le Feure, priest and chaplain unto the right noble, glorious, and mighty prince in his time, Philip, Duke of Burgundy, of Brabant, etc., in the year of the Incarnation of our Lord God a thousand four hundred sixty and four, and translated and drawn out of French into English by William Caxton, mercer, of the city of London, at the commandment of the right high, mighty, and virtuous Princess, his redoubted Lady, Margaret, by the grace of God Duchess of Burgundy, of Lotrylk, of Brabant, etc.; which said translation and work was begun in Bruges in the County of Flanders, the first day of March, the year of the Incarnation of our said Lord God a thousand four hundred sixty and eight, and ended and finished in the holy city of Cologne the 19th day of September, the year of our said Lord God a thousand four hundred sixty and eleven, etc.
William Caxton' (1422?—1491), merchant and translator, learned the art of printing on the Continent, probably at Bruges or Cologne. He translated "The Recuyell of the Histories of Troy" between 1469 and 1471, and, on account of the great demand for copies, was led to have it printed—the first English book to be reproduced by this means. The date was about 1474: the place, probably Bruges. In 1476, Caxton came back to England, and set up a press of his own at Westminster. In 1477. he issued the first book known to have been printed in England, "The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers." The following Prefaces and Epilogues from Caxton's own pen show his attitude towards tome of the more important of the n ylii that issued from his press.
5 (1) Hc xxxix