`Canterbury Tales' may fetch pounds 700,000

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The Independent Online
A RARE FIRST edition of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, printed in 1477, is expected to raise up to pounds 700,000 at auction in London next month.

The book, the most complete copy seen at auction this century, is one of only 12 first edition copies still in existence and the last to remain in private hands. It is one of five books printed by William Caxton, England's earliest typographer, to go under the hammer at Christie's on 8 July.

Eight rare books, estimated at more than pounds 1.25m, will be auctioned. They form part of the chattels settlement of Olive, Countess Fitzwilliam, formerly at Wentworth Woodhouse. As well as The Canterbury Tales, considered to be the greatest work of Middle English literature, the sale includes a copy of The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, the first book to be printed in the English language, with an estimated value of pounds 300,000.

Caxton, Britain's first printer, translated the Recuyell from the original French, and it was his first production as a printer in Bruges in 1473. The first illustrated printed book in England, The Myrrour of the Worlde, translated and printed by Caxton in 1481, is also on sale, and is expected to realise more than pounds 120,000. A medieval compendium of geography, astronomy and other physical sciences, the book is the first scientific publication printed in England. Among its many illustrations are two woodcuts which constitute England's earliest printed maps.

A unique 1497 first edition of De Worde's influential treatise on equine medicine, Proprytees & Medicynes of Hors - a must for 15th-century horse owners - will also go under the hammer.