George Booth (1864-1949) was co-founder and editor of the Detroit Evening News, a noted philanthropist, and a passionate follower of the Arts and Crafts movement. Booth founded the Cranbrook Press (named after a picturesque and idyllic small town in England where Booth’s father and grandfather were born) in 1900 with a purpose to “print a few books that would last for all time.” Booth wrote in Something about the Cranbrook Press (1902) that he strove for “the printing of a few books of undoubted merit, having such permanent literary value as would justify their preservation in the highest style of typographic art.” Booth was obviously and admittedly greatly influenced by both William Caxton and William Morris, both of which he sought to emulate (Morris he calls the “first among the printers of all time“). Booth used a handpress “of ancient design” and his publications made use of handmade paper with the Press’ watermark, Jenson type based on a Morris casting, Kelmscott-like page decoration and initial lettering (Booth preferring the “interlaced pattern for which the early Venetian bookmakers showed so much partiality“), generous margins and an overall “goodly” book size . They are typically bound in half-classic vellum by Frank E. Swatton. Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers was the second book printed by Cranbrook Press, preceded by John Locke Scripps’s The Life of Abraham Lincoln.
Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers is a collection of quotes and maxims by biblical, classical, and legendary philosophers, accompanied by brief biographies of the philosophers. Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, translated Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers from a French manuscript titled Les ditz moraulx des philosopher by Guillaume de Tignonville (who himself translated it from a Latin version of an Arabic work written in Egypt in the middle of the eleventh century by al-Mubashshir ibn Fatiq). Lord Rivers was a brother to Elizabeth, Queen of Edward IV of England and an enemy of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was threatened by Rivers’s rise in political society. When Richard III usurped the throne he famously had his nephews put to death in the Tower of London, and soon thereafter had Rivers beheaded without trial (on 25 June 1483). Years before those unfortunate events, Woodville finished his translation of Dictes and gave the manuscript to William Caxton for proofreading, who then revised the translation (including adding a chapter on remarks of Socrates on women) and added an epilogue.
Caxton went on to print Dictes in 1477, the year after he founded his press in Westminster. This work is generally acknowledged as the first book printed in England, certainly the first dated (perhaps preceded by Caxton’s undated edition of Chaucer), and the first to use a printer’s colophon showing the name of the printer, and the place of publication. Note Dictes was not the first edition to be printed in English itself, that honor going again to William Caxton for his 1475 edition of The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, which he printed in Bruges.
This edition from Cranbrook was the fourth time Dictes was printed. Besides the Caxton edition, it was reprinted by Wynkyn de Worde in 1528 and then appeared in a late 19th century facsimile printing, all very rare. The Cranbrook edition uses William Morris’s Gothic Type on specially produced hand-made paper and is embellished with many large wood-cut initials, borders, and head and tail pieces from designs by George Booth. It contains two original engravings on copper from drawings by DeVoss W. Driscoll; one showing Caxton examining the first proof, the second showing the presentation of the Dictes to the King. It is bound in half-classic vellum, with brown paper side and a calf title label on spine
All Cranbrook Press books are extremely rare, though Utopia comes up here and there more than the others. When and if you do find Dictes, expect to pay $1000-$2500 depending on condition.
About the Edition
- Printed by George G. Booth at the Cranbrook Press, assisted by James E. Scripps and Edgar B. Whitcomb based on a facsimile copy of this rare book from the Detroit Public Library
- Translated (from a French version) by Anthony Woodville
- William Morris’s Gothic Type
- Hand-made paper
- Embellished with many large wood-cut initials, borders, and head and tail pieces from designs by George Booth
- Two original engravings on copper from drawings by DeVoss W. Driscoll
- Bound in half-classic vellum, brown paper sides, calf label on spine
- 11 x 8 1/2″, 136 pages
- Limited to 244 numbered copies, original selling price $24 (equivalent to about $686 today)
Pictures of the Edition
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