The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, Anthony Woodville, Lord Rivers, The Cranbrook Press (1901)

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

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided, under fair use, to highlight and visualize the review/criticism of the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is providing education on the historical and cultural benefits of having a healthy fine press industry and in educating people on the richness that this ‘old school approach’ of book publishing brings to the reading process. Books and Vines has no commercial stake or financial interest in any publisher, retailer or work reviewed on this site and receives no commercial interest or compensation for Books and Vines. Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s or material found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

Ed. Note: Don’t forget to click on an image to see a larger version of the image!

The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Slipcase Spine (custom)
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Slipcase Spine (custom)
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Book in Slipcase
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Book in Slipcase
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Spine and Covers
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Spine and Covers
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Macro of Spine Label
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Macro of Spine Label
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Cover
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Cover
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Title
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Title
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Preface
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Preface
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #1
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Macro 1 of Preface
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Macro 1 of Preface
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Macro 2 of Preface
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Macro 2 of Preface
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Macro 3 of Preface
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #1
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #1 (Prologue)
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Macro of Sample Text #1
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Macro 1 of Sample Text #1 (Prologue)
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Macro 2 of Sample Text #1
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Macro 2 of Sample Text #1 (Prologue)
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Title
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text 2 (End of prologue and beginning of first chapter)
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #3
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #3
(Prologue)
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #4
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #5
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #5
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #6
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #6
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #7
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #7
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #8
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #8
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #10
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #9
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #10
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #10
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #11
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #11
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #12
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #12
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #13
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #13
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #14
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #14
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #15
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #15 (Epilogue)
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #13
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Sample Text #16 (Book Ending)
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Macro of Sample Text 16
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Macro of Sample Text #16
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Colophon
The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, The Cranbrook Press, Colophon

5 thoughts on “The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, Anthony Woodville, Lord Rivers, The Cranbrook Press (1901)

  1. I see, and hope that I’m pardoned since English is not my mother tongue. It was the hyphen that confused me – I understood it as 50% classic.

  2. Half-classic vellum means that the book’s binding is one-half vellum, i.e., vellum spine and large triangular corner vellum patches. Classic means just that – the basic smooth, uniform white vellum without marbling, honey coloration, prominent pores (“hairy” vellum), etc.

  3. Amongst private press books printed and published in the United States, the major Cranbrook Press books, e.g., the Revelation of Saint John the Divine, the Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, and Three Wise Men: M. Aurelius Antoninus, Francis Bacon, and Benjamin Franklin, are the closest thing to a Kelmscott Press book you will find. Simply magnificent and, as Chris mentioned, all are extremely rare.

Leave a Reply