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Details about  Cursor Mundi 3 of 7 Vols ( 1876-8) Possible Association Copies, J.R.R. Tolkien

Cursor Mundi 3 of 7 Vols ( 1876-8) Possible Association Copies, J.R.R. Tolkien

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21 Sep, 2011 05:19:38 BST
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Last updated on  17 Sep, 2011 17:32:41 BST  View all revisions

Item specifics

Format: Softcover Special Attributes: 1st Edition
Subject: Religion Printing Year: 1876
Topic: Christianity Origin: European

Click to visit Cloud of Unknowing Books' home page Three of Seven Volumes (Vols 3-5) in the Medieval Northumbrian Poem, "Cursor Mundi" - Possible Association Copy, J.R.R. Tolkien

Seize this opportunity to bid on these scarce first edition issues of the famous medieval poem Cursor Mundi, with a possible association to writer J.R.R. Tolkien:

Cursor Mundi (The Cursor o the world), a Northumbrian Poem of the XIVth Century In Four Versions, Two of them Midland, with 7 Additions, Including "The Book of Penance," and "Cato's Morals" (incomplete), edited by Richard Morris (London: Published for the Early English Text Society, by N. Trübner & Co. 1876 [Part III], 1877 [Part IV], 1878 [Part V]), only three of seven volumes in this set, in Middle English, first edition, three 5 7/8" x 8 7/8" tall volumes in publisher's wraps, page edges untrimmed with numerous unopened signatures. Part III is only is fair condition, as the rear wraps cover is present but detached and the volume itself separates into three sections (see images), while Parts IV and V, apart from a bit of soiling to covers, are in very good condition. Prior contemporaneous owner signature (John S. Avery?) to right side of all three covers, and above that, what appears to be the signature of J.R.R. Tolkien (which has not been authenticated)

Provenance of these Volumes: I purchased these volumes, along with a number of other books, from Mark Copeland of Bournemouth, England (eBay seller city-gent45), who reports they were purchased in the 1970s at an antiquarian book shop in Bournemouth, Cummins.

About the Work: Cursor Mundi (Latin for "Runner of the World") is an anonymous Middle-English historical and religious poem of nearly 30,000 lines written around 1300 AD. The poem summarizes the history of the world as described in the Christian Bible and other sources, with additional legendary material drawn primarily from the Historia scholastica. It was extremely popular in its time, as the large number of manuscripts in which it is preserved proves.

In terms of contents, the Cursor Mundi is divided in accordance to the seven ages of salvation history.

It was originally written, as certain peculiarities of construction and vocabulary clearly show, somewhere in northern England, but of the author nothing can be learnt except the fact, which he himself tells us, that he was a cleric. He must have lived at the close of the thirteenth and at the beginning of the fourteenth century, and his poem is conjecturally assigned to about the year 1300. In form it is written in eight-syllabled couplets, but in his account of the Passion of Christ the author adopts a new metre of lines of eight and six syllables rhyming alternately.

The poet considers the Bible to be one of many sources in the history of the church. He focuses on characters more than anything else where Jesus and Mary are the central figures. According to the preface of The Early English Text Society the Cursor Mundi is a collection of poignant and vivid versions of stories arranged “in an orderly, encyclopedic yet fundamentally digressive manner”.

A modern scholar rarely would find an encyclopedia with the size and vast content of the Cursor Mundi. In fact, two modern undertakings of the project add up to over seven volumes The Early English Text Society and a Southern version of the text done in five volumes The Ottawa Project simply because of the immense nature of the text. Yet, both of these versions are mere adaptations of the original Northern version.

Although the poem deals with universal history, the author contrives to give some sort of unity to his work by grouping it around the theme of man's redemption. He presents himself as a chosen shepherd; a shepherd who was chosen because of his talents. He explains in an elaborate prologue how folk desire to read old romances relating to Alexander the Great, Julius Cæsar, Troy, Brutus, King Arthur, Charlemagne etc., and how only those men are esteemed that love "paramours". But earthly love is vain and full of disappointments.

Therefore bless I that paramour [i. e. Our Lady]
That in my need does me soccour
That saves me on earth from sin
And heaven bliss me helps to win.
Mother and mayden never-the-less
Therefore of her took Jesu flesh.

He goes on to say that his book is written in honour of Mary and purposes to tell about the Old and the New Law and all the world, of the Trinity, the fall of the Angels, of Adam, Abraham, and the patriarchs, then of Christ's coming, of His birth, and of the three kings, etc., of His public life and of His Passion and Crucifixion, and of the "Harrowing of Hell". Thence he will go on to the Resurrection and Ascension, the Assumption of Our Lady, the Finding of the Cross, and then to Antichrist and to the Day of Doom. As a sort of devotional appendix he also proposes to deal with Mary's mourning beneath the Cross and of her Conception.

Þis ilk bok es translate into Inglis tong
to rede for the love of Inglis lede,
Inglis lede of Ingland,
for the commun at understand

(This book is translated into the English tongue as advice for the love of English people, English people of England, for all to understand)

This ambitious programme is faithfully carried out with considerable literary skill and a devotional feeling quite out of the common. The author shows himself to have been a man of wide reading. Although his main authority is the "Historia Scholastica" of Peter Comestor he has made himself acquainted with a number of other books in English, French, and Latin, and his work may be regarded as a storehouse of legends not all of which have been traced to their original sources. Special prominence is given throughout the work to the history of the Cross which for some reason (possibly because St. Helena, the mother of Constantine, was reputed to have been of British birth) was always exceptionally popular in England.

After commending the author's "keen eye for the picturesque", a critic in the Cambridge History of English Literature remarked "The strong humanity which runs through the whole work is one of its most attractive features and shows that the writer was full of sympathy for his fellow-men."

The poem is written in early Middle English. Its nearly 30,000 lines of eight-syllable couplets are linguistically important as a solid record of the Northumbrian English dialect of the era, and it is therefore the most-often quoted single work in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Cursor Mundi interpolates material from hagiographic sources, including The Golden Legend, various Latin legendary cycles. Its description of the origins of the Tree of the Cross incorporates two different legendary sources.

About the Editor: Richard Morris (8 September 1833 – 12 May 1894), was an English philologist.

Morris was born in London. In 1871 he was ordained in the Church of England, and from 1875-1888 was head master of the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys, near London. His first published work was The Etymology of Local Names (1857).

Between 1862 and 1880 he prepared twelve volumes for the Early English Text Society, edited the work of Geoffrey Chaucer (1866) and Edmund Spenser (1869) from the original manuscripts, and published Specimens of Early English (1867).

His educational works, Historical Outlines of English Accidence (1872), Elementary Lessons in Historical English Grammar (1874) and English Grammar (1874), had a large sale and exercised a real influence.

The rest of his life he devoted to the study of Pali, on which he became a recognized authority. He died at Harold Wood, Essex.

Shipping - US Postal Service delivery is quoted below, but we would be happy to ship via other methods on request - email us for a cost quote before you purchase the item. Also note that for foreign orders, it is worth inquiring about shipping - often the shipping calculator fails to reveal a less expensive shipping method, such as flat-rate international priority. Paid orders are usually shipped no later than the following business day, and most often the same day received. We will use postal insurance upon request, at the buyer's cost, but we don't view it as a good value, particularly given how securely your merchandise is packed, and given our rather comprehensive guarantee.

Just contact us with any questions or concerns, and we promise to respond promptly. Check our guarantee and the specific remarks in our 100% positive feedback to see why you can bid with confidence.


On Sep-17-11 at 09:32:41 PDT, seller added the following information:

Important Addendum to Listing - Serious Question Raised On Authenticity of Apparent Tolkien Signature: We received an email from a member of the online Tolkien discussion group tolkienguide.com, who put us in touch with David Miller.  While he is not a handwriting expert, Mr. Miller is an expert in Tolkien items and runs a bookstore specializing in Tolkien, The Tolkien Bookshelf out of Newton, Kansas ( www.TolkienBookshelf.com ).  He has dealt with a number of Tolkien signatures, real and otherwise. It is his opinion that these signatures are fakes/forgeries. In comparing the signatures on these books with known genuine exemplars, Mr. Miller said, "the big tip-off is the crossed lower loop of the 'J'."

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