Three of Seven Volumes (Vols 3-5) in the Medieval Northumbrian Poem, "Cursor
Mundi" - Possible Association Copy, J.R.R. Tolkien
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:
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.
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.
of contents, the Cursor Mundi is divided in accordance to the seven ages of salvation
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
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
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
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."
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.
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.
rest of his life he devoted to the study of Pali, on which he became a recognized
authority. He died at Harold Wood, Essex.
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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'."