San Marino, California: The Huntington Library, 1964. Octavo, original blue cloth, colored endpapers, original dust jacket. Book fine, modest toning to unclipped original dust jacket. A handsome copy. Item #936
"LET HIM WHO HAS EVER HAD HIS PRAYER REJECTED REFUSE TO PRAY TO MARY" (ST. BERNARD) First edition of this extraordinary collection of medieval Miracles describing the powers of the Virgin Mary to save Body and Soul. These 16 vernacular poems ("All of the Middle English miracles of the Virgin that have any literary significance are in verse") describe the miraculous intercessions of the Mother of Christ: "Nou, Ladi, preye thi sone on hih / to alle Cristene he graunte merci" (How Chartres was Saved, circa 1370-1400). The narratives are usually centered on a direct appeal to Our Lady: "Her instant response to the plea of the apparently undeserving was, as it were, a dramatic expression of St. Bernard's magnificent exclamation, 'Let him who has ever had his prayer rejected refuse to pray to Mary'" (Rosemary Woolf). The "spectacular demonstrations of her power in these miracle stories had the purpose of driving home the efficacy of prayer to the Virgin" (Rosemary Wolf). Boyd's Introduction includes a brief history of the genre, which apparently originated in sixth century Italy, including The Prioress's Tale in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales: "the outstanding miracle of the Virgin in English, perhaps in any language, is Chaucer's "Prioress's Tale." The Introduction is illustrated with four engravings, made originally by John Carter (1784-85) from paintings in St. Mary's Chapel at Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire: 1). "How Our Lady Restored a Scribe's Hand," 2). "The Woman Who Stole Our Lady's Child," 3). How Our Lady Completed a Chapel," 4). "The Drowned Sacristan." The prevalence of the miracle stories receded at the end of the middle ages: "In England, the miracles of the Virgin did not long survive the fifteenth century as an active literary genre. This was largely part of a trend of the times, since hagiography went into decline. Eventually Protestantism ended their popularity in England" (Woolf). With Boyd's dedication ("To Roger Sherman Loomis and Elizabeth VanKirk Dobbie") to her doctoral dissertation advisers at Columbia University and a brief Preface, dated "San Marino, California / September 1960." The text is supplemented with three Appendixes: I. John Mirk's Festial, II. An Alphabet of Tales, III. Two Fragments in Verse. Printed by Princeton University Press for the Huntington Library Publications. Rosemary Woolf, English Religious Lyrics in the Middle Ages.