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The Combat of the Thirty. From a Breton Lay of the fourteenth Century. With an Introduction, comprising a new Chapter of Froissart …

London: Chapman and Hall … 1859

8vo., pp. 32, bound in library buckram preserving the original printed green glazed-paper wrappers, a little thumbed; a duplicate from Manchester Central Library with bookplate and blind-stamps.

£550

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The Combat of the Thirty. From a Breton Lay of the fourteenth Century. With an Introduction, comprising a new Chapter of Froissart …

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First edition of the first English translations of these two texts, inscribed to ‘James Crossley from his old friend William Harrison Ainsworth’. The two men had been friends since 1817 when Crossley, a solicitor, was articled to Ainsworth’s father and later became a partner in the firm. He was president of the Chetham Society and a leading figure in the cultural life of Manchester. Ainsworth, who left Manchester for a literary career in London, returned in 1865 to look up old friends, including Crossley, and it was conceivably at that time that he presented the book.

In March 1351 the Breton War of Succession had reached a stalemate when a tournament was suggested between thirty knights and squires representing the French king and thirty representing Edward III. It took place halfway between the French garrison at Josselin Castle and the English garrison at Ploërmel Castle. After nine hours of fighting the English were beaten. The episode had no effect on the course of the war, but it became famous as a display of chivalry. The combatants were honoured for the rest of their lives.

One of the scarcest of Ainsworth’s works.

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