Students and scholars of English literature, history, and philosophy will be pleased to learn that Special Collections recently acquired the first collected edition of the works of Sir Thomas More. Introduced into modern popular culture by the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons and best known as the author of Utopia, More has been admired for his unwavering adherence to what he believed was morally right in the face of overwhelming political pressure.
This edition of More’s works is of bibliographical and textual significance because in it, the editor, More’s nephew William Rastell, preserved texts which would otherwise have been lost, including a number of English poems written by More in his youth, a corrected and expanded text of “The history of king Richard the thirde” (from a copy in More’s own hand), an unfinished “Treatise uppon these words of Holy Scripture, ‘Memorare novissima et in eternum non peccabis,’” dated 1522, and several devotional works written by More while imprisoned in the Tower of London. Rastell also preserved letters written to More’s family and friends just before his death.
Dedicated to Queen Mary Tudor, the volume includes writings related to More’s controversy with William Tyndale over the Protestant Reformation and Tyndale’s English translation of the Bible. More’s “Tower Works,” written while awaiting execution, include “A Dialogue of Comforte against Tribulation,” long acknowledged as a “literary and spiritual masterpiece, perhaps the finest of his English works.” The history of Richard III, which, through Richard Grafton’s “Chronicle” (1568) and Holinshed’s “Chronicles” (1587), provided the main source for Acts I to III of Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Richard III,” is of particular interest for the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections as a complementary work to the 1632 Second Folio edition of Shakespeare’s works, one of the highlights of the Rare Book Collection.
The original front paste-down has been preserved and on it appear the following verses in a 16th-century hand:The works of More most profitabell set out as you may se no dowt a thinge most comfortabell to be red of eche degre