The noble and Joyous book entytled le morte Darthur | Notwyth- stondyng it treateth of the byrth | lyf | and actes of the sayd kyng Arthur | of his noble knyghtes of the rounde table | theyr meruayl- lous enquestes and aduentures | thachyeuyng of the sangreal | & in thende the dolorous deth & departyng out of thys world of them al | whiche book was reduced in to englysshe by syr Thomas Malory knyght as afore is sayd | and by me deuyded in to XXI bookes chaptyred and enprynted | and fynnysshed in thabbey westmestre he last day of Juyl the yere of our lord | M | CCCC | LXXXV | Caxton me fieri fecit
This is the colophon of the first edition of the Morte Darthur printed by Caxton in 1485. Like all his books, this edition has no title. In this respect Caxton followed the usage of the scribes, for 'with one exception only,1 and at the very end of his career, where the title of the book is printed alone in the centre of the first page, his books appear without any title page whatever' ( William Blades, Biography and Typography of William Caxton, England's first printer, 1877, p. 45).
The type, according to Blades, is No. 4. The book contains 431 leaves (11 3/8 x 8). The lines are 4 5/8 inches long and the average number of lines on a page is 38. The Preface finishes on sig. iiii. The table of 'rubrysshe' runs through 34 pages, and the book itself begins on sig. a. There are two complete alphabets: a to z, and A to Z; these are followed by aa, bb, cc, dd, ee. The book finishes on the verso of ee 6 so that ee has only six leaves instead of the usual eight.2
Two copies of this edition are known. One was sold with the Harleian Library to Osborne the bookseller and bought of him for £5 5s. by Bryan Fairfax, who sold it eventually to Child, an ancestor of the Earl of Jersey.3 At the sale of the Osterley library in 1885 it was bought for £1,950 by Mrs. Abby E. Pope, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and left the British Isles. On the death of Mrs. Pope, it was purchased by Mr. Robert Hoe, and in 1911 acquired by J. Pierpont Morgan for $42,800.4 It is now in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. This copy is perfect throughout and in good condition.____________________