March 2013 | Nate Pedersen

Book Signed by Richard III Goes on Display

Richard_III_earliest_surviving_portrait.jpgA rare book formerly owned by Richard III - and bearing his signature - has gone on public display for the first time since it was compiled 550 years ago.  The book is part of the new exhibition "The Kings Body: Richard III King of England 1483 - 1485" at Longleat House in Wiltshire.  

Richard III has been the subject of a resurgence in interest ever since archaeologists uncovered his bones last month at the formerly lost site of Greyfriars Church in Leicester.  Immortalized by Shakespeare's play, Richard III's controversial personality and historical influence continues to be debated by scholars.

The book, written on vellum, includes stories by Chaucer as well as other popular writers of the 15th century.  It is one of only thirteen surviving books from Richard III's library.  Above his signature, in neat and educated handwriting, is a French line: "Tant le desieree," which translates to "So much desired." Richard signed the book as "R Gloucester," as he was still a teenager when the book was given to him and his only title was Duke of Gloucester.

RichardIII_side_02.jpgThe book was purchased by Thomas Thynne, the First Viscount Weymouth, as part of a collection of medieval manuscripts in 1709.  It has been housed at Longleat House ever since, still in the care of the Thynne family.

The exhibition at Longleat also includes a First Folio from 1623.

Longleat_House.jpg[Images from Wikipedia and Longleat House]