Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thynne, William
THYNNE, WILLIAM (d. 1546), editor of Chaucer's works, is said, on no very sound authority, to have been younger son of John de la Inne, by his wife, Jane Bowdler (cf. Genealogist, new ser. i. 153, by Mr. J. H. Round). His family bore the alternative surname of Botfield or Boteville, and he is often called 'Thynne alias Boteville' (cf. Botfield, Stemmata Botevilliana). According to Wood he was a native of Shropshire, and was educated at Oxford. Authentic extant documents first reveal him in 1524 as second clerk of the kitchen in the household of Henry VIII (Pat. 15 Hen. VIII, pt. ii. membrane 18). In 1526 he had become chief clerk of the kitchen, with full control of royal banquets. The office was connected with the board of green cloth, and its holder enjoyed an official lodging at Greenwich. Henry VIII showed him much favour. On 11 Feb. 1524 he was granted the reversion of the office of bailiff of Rye, Essex, and on 24 Oct. 1526 an annuity of 10l. out of the issues of the manor of Cleobury Barnes, Shropshire. On 20 Aug. 1528 he became bailiff of the town and keeper of the park of Bewdley (Pat, 20 Hen. VIII, pt. i. m. 24), and on 22 Dec. following he was granted, with John Chamber and John Thynne, the next presentation to the church of Stoke Clyinslond (Pat. 20 Hen. VIII, pt. ii. m. 11). On 21 July 1529 he was appointed customer of wools, hides, and fleeces in the port of London, and on 8 Oct. 1529 receiver-general of the earldom of March and keeper of Gateley Park, Wigmoresland. In 1531 Thynne obtained from the prior and convent of Christchurch, near Aldgate in London, a lease for fifty-four years of the rectorial tithe of Erith in Kent, and in a house there he passed much of his life. Subsequently, in 1533, Thynne became one of the cofferers of Queen Anne Boleyn, and on 27 March 1533 the king made him a gift of oak-trees. In a document dated 16 April 1536 Thynne was described as clerk comptroller of the royal household, and a reference was made to him in 1542 as 'clerk of the Green Cloth.' On 12 May 1546 Thynne made over to a friend, William Whorwood, his right in the capacity of bailiff of Bewdley Park 'to a buck in summer and a doe in winter.' He died on 10 Aug. 1546, and was buried in the church of All Hallows Barking, where there is a handsome brass to his memory. His will, dated 16 Nov. 1540, was proved on 7 Sept. 1546. His wife Anne, daughter of William Bond, clerk of the green cloth, was sole executrix and chief legatee. The overseers were Sir Edmund Peckham [q. v.], cofferer of the king's household, and the testator's nephew, Sir John Thynne [q. v.] The widow afterwards married successively Sir Edward Broughton and Hugh Cartwright. She died intestate before 1572. Thynne's son Francis is noticed separately.
Thynne combined the faithful discharge of his official duties in the king's household with an enthusiastic study of the works of Chaucer. He spent much time and money in collecting manuscripts of the text of the poems, and finally in 1532 published at the press of Thomas Godfray the first collected edition with any claim to completeness in a two-columned folio. The work was dedicated in Thynne's name to Henry VIII. But, according to Leland, this preface or dedication was from the pen of Sir Bryan Tuke [q. v.], who was a colleague of Thynne at the board of green cloth. Leland's statement is confirmed by an early sixteenth-century entry in a copy of the book at Clare College, Cambridge. This entry runs: 'This preface I Sir Bryan Tuke knight wrot at the request of Mr. Clarke of the kechyn then being tarying for the tyde at Grenewich.' The title of the volume ran: 'The workes of Geffray Chaucer newly printed, with dyvers workes which were never in print before.' Thynne was the first genuine editor of Chaucer, and deserves the gratitude and respect of every student of the poet. He was unable to distinguish between the genuine and spurious work of his author, but he printed a better text of the 'Canterbury Tales' than had been given before, and he included for the first time Chaucer's 'Legende,' 'Boece,' 'Blanche,' 'Pity,' 'Astrolabe,' and 'Stedfastness.' A second edition of Thynne's collective edition of Chaucer's works was printed by W. Bonham in 1542, and to it Thynne added the spurious 'Plowman's Tale.' This is a denunciation of Roman Catholicism which was probably penned in Thynne's lifetime. It was excluded from Thynne's edition of 1532, but had been printed separately, doubtless under Thynne's supervision, by his publisher Godfray before 1535 (a unique copy belongs to Mr. Christie Miller of Britwell).
According to a confused story related by Thynne's son Francis, his father intended including among Chaucer's work a second spurious tale, 'The Pilgrim's Tale,' which was also a contemporary attack on Roman Catholicism. He is said to have printed this poem in a single-columned page, but Henry VIII is represented as having prohibited its issue, although he had at first given his sanction, on the advice of Wolsey. No such work figures in either of Thynne's editions of Chaucer, both of which have a double-columned page, and it is possible that the work reprobated by the king at the reputed instigation of Wolsey was the 'Plowman's Tale,' which was only included in the second of Thynne's editions. A poem bearing the title of 'Pilgrim's Tale' appeared, however, in a one-columned volume of miscellaneous verse, entitled 'The Courte of Venus,' which was published between 1536 and 1540, and was assigned by Bale to Chaucer ; two fragments of this volume alone survive, and in only one of the fragments that in the Douce Library at Oxford is the 'Pilgrim's Tale' extant. But it seems doubtful if Thynne was concerned in the publication of the 'Courte of Venus.'
In 1561 John Stow [q.v.] brought out a revised version of Thynne's edition of Chaucer, and subsequently Thynne's son Francis projected another reissue. Francis Thynne was, however, anticipated by another editor, Thomas Speght [q. v.], whose work first appeared in 1598. Francis Thynne therefore contented himself with criticising Speght's work and defending his father from Speght's animadversions in a long letter to the Earl of Ellesmere, which was printed in Todd's 'Illustrations of Chaucer' in 1810, and by both the Chaucer and Early English Text societies in 1865 (new edition 1875).
[Dr. Furnivall's valuable preface to the revised edition of Francis Thynne's Animadversions upon Speght's first edition of Chaucer's Works (Early Engl. Text Soc.), 1875; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, 1524-40.]