Gower Bibliography

The Organisation of the Latin Apparatus in Gower's Confessio Amantis: The Scribes and their Problems

Pearsall, Derek. "The Organisation of the Latin Apparatus in Gower's Confessio Amantis: The Scribes and their Problems." In The Medieval Book and a Modern Collector: Essays in Honour of Toshiyuki Takamiya. Ed. Matsuda, Takami and Linenthal, Richard A. and Scahill, John. Cambridge: Brewer and Tokyo: Yushodo Press, 2004, pp. 99-112. ISBN 1843840200


The remarkable stability of the text and the consistency in choice and placement of the illustrations and in the hierarchy of decoration in the earliest MSS of CA all suggest, Pearsall argues, their derivation from exemplars that had been "meticulously supervised by the author" (100). The consistency of presentation of the Latin apparatus in the same MSS suggests that it too "was in that tradition from the start and derives from the author’s copies" (102); and in part because of the unlikelihood that anyone else either could or would have wanted to provide the Latin summaries, Pearsall concludes that these must be attributed to the author himself. In the longest part of his essay, he considers that problems that the scribes faced in incorporating the marginal apparatus, particularly in the instances when a long Latin summary began near the bottom of a column, or in later MSS, when the decision was made to incorporate the summaries into the column of text. Five plates illustrate some typical results of the scribes’ decisions and miscalculations. Pearsall offers a broad and sympathetic conclusion that has implications that go beyond the subject of the glosses or of the MSS of CA: "What I have found is that the scribes of the Confessio mostly copy what is in front of them with care and accuracy and occasionally ingenuity but no more effort of thought than is immediately necessary. Where the exemplars or the general instructions for dealing with them are difficult to fol-low, scribes do their best to solve practical problems (sometimes of their own making) in the management of a complex layout, working with little or no supervision, evolving ad hoc expedients but not applying them consistently, trying to reduce the amount of extra work they are asked to do in organising the apparatus, growing exhausted. It is the world of Hard Work that the manuscripts open up to us, of uncomfortable benches and creaky desks, pens in need of repair and ink in need of replenishment, poorlight, strained eyes, strained patience" (112). [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society: JGN 24.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Confessio Amantis
Manuscripts and Textual Studies

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