Gower Bibliography

Reading Gower in a Manuscript Culture: Latin and English in Illustrated Manuscripts of the Confessio Amantis.

Emmerson, Richard K.. "Reading Gower in a Manuscript Culture: Latin and English in Illustrated Manuscripts of the Confessio Amantis." Studies in the Age of Chaucer 21 (1999), pp. 143-186.


Macaulay's edition of CA, however useful for the study of the text of the poem, "masks the complexity of the manuscript presentation of the text and thus . . . the variety of ways in which Gower was received by his contemporaries and later-fifteenth-century readers" (p. 146). Emmerson sets out to remedy this fault by studying the manuscripts more closely, to see particularly how they "encouraged different readings of the Confessio Amantis and different representations of Gower as auctor" (p. 147). He focuses on two aspects of their layout: their arrangement of the Latin apparatus that accompanies the English text and their placement of the first two illuminations. In the first part of his essay he summarizes recent studies of the functions of the Latin apparatus, in five categories, adding the running titles and table of contents to the four categories described by Pearsall (1989). The manuscripts differ in the placement of the passages that Macaulay called "Latin summaries" and that Emmerson refers to as "Latin prose commentary," some placing them in the margin, some in the text column, and some omitting them altogether; and in the color of the ink (red or black) used for the apparatus generally. In the table at the end of his essay, Emmerson identifies the relevant features of each of the twenty illuminated manuscripts of the poem. He notes that one color ink is generally chosen for all of the Latin throughout and he observes that the placement of the "commentary" varies according to recension. He postulates two large groups: the "revised first recension," "second-recension," and "third recension" copies place the Latin commentary in the margins and write all Latin in black; the "unrevised" and "intermediate first recension" copies plus some "transitional" copies of the "second recension" place the commentary in the text column and present the Latin in red. The manuscripts also fall into two groups according to the placement of the two introductory miniatures, though rather less perfectly. There are two versions of the miniature of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, one showing just the statue (which occurs only in copies of the "unrevised" version of the "first recension") and the more familiar one showing Nebuchadnezzar himself in bed which appears in all other copies and which must therefore represent the "original design" (p. 167). The manuscripts of the "third recension" uniformly place the miniature at the beginning of the Prologue, while most "first recension" copies reduce it in size and place it later in the text, near the beginning of the account of the dream. (The "second recension" is mixed.) Similarly, the illumination showing Amans kneeling before Genius appears at the beginning of Book 1 in all copies of "recension three,

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Confessio Amantis
Manuscripts and Textual Studies

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