Gower Bibliography

Printing Power: Selling Lydgate, Gower, and Chaucer

Higl, Andrew. "Printing Power: Selling Lydgate, Gower, and Chaucer." Essays in Medieval Studies 23 (2006), pp. 57-77. ISSN 1043-2213

Review

At the center of this essay is a 6-page table (59-64) showing the chronology of the appearance of the major printed editions of the works of Gower, Lydgate, and Chaucer between 1477 and 1598. Alongside the three editions of CA (one by Caxton, two by Berthelette) stand 18 separate imprints of Lydgate and 19 of Chaucer, and Higl seeks to explain why Chaucer was regarded as a more marketable commodity than either of his near contemporaries. The monk Lydgate, Higl notes, fell increasingly out of fashion with the onset of the Reformation. He had diminished his own auctoritas, moreover, by placing himself below "Father Chaucer," and he was often identified merely as translator rather than as poet. Gower too was out of step with the Reformation: he expresses his strong opposition to Lollardy and schism, and Higl notes that the three editions of CA appeared either before the Act of Supremacy in 1534 or during the brief return to Catholicism under Mary. And though Gower is sometimes cited during this period for the quality of his English, as the author of major poems in three different languages, he did not contribute as Chaucer did to the advancement of the growth of English. "In an era dominated by humanist scholarship of classical Greek and Latin, English printers and editors needed to market English as worthwhile—something served by elevating the figure of Chaucer but not plausible with Gower" (p. 70). Chaucer was more marketable, finally, because his works were both more varied and more malleable. Fragmented and incomplete, unlike the single major monument that Gower left in English, they invited revision and expansion and allowed editors and printers to construct a Chaucer appropriate to the market demands of the time.] [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 27.2]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Facsimiles, Editions, and Translations
Confessio Amantis
Influence and Later Allusion

Gower Bibliography Editors Only: edit metadata