Gower Bibliography

The Production of Copies of the Canterbury Tales and the Confessio Amantis in the Early Fifteenth Century

Doyle, A.I., and Parkes, Malcolm. "The Production of Copies of the Canterbury Tales and the Confessio Amantis in the Early Fifteenth Century." In Medieval Scribes, Manuscripts, and Libraries: Essays Presented to N. R. Ker. Ed. Scattergood, V. J., and Watson, Andrew G. London: Scolar, 1978, pp. 163-210.


Doyle and Parkes use Trinity College, Cambridge MS R.3.2 (581) to make some observations about the book trade in late medieval England. The Trinity MS contains the second recension of Gower's CA as well as some of his minor works. The account of Gower's works in the latter section includes the words "dum vixit," which gives us a terminus post quem of c. 1408 for the MS. Five hands appear in the MS (labeled A-E), and each of the scribal stints corresponds with the beginnings and ends of quires. The exemplar was thus distributed in portions for "simultaneous copying" (164). Of scribes A and C we know nothing, whereas scribes B and D can also be identified for various other MSS, including copies of the Canterbury Tales (e.g., scribe B is responsible for both Ellesmere and Hengwrt) and other copies of the CA. Scribe E, finally, was Thomas Hoccleve. Hoccleve's death in 1426 gives us the MS's terminus ante quem. Doyle and Parkes conclude from all of this that most copies produced in the period were not the work of a scriptorium (as Macaulay and Fisher suggest for Gower). Instead, the author, compiler, or stationer typically hired independent craftsmen. Such commissions must at times have required the use of scribes who usually worked outside of the trade. This explains the parts taken by Hoccleve (who worked as Clerk of the Privy Seal), scribe A (who seems inexperienced), and by scribe C (whose style resembles that used in documents of the offices of state). While Gower probably did not use a scriptorium, he "could have contracted with independent scribes and limners in much the same way as other patrons or stationers did, and perhaps retained the services of some of them in order to expedite the production of copies of his own works" (200). [CvD]

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

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