Guide to the Manuscripts

John Gower

MS Hunter 59 T-2-17 Portrait of Gower folio 6v John Gower Vox Clamantis Glasgow Univ Library

Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts of the Works of John Gower
Derek Pearsall

Guide to the Manuscript Descriptions

The descriptions are generally modelled on those in M.B.Parkes, The Medieval Manuscripts of Keble College Oxford (London: Scolar Press, 1979), with appropriate modifications.  See his account of `The Form of Entries', pp.xix-xxi.

The descriptions contain the following information:


Location, collection, and title of MS
Brief indication of contents
Place of production (where information is available) and date.  Date is indicated either directly or thus, e.g.: s.xv in/med/ex/first quarter, etc.


The titles used for Gower's works are those given by Macaulay.  Opening and closing words are cited.  The indication of the form of the work, where there is major textual variation, is keyed to Macaulay’s practice, e.g., for Confessio, `Text: Macaulay Ib', where ‘Ib’ refers to Macaulay’s ‘second recension’, form (b), Intermediate. The MSS that he did not see or collate are described in those same terms. In 2-column MSS of Confessio, the column in which a book begins is indicated.  Major lacunae and disorders in the text are reported but not minor details of odd missing lines, transpositions of individual lines, etc.

Works which may be identified as later additions, not integral to the original manuscript but clearly designed to be part of its reading matter (i.e. excluding readers' marginalia, flyleaf verses and inscriptions, etc.) are numbered in sequence with an added asterisk.


Descriptions of miniatures are of moderate length, since most are illustrated by plates


The terminology is generally that detailed by Margaret Rickert (in Manly and Rickert, 1940, I.562-4), viz.

  • (a) vinet: decorative initial joined to a painted border extending around the whole page
  • (b) demi-vinet: decorative initial joined to a painted border extending around three sides of the page.  The term is also applied in the present descriptions to the form of decoration in which the initial (occurring in the right-hand column of two columns of text) is extended into the central space, with branches in both directions at top and bottom (called a `central' demi-vinet) and to the form with initial joined to a border round two sides of the page, top and left (called a `partial demi-vinet')
  • (c) champ: decorative initial extended into the margin with painted hair line sprays of varying lengths
  • (d) pen-flourished initials: letters in gold or colour, decorated with pen-work in a contrasting colour (e.g. red on blue)

In the account of the hierarchy of decoration for the Confessio, the term `major text-divisions' refers to the beginning of what Macaulay (following his copy-text, MS Fairfax 3) distinguishes as `chapters', while the term `minor text-divisions' refers to the beginning of what Macaulay (again following his copy-text) indents as paragraphs.  The Latin verse-headings that stand at the head of `chapters' are referred to as `Latin verse-headings'.  Latin (normally marginal) prose summaries, notes and speech-prefixes are referred to, where no differentiation between them is necessary, as `Latin summaries, etc.'.  The term `glosses' is not used.

The hierarchy of decoration is fully described, but no attempt is made to list every initial and paraph.


  • I           Material; size of page
  • II         Foliation
  • III        Collation (NB folio numbers are given, if necessary for clarity, in cases where there is loss or disturbance of leaves)
  • IV        Layout.  The presentation of the Latin verse-headings and Latin summaries, etc., and also of book incipits and explicits and running page-headings, is described here, but no attempt is made to list all such features
  • V         Handwriting and correction.  A general description is given of the handwriting of each scribe, but, since photographs of every hand are provided, no detail of individual letter-forms
  • VI        Punctuation
  • VII      Binding

secundo folio



Includes annotation, marginalia, and flyleaf inscriptions.  In some MSS, it may be convenient to collect together annotations or added items recognizably in the same hand, or inscriptions relating to provenance.



Short-title reference list, keyed to General Bibliography: only items referring directly to the MS under consideration are included here.  Other works, cited by author and date in the discussion of Provenance and elsewhere in the body of the description, are listed in the General Bibliography


"I throw my darts and shoot my arrows at the world. But where there is a righteous man, no arrow strikes. But I wound those who live wickedly. Therefore let him who recognizes himself there look to himself."
Vox Clamantis

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