Gower MSS - Additional 22139

John Gower

MS Hunter 59 T-2-17 Portrait of Gower folio 6v John Gower Vox Clamantis Glasgow Univ Library www.lib.gla.ac.uk

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

ADD. 22139

London, British Library, MS Additional 22139
Confessio amantis (extensively defective) with Latin addenda; also four short poems by Chaucer.
London (?); the date 1432 (noted by Macaulay; now illegible) was added, with a new shield painted over old arms erased (s.xvi), fol.1r (the decoration is later than that date, s.xv third quarter).

(fols 1ra-137va) Confessio amantis Prol.176 - VIII.3114*end
In which non woot who hathe þe werre <> Oure Ioy may ben endelees
Prol. wants 1-175 (except for fragments of 85* and 125), 455-78, 505-27, 716-26, 979-1061; Book I (fol.6vb) wants 199-3446end; Book II (fol.8ra) wants 1-56; Book III (fol.25vb, incipit and first 3 lines of Latin verse-heading; English text begins at fol.26ra) wants 1150-2774end; Book IV (fol.32ra) wants 1-1516, 1643-68; Book V (fol.43rb) wants 7807-7844end; Book VI (fol.82ra) wants 1-154; Book VII (fol.93rb); Book VIII (fol.121va).

Fols.1-7 once contained Prol.1-I.198 complete, but are now much mutilated and defaced.  Of fol.1r, only the bottom border remains, with fragments of script in red ink at the bottom of col.a and of Prol.85* ([....] that luste apiere) at the bottom of col.b; fol.1v has Prol.125 (Nought vpon oon but vpon alle) at the bottom of col.a and Prol.176 at the bottom of col.b; fol.3 has lost Prol.455-78 (recto) and 505-527 (verso); fol.4 has had a miniature cut out, with loss of Prol.716-26 on verso; fol.6, of which only a thick stub remains, has Prol.932-78 (fol.6ra) and (acephalous) Prol.1062-end, Latin verse-heading to Book I, I.1-10, and five lines of Latin summary (fol.6vb).  Seventeen leaves are lost after fol.7, with text of I.199-II.56; sixteen leaves and the top inner quarter of a seventeenth (fol.32ra/32vb) are lost after fol.31 (III.1150-IV.1516, 1643-68); one leaf is lost after fol.81 (V.7807-VI.154).  V.1548-1748 and 1749-1952 are transposed, fols.51-2.

Text: collated by Macaulay (Ad2): Ib.  Ad2 is regularly with X (London, Society of Antiquaries MS 134) in Ib but not copied from it: Macaulay cites readings at II.1711, VII.92 and VIII.2650 as evidence of this; see also II.1045, fol.13r, where the insertion of `was’ after `writen’ by the corrector comes at a point where both `was’ and `is’ (the received reading) are missing in X.  `The manuscript has a good many individual errors and the spelling is rather poor’ (Macaulay, II.cxlvi).

(fol.137va) `Explicit iste liber'
            Explicit iste liber <> sub eo requiesce futurus
Longer 6-line version with added dedication to Henry IV
            Macaulay, III.478
(fol.137va) `Quam cinxere freta'
            Quam cinxere freta <> stat sine meta
            With preceding rubric, `Epistola super huius, etc.’
Macaulay, III.479. Macaulay suggests Strode as the author of the 4 lines of Latin verse (III.550, IV.419)
(fol.137vb) `Quia vnusquisque'
            Quia unusquisque <> specialiter intitulatur
Long concluding prose rubric, first version, not unfavourable to Richard II
Macaulay, III.479-80

The following four poems are written without titles or rubrication.
(fol.138ra) Chaucer's Complaint to his Purse (without envoy)   
To 3ou my purse and to non othre wight <> Be heuy agayn or ellis I dye.
NIMEV 3787; Riverside Chaucer (1987), 656; Pace and David 1982:121-32; this text printed in Furnivall 1879:449.

(fol.138ra) Chaucer's Gentillesse
The firste stok fadir of gentilnesse <> All were he mitre corone or diademe.
NIMEV 3348; Riverside Chaucer (1987), 654; Pace and David 1982:67-76; this text printed in Furnivall 1879:427.

(fol.138ra-rb) Chaucer's Lak of Stedfastnesse (with envoy)
Some time this worlde was so stedfast and stable <> And wed thi folke agayne to stedfastnesse.
NIMEV 3190; Riverside Chaucer (1987), 654; Pace and David 1982:77-89; this text printed in Furnivall 1879:435, though the envoy is missed, whence presumably the error in IMEV.

(fol.138rb) Chaucer's Truth (without envoy)
Fle fro the pres and dwell with sothfastnesse <> And truth shal the delyuer hit is no drede.
NIMEV 809; Riverside Chaucer (1987), 653; Pace and David 1982:49-65; this text printed in Furnivall 1880:155.

fol.138v is ruled but blank


fol.1r (now lost except for bottom border) is unlikely to have had a miniature: with 85 lines of text, 6 lines of Latin verse, and Latin summary in the column, there would have been very little room.  An eleven-line section cut out of fol.4 before Prol.595 (fol.4ra) indicates the former presence of the Nebuchadnezzar miniature on fol.4r.  The neatness of the excision at fol.32v suggests that a picture has been cut out, but since the number of lines or line-spaces cannot be computed (so many previous pages having also been lost) it is not possible to be sure; the story that would begin towards the top of fol.32va is that of Jephthah’s daughter (IV.1505).


Each book was presumably once introduced by a vinet or demi-vinet, but the openings of Books II,IV and VI are lost, and that of Book I (fol.6v) is so mutilated that nothing of the decoration survives; that of the Prologue retains only the bottom border, very elaborately decorated, gold, blue, red, green and purple, with a coat of arms (see Provenance, below) crudely superimposed in a colour wash (s.xvi) upon existing decoration erased.  Book III has a demi-vinet opening from a 4-line initial (fol.26ra), Book V a central demi-vinet opening from a 4-line initial (fol.43rb), Book VII a central demi-vinet opening from a 2-line initial (fol.93rb), all in the same colours as above, and Book VIII a decorated 4-line initial only, with no border (f.121va).  Kathleen Scott (private communication) considers the decoration to be by the border hand of Cambridge, Trinity College MS O.5.12, Higden's Polychronicon, owned by Roger Walle (bearing his rebus), and also stylistically close to the Gower in Glasgow UL Hunterian MS 6.

2-line champs (sometimes 3-line, very occasionally 4-line), gold on blue and purple, introduce major text-divisions, some minor text-divisions, and also the four paragraphs of `Quia unusquisque’ (fol.137vb).  In the fols for which Scribe 1 is responsible (1-71), one-line pen-flourished initials, blue on red or gold on blue, are used to introduce minor text-divisions (but many are missed, e.g. 23 missing out of 30, fols.15-19) and to introduce Latin summaries and notes; they are not used for Latin verse-headings; speech-markers are rarely present.  Occasionally, paraphs, blue or gold, are used for Latin notes (e.g. Prol.635-9). In the fols for which Scribe 2 is responsible (72-138), there is more, and more consistent, decoration. Two, three or four-line initials, in the same style as before, are regularly used for major text-divisions, and there is more consistency in the use of one-line initials for minor text-divisions (sometimes two-line, especially where the division might be deemed more important, viz. those following verse-headings or summaries in column); one-line initials are also regularly used for Latin summaries and verse-headings.  The short Latin notes that appear with frequency in the margins in the later books sometimes have decorated paraphs (e.g. VI.830, fol.85r; VI.916, fol.85v; VI.968, fol.86r: in the latter two instances, the decorator has provided paraphs for two or more of the short lines into which the Latin note has been broken up because of exigencies of space); speech-markers, in this scribe’s stint quite often present, in the margins or at line-end, are undecorated, except for occasional paraphs, red or blue.

Scribe 1 has extensive flourishing of capitals into left-hand margin of first column, especially capital A.  Scribe 2, by contrast, has a habit of flourishing certain letters of the top line, especially the first letter of the top line of the first column, sometimes with notable elaboration (e.g. the fish of fol.111r), and with special fondness for the large `M’, which can cause indentation of the next line or two (e.g. VI.1160, fol.87r) or usurp the place of rubrication (e.g. VI.596, fol.84r).


I           Parchment, 350 x 255 mm.

II         ii + 138.  The paper endleaves are both remounted, the second containing an earlier paper square as a remounted inset.

III        Collation: i8 (fols 1-7, mutilated) wants 8, ii-iii8 missing, iv-vi8 (fols 8-31), vii-viii8 missing, ix-xiv8 (fols 32-79), xv8 (fols 80-86) wants 3 (after fol.81), xvi-xxi8 (fols 87-134), xxii4 (fols 135-38).  Blank leaves are now inserted after fols 7,31 and 81.  Catchwords in the hands of the scribes; scribe 2 usually places the catchword in a scroll (e.g. fols 79v, 94v).

IV        Written space 300 x 180 mm.  53 lines per column, 2 columns per page.  Ruled in ink, lines and margins.  Running titles appear regularly up to fol.100, complete on each page (verso with book numbers usually in figures, recto in words), in a cursive hand, probably that of the corrector.  Latin verse-headings and summaries in column in red: scribe 1 sets the verse-headings as verse, scribe 2 as prose.  Many of the shorter Latin notes of Books V and VII appear in the margin (e.g. V.773-1103, 1328-36, VII.281-587), sometimes in the hand of the scribe, sometimes in that of the corrector, probably because added later, some in red, some in black.  Rubrication of English text after Latin summaries is occasionally a line or two out, e.g. II.640, fol.11r; II.1127, fol.13v; II.1311, fol.14v; V.6371, fol.74v; Latin summaries are occasionally introduced at the wrong place, a line or two out, in the English text, e.g. II.1573, fol.16r; II.1594, fol.16r; II.1926, fol.17v. In the work of both scribes, new minor text-divisions marked by decorated initials are occasionally introduced where the English text resumes after a Latin summary inserted in the column (e.g. Prol.779, I.99), especially where the name of a key character heads the line (e.g. V.1756, 1900, VII.4757, VIII.375, 805) or where an important speech begins (e.g. VIII.423, fol.123vb).

V         Written by two scribes.  Scribe 1 (fols 1-71) writes a cursive form of anglicana with many secretary features, often tending to increasing informality (e.g. fol.27v, bottom), especially as the stint progresses.  Scribe 2 (fols 72-138) begins with a much squarer, neater anglicana formata, though this too tends to vary.  The smaller neater script that begins fol.80 shows the scribe at the beginning of a fresh stint.  A more formal script is used for the Latin verse-headings and summaries, etc. and a very formal quasi-textura for some of the Latin notes inserted in the margins of later books (e.g. VI.663-1155, fols 84v-86v).  Possibly a different hand has been at work here.  There was certainly some irregularity in the organisation of the Latin apparatus: summaries have sometimes to be squeezed into the space left in the column by the scribe (the summary before VII.3417, fol.111r, runs over into the spaces at the end of English lines 3417 and 3419); some of the shorter Latin notes are crammed in the margins (e.g. fols 85v-86r); and there is much work for the corrector.

There are signs of extensive activity throughout the poem by a corrector, writing a good late 15th-century secretary.  He inserts missing words above the line or (with caret) at the end of the line (e.g. II.671, fol.11r; II.1071, fol.13rb; II.1736, fol.16v; VI.1117, fol.86v; VIII.51, fol.121v) and supplies missing lines by adding them at the end of the preceding line (e.g. II.1458, fol.15r; II.1584, fol.16r; II.1588, fol.16r; II.1913, fol.17v; II.2278, fol.19v; VI.170, fol.82r; VI.422, fol.83r; VI 472, fol.83v) or at the bottom of the column (e.g. II.3082, fol.23va), with ‘.n.’ in the margin at the right place. Lines wrongly transposed are indicated with ‘.a.’ and ‘.b.’ in the margin at the correct place (e.g. VII.5389-90, fol.121rb). In some cases, as Macaulay points out, his corrections are wrong, in the sense that they do not agree with the received text (e.g. II.504, fol.10r; III.1051, fol.31r; VII.2639, fol.107r).  At VIII.510, he shold is added at the beginning of the line in order to make up the metre after hadde had been mistranscribed as had. He has also supplied many of the shorter Latin notes of the later books in the margin (e.g. V.773-1103, fols.47r-48v; VII.429, fol.95v), sometimes in abbreviated form (VII.91, fol.93v; VII.721, fol.97r).  At VIII.1777, fol.130vb, he adds a missing summary in the margin. At VIII.729 he completes the Latin summary at the bottom of fol.125rb where the original scribe of the summary, perhaps thinking the sense of the Latin sufficiently completed, has failed to notice the space left at the top of fol.125va overleaf for the continuation of the summary.  He adds a missing Explicit and Incipit at fol.121va. At fol.50v, in the catchword position, to indicate that fols.51 and 52 are transposed, he writes, after a conventional symbol or `token', `The nixt secund lefe folowand quhilk beres this token suld nixt folow & syne this lefe'. At fol.52v, in the same position, he writes `Eftir þis return to þe lefe nixt before & þerefter rede þis lefe folowand'.  V.1548-1748 and 1749-1952 are thus restored to their proper order.

The mistake at fols 52-53 is a mistake of copying, not of gathering or binding, and makes it clear that the scribe was copying his exemplar page for page.  The comments of the corrector here indicate that he was of northern or even possibly Scottish origin.  This would agree with information on the possible early ownership of the MS (see Provenance, below).

VI        Rarely, a vertical stroke or extended virgule is employed to mark an abrupt break in the sense in mid-line, e.g. II.454, fol.10r; VI.688, fol.84v.  Scribe 1 makes occasional use of raised punctus or virgule at line-end, or of double virgule at end of paragraph.  Scribe 2 has very occasional virgule at line-end. 

VII      Sewn on five tabs.  Smooth brown calfskin on millboard, probably 1860's, with triple gold fillet around edges of front cover, and gold tooling on spine: GOWER|CONFESSIO|AMANTIS||MUS.BRIT.|JURE|EMPTIONIS||22,139.|PLUT.|CC III.H.

2O fo    For euery lord [sic] himself deceyueþ (Prol.177).


fol.ir  `Purchased of Thos.Kerslake of Bristol, 12 Decr.1857' (in the same hand, that of Sir Frederic Madden, there are also occasional cross-references to Pauli’s edition of 1857, e.g. fols.1r, 31v, 32r)
fol.iir (mounted inset)  `Acct of ye State of Gower's Confessio Amantis a fine Manuscript wretchedly abus'd' (there follows a list of pages missing and torn, book by book). s.xviii.  With a later note that the list has been checked (`Cpd’), signed with initials K.M.T.
fol.iiv (mounted inset, verso) `William Forbes Leith Esq. younger of Whitehaugh'.  s.xviii.
fol.38r (across bottom of columns, below IV.2701-6) `As for This Book I doe nott understand itt, and I have fini’ (Right margin, same hand, s.xvii) [Tomas?] [Haei?]</ Quid coronat opus (presumably continuing the well-known proverb beginning ‘finis’
fol.59r (beside V.3250 gloss)  `Nota de vellere aureo'.  s.xv (hand of corrector).
fol.70v (bottom, V.5551) `Progne & Philomena'.  s.xv.
fol.74v (in catchword position, below V.6393)  `It is accept to both two'. This is indeed a catchword, but it is not the end of the quire; it looks like an imitation archaic hand of s.xviii.
fol.138v (top, in red, badly smudged) `And he saw me'


For Thomas Kerslake, the well-known Bristol bookseller and antiquarian (1812-91), see DNB.  The Forbes-Leith family of Whitehaugh, in the parish of Leslie in Aberdeenshire, has a number of members called William, including the prolific Scottish Catholic historian, vicar of Wattisham (1833-1911).  The family came into existence as a result of the marriage of Anne Leith of Whitehaugh to William Forbes of Tolquhon (d.1728).  Their eldest son, William (d.w.i.1761), was vicar of Thornbury in Gloucestershire; his brother John (d.1781) succeeded, and is said to have been the first to take formally the name Forbes-Leith.  John's eldest son William (1748-1806) was a burgess of Aberdeen, and died unmarried, being succeeded by his brother Theodore (1751-1819), a famous physician, whose third son, William, was a naval officer, and uncle to the vicar of Wattisham, above. The inscription on fol.iiv must refer to the vicar of Thornbury, since he is the only William who could properly be called `younger'.  There is good evidence that he took the name Forbes-Leith.  His dates fit the date of the inscription, and his presence in Gloucestershire establishes the connection between Scotland and Bristol.  See Tayler 1937:398-400.

The coat of arms on fol.1r is puzzling: what it seems to represent is heraldically impossible (an escutcheon attached to the top of the shield) and the colours have run and faded so as to be indecipherable.  The nearest approximations to a blazon are: (1) Or on an escutcheon azure within a bordure engrailed azure three escutcheons argent; (2) Azure within an orle engrailed on the outer edge or three escutcheons argent.  The latter seems slightly better to represent what is pictured (the Langdale family of Kirkcaldy has something similar); the former resembles the arms of the various branches of the Hay family in Scotland (e.g. Argent three escutcheons gules within a bordure engrailed azure).  A famous 15th-century literary member of this family was the Sir Gilbert Hay to whom is attributed the Scottish Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour (ed. John Cartwright, STS, 1986-90, continuing).  The Scottish connection, if it could be established, would be interesting in relation to the other evidence provided by the MS (the dialect of the corrector, and the inscription at fol.38r).


Catalogue of Additions to the Manuscripts in the British Museum 1854-60 (1875), 592

Furnivall, Frederick J., A Parallel-Text Edition of Chaucer's Minor Poems, Chaucer Society, 1st series, nos.21, 57, 58 (1871-79)

Furnivall, Frederick J., A Supplementary Parallel-Text Edition of Chaucer's Minor Poems, Chaucer Society, 1st series, nos.22, 59 (1871,1880)

IMEV.  Carleton Brown and Rossell Hope Robbins, The Index of Middle English Verse (New York, 1943), with Supplement, by Rossell Hope Robbins and John L.Cutler (Lexington, KY, 1965)

NIMEV.  Julia Boffey and A.S.G.Edwards (eds), A New Index of Middle English Verse. London: The British Library, 2005

Pace, George B., and Alfred David (eds), Geoffrey Chaucer: The Minor Poems (Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, 1982), being Vol.V, Part 1, of A Variorum Edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. Paul G.Ruggiers and Donald C.Baker

Riverside Chaucer, ed. L.D.Benson, Cambridge, Mass.: Houghton-Mifflin, 1987

Tayler, Alistair and Henrietta (eds.), The House of Forbes. Aberdeen: Third Spalding Club, 1937

"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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