Gower MSS - Bodley 294

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


Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 294
Confessio Amantis, with Latin addenda and associated Latin verses, and Traitié
London, s.xv, first quarter


(fols 1ra-196vb)            Confessio Amantis Prol.1 - VIII.3114*end
Torpor hebes sensus scola parua labor/minimusque, etc. (6 lines of Latin verse).  Off hem þat writen vs/tofore <> Oure ioye may ben endeles

Book I (fol.7va, first 2 lines of Latin verse-heading only; English text, with decorative initial, fol.7vb), Book II (fol.29va), Book III (fol.50va), Book IV (Latin verse-heading and summary, fol.66va; English text and initial, fol.66vb), Book V (fol.87vb), Book VI (fol.132rb), Book VII (Latin verse-heading, fol.145vb; Latin summary, English text and initial, fol.146ra), Book VIII (fol.179ra).

Text: collated by Macaulay (sigil B): IIb.  As an `intermediate version', B combines the early preface with the rewritten conclusion (Macaulay, I.clv; see also I.cxxxiv-v); the text is close to that of T (Cambridge, Trinity College, MS R.3.2).  `As in the case of E’ [BL MS Egerton 1991, also copied by Scribe D : see below], `the copyist is careful of metre' (I.clv).

(fol.197ra) `Explicit iste liber'
            Explicit iste liber <> requiesce futurus
            Longer six-line version with added dedication to Henry IV
            Macaulay, III.478

(fol. 197ra) `Quam cinxere freta'
            Quam cinxere freta <> stat sine meta
            With rubric, `Epistola super huius, etc.’
Macaulay, III.479.  Macaulay suggests Strode as the author of the four lines of Latin verse (III.550, IV.419)

(fols 197ra-199rb) Traitié pour essampler les amantz marietz
            Puis qil ad dit cy deuant <> saluement tenir (prose rubric).
            Qualiter creator <> dominium possidebat (4-line prose rubric)
Le creatour de toute creature <> lamour parfit en die se iustifie
Macaulay, I.379-92

(fol.199rb)  `Quis sit vel qualis'
            Quis sit vel qualis <> splendet ad omne latus
Latin verses added to Traitié
Macaulay, I.391-2

(fol.199rb-199va)  `Est amor in glosa'
Carmen quod Johannes Gower super amoris multiplici varietate sub compendio metre composuit (prose rubric)
            Est amor in glosa <> participantur ita
Latin verses added to Traitié
Macaulay, I.392

(fol.199va)  `Lex docet auctorum'
            Lex docet auctorum <> in orbe virorum
            Six lines only. Lines 7-8 missing.
Latin verses added to Traitié
Macaulay, I.392

(fol.199va-b) `Quia vnusquisque'
            Quia unusquisque <> specialiter sortitus est
 Long concluding prose rubric to Confessio. Later version, with condemnation of Richard II and praise of Henry of Lancaster, earl of Derby
Macaulay, III.479, IV.360       

(fols 199va-201va) Carmen super multiplici viciorum pestilencia
            Nota consequenter carmen <> specialius inficiebantur (prose rubric).
Non excusatur <> iura tenenda deo
Latin verses copied after Confessio in some MSS
Macaulay, IV.346

Rest of fol.201v, after 9 lines of text and colophon, blank
(fol.202r)         blank
(fol.202v)        (various later inscriptions: see Additions, below)
back pastedown          (various later inscriptions: see Additions, below)


There is a 12-line framed miniature (framed space 85 x 82 mm.) at fol.4va, following the Latin summary after Prol.594, illustrating the statue that appears, standing in front of a rocky landscape, to Nebuchadnezzar, asleep in a red-canopied bed.  `The silver paint on the image is badly oxidized, and its golden head is defaced.  The background is dull carmine and gold, the picture is surrounded by a plain moulded orange frame' (Spriggs 194:199, and Plate XIIIb).  A 10-line miniature (framed space 66 x 85 mm.) following I.202 (fol.9ra) shows `the Lover, in a deep rose-coloured robe, kneeling before his confessor Genius, on a green-tiled floor.  The background is dull crimson, covered in a conventional gold-scroll pattern, and the picture is surrounded by a plain moulded orange frame' (Spriggs 1964:195, and Plate Xa).  The pictures are associated with Hermann Scheerre (active in London at least 1405-14) and his school by Spriggs 1964 (also Scott 1996, II.87); Spriggs compares Oxford, Bodleian Library, MSS Bodley 693, Bodley 902 and Laud misc.609, Oxford, Corpus Christi College, MS 67 (see also Scott 1996, II.109-10), and other MSS.  The two pictures are `nearly as in E [BL MS Egerton 1991]' (Macaulay, I.clv).  For the positioning of the miniatures, and the suggestion that it may represent a standardization of procedure, see Griffiths 1983:169, 171, 174; for further discussion, see Burrow 1983:11-12, with Plate 1.


Opening page (fol.1r) has full bar-border in blue, rose, vermilion, and gold, with central bar between the text-columns, bars consisting of plant-stems with flowered decoration and interlace panels at two mid-points at right and bottom (see Spriggs 1964:194).  The border incorporates a 6-line initial with similar interlaced design and pen-flourishing which introduces the first line of English text (fol.1r).  Similar borders with 5, 6, or 7-line initials introduce Books III-VIII   (Books III, VII, and VIII, where the decorated initial is in column a and therefore needs no supporter, have no central bar).  Books I  and II, by contrast, begin modestly, Book I with a pen-flourished 4-line initial (with equal economy, explicit and incipit are on the same line, without decoration), Book II with a 2-line initial. At the beginning of the Prologue, the initials remain unfinished, without decoration or flourishing (viz. opening verse-heading, Prol. 24, 93 and 193.  Blue 2-line initials with red foliate flourishings and infillings introduce major text-divisions (exceptionally, a 3-line initial at Prol.595, fol.4v, and 8 or 9-line extended initial `I' at VII.2917, fol.163r and VII.3142, fol.164v), and 1-line initials, blue on red, more modestly flourished, normally introduce minor text-divisions, verse-headings, Latin summaries, etc., though some are omitted (e.g. for minor text-divisions at I.952, fol.13v; for verse-headings at I.203, fol.9r; for summaries at I.234, fol.9r; I.761, fol.12v).  Decorated paraphs are occasionally used for minor text-divisions (e.g. I.2175, fol.21v; I.3362, fol.29r, not marked as a text-division in Macaulay; IV.3595, fol.86v), shorter Latin summaries (e.g. Prol.193, fol.2r; Prol.499, fol.4r; Prol.1002, fol.7r; II.1595, fol.39r; III.2527, fol.65r; at I.3067, fol.27r, paraphs are used for itemizations within a summary), and usually for explicits and incipits.  A paraph marks the line in which Pope Pelagius is mentioned (II.1316, fol.37v).

In the Latin colophons and verses at the end of the MS, 2-line and 1-line initials are used for major and minor text-divisions respectively.  Some of the Latin summaries in the Traitié are placed in the margin and introduced with a paraph.


I           Parchment, 393 x 273 mm.

II         Fols 1-202.  Foliation in bold Arabic numerals (s.xvii).

III        Collation: i-xxv8, xxvi2.  Catchwords in informal hand, perhaps usually that of the scribe (see description of BL MS Egerton 1991).

IV        Written space 285 x 183 mm.  42-47 lines per column (more regularly 46-47 in later books), 2 columns per page. Ruled in light ink, lines and frames.  Running titles in scribe's hand, undecorated, `prologus' on both verso and recto, `liber primus', etc. across opening.  Latin verse-headings, summaries, etc. are at first in column in red, but from fol.63v the Latin verses (e.g. III.2251, fol.63v; IV.887, fol.71v; IV.1083, fol.72v) and some of the Latin summaries (e.g. III.2318, fol.64r) are in black ink (for the confusing effect of this and other irregularities in the copy, see Echard 1998:20-24, with Figures 3 and 4 showing fols 1r and 10v, and Emmerson 1999:162), as are the Latin and French poems and rubrics at the end, apart from a few marginal notes in red.  The Latin verse-headings are often run on, though the line-endings are clearly marked with a punctus.  Summaries are often introduced within the paragraph of the English text, but only rarely is the mistake made of rubricating the ensuing line of the English text (examples are I.11, fol.7v; I.99, fol.8r; II.751, fol.34r; II.1311, fol.37v; VII.4757, fol.176r).  Rubrication (one-line initials with flourishing) of the continuing English text in sequences of lines where a series of short Latin summaries or notes has to be inserted in the column (e.g. Prol.617-51, fols.4v-5r) is usually done at a sensible break in the text, though this may be no more than the accident of transferring the Latin from the margin.  At I.672, fol.2r, the usual text-division decoration is omitted because the new paragraph begins in mid-line (but contrast II.1957, fol.41r).  The running over of the Latin summaries by a few words at the end of the next line or two, or more, of English text (e.g. at Prol.499, fol.4r, Prol.670, fol.5r; Prol.727, fol.5v; Prol.779, fol.5v; II.931, fol.35r; IV.3187, fol.84v), despite heavy abbreviation, indicates that the summaries were added after the English text had been completed and that there was a slight miscalculation (because the Latin text to be inserted was in prose) of the space that needed to be left.  Single-word glosses are tacked on at the end of the line of English text, or the line above or below (e.g. Prol.298, fol.2v; Prol.567, fol.4r), without decoration, as are `Confessor' and `Amans', where they appear (they are occasionally omitted in Books I and II and almost always thereafter).  The extended speech-markers at I.557-8, fol.11v (`Opponit Confessor', `Respondet Amans') are put on the same line preceding the exchange; the speech-markers at I.1226-7, fol.15v, are reversed.  Some of the short Latin notes and glosses, especially those that appear in sequences in Books V and VII, are set in the margin, e.g. V.835-1356, fols 92v-95v; VI.1153, fol.138v; VII.449-59, fol.148v; VII.2115, fol.158r; VII.2185, 2189, fol.158v; VIII.1700, fol.188v; VIII.2440, fol.193r (12 lines in tiny script neatly framed and squeezed between columns), VIII.2819, fol.195r; also some of those that accompany the Traitié.  A number of the shorter Latin notes and glosses are omitted, as Macaulay notes, e.g. III.2206, 2299.

V         A very good, large and exceptionally regular anglicana formata.  The scribe is Scribe D of Cambridge, Trinity College MS R.3.2 of the Confessio, as identified by Doyle and Parkes (1978:177; see also Griffiths 1983:170, n.19; Edwards and Pearsall 1989:275, n.43).  He was active in the first two decades of the 15th century (Doyle and Parkes 196), and responsible for six copies of the Confessio (Oxford, Corpus Christi College, MS 67, Oxford, Christ Church MS 148, New York, Columbia University MS Plimpton 265, BL MS Egerton 1991, and Princeton University Library Robert H.Taylor MS, as well as MS Bodley 294) and part of two others (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 902 and Cambridge, Trinity College, MS R.3.2).  Doyle and Parkes describe the hand of Bodley 294, with that of Egerton 1991, as a `larger, more formal' version of Scribe D's hand (1978:178, n.35). Recent work on Scribe D includes Smith 1988, Mooney 2000, Bowers 2004 and Mooney 2008. New work, adumbrated in Mooney 2008, identifies Scribe D as a Guildhall clerk.

VI        Occasional use of punctus or virgule at line-end; also of inverted semi-colon to mark strong enjambment (e.g. Prol.23, fol.1r; Prol.254, fol.2v; I.1028, fol.14v; III.475, fol.53rb) or of a raised punctus for the same purpose (e.g. III.1537; V.388, fol.90ra)

VII      `The unusual medieval binding of polished light-coloured skin over bevelled boards is blind-stamped with some tools not found (so far as we know) elsewhere, of which one, a Lombardic capital M, might refer to Humfrey's motto and another is a small fleur-de-lis' (Doyle and Parkes 1978:208, n.122).

2o fo (fol.2ra)   Apostolus. Regem honorificate (gloss before Prol.153)


fol.1r               (top)    `Mon b[ien mondain] Gloucestre', autograph motto of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, legible only under ultra-violet light
            (at head of text columns, the two words separated by the border decoration)          `Edwarde Fletewoode' (s.xvi/xvii)
fol.22r             (top)    pen trials and decorative designs (s.xv)
fol.164r           (top right)  expert imitation in a legal anglicana, or ‘common law hand’ (s.xvi) (information from A.I.Doyle), of top line of text (also fol.174r)
fol.174r           (right)    sketch of female face with headdress
fol.197r           (top)    `anthony Goodryth'
fol.201v           (below colophon)        `Cest liure est A moy Homfrey Duc De gloucestre', the ex libris inscription of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, legible only under ultra-violet light
fol.202v           (extreme top right) `Iohn Perrye' (?)  `Elisabeth dere’ (?)  (s.xvi1)
(near top, in different scripts) 'Radulphus Goldewall'  (s.xv)
                        `God of his grace send vs in heauen a dwelling place' (s.xvi)
                        `God of hys grace send vs in hevyn a dewllyng [sic!] place' (s.xvi in)
back pastedown
(near top)         `henricus octauus dei gratia Angliae & Franciae Rex fidei defensor & Dominus Hiberniae...' etc  (s.xvi) with signature of 'Anthony Goodyere'
(middle)          `est [sumus?] in mund' (s.xvi), with pen-trials, scribbles, and crude drawings, including a dragon’s wing and a limbless large-breasted woman



The erased inscriptions on fols 1r and 201v (for which see Doyle and Parkes 1978:208-9, and n.122) associate the MS with Humphrey, duke of Gloucester (1391-1447), youngest brother of Henry V.  The ex libris inscription must have been written after he was made duke in 1414, though he could have owned the book before then.  The discrepancy between the high quality of the script, pictures and borders and the comparative modesty of the initials `suggests the intervention of a personal choice in the finishing of the copy, if not at the commencement of its production' (Doyle and Parkes 1978:209).  See also the description of the binding, above.  Gloucester's reputation as a humanist and bibliophile is well known: for evidence of this interest and a list of extant MSS once belonging to him, see Sammut 1980; for an account of Gloucester as a collector and owner of books, see Harris 1993:129-41.  `A connection between the Duke's ownership of the manuscript and the erasure of the words "Regis Anglie Ricardi secundi" from the Latin note to Prologue 34* (fol.1ra) may possibly be conjectured' (Harris 1993:130).

Probably given by Edwarde Fleetwood (fol.1r) to the University in 1601 (Macaulay, II.clv).  Edward Fleetwood, son of Francis Fleetwood of Vache in Buckinghamshire, was BA from St Alban Hall 1572, MA 1575, and possibly rector of Wigan 1571-1604 (Foster, Alumni Oxon., II.205).  For Fleetwood of Vache, see Lipscomb, Buckingham, III.227-8.


Macaulay, I.cxxxiv-v, clv

Alfonso Sammut, Unfredo Duca di Gloucester e gli Umanisti Italiani, Medioevo e Umanesimo, 41 (Padua, 1980).

J.M.Bowers, ‘Two Professional Readers of Chaucer and Langland: Scribe D and the HM 114 Scribe’, Studies in the Age of Chaucer, 26 (2004), 113-46.

J.A.Burrow, `The Portrayal of Amans in Confessio Amantis', in Minnis 1983:5-24.

Margaret Connolly and Linne R.Mooney (eds), Design and Distribution of Late Medieval Manuscripts in England (University of York: York Medieval Press, 2008) .

A.I.Doyle and M.B.Parkes, `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. M.B.Parkes and Andrew G.Watson (London: Scolar Press, 1978), pp.163-210.

Siân Echard, `With Carmen's Help: Latin Authorities in the Confessio Amantis’, Studies in Philology, 95 (1998), 1-40.

A.S.G.Edwards and Derek Pearsall, `The manuscripts of the major English poetic texts', in Griffiths and Pearsall 1989, pp.257-78.

Richard K.Emmerson, ‘Reading Gower in a Manuscript Culture: Latin and English in Illustrated Manuscripts of the Confessio Amantis’, Studies in the Age of Chaucer, 21 (1999), 143-86.

Joseph Foster, Alumni Oxonienses: The Members of the University of Oxford 1500-1714.  4 vols.  Oxford, 1891-2.

Kate Harris, `Ownership and Readership: Studies in the Provenance of the Manuscripts of Gower's Confessio Amantis'.  Unpublished D.Phil. dissertation, University of York, 1993.

George Lipscomb, The History and Antiquities of the County of Buckingham. 4 vols.  London, 1847.
A.J.Minnis (ed.), Gower's Confessio Amantis: Responses and Reassessments.  Cambridge: D.S.Brewer, 1983.

Linne R.Mooney, ‘Professional Scribes? Identifying English Scribes who had a hand in more than one manuscript’, in Pearsall 2000:131-41.

---, ‘Locating Scribal Activity in Late-Medieval London’, in Connolly and Mooney 2008:183-204.
Derek Pearsall (ed.), New Directions in Medieval Manuscript Studies (Cambridge: Brewer, 2000)

M.L.Samuels and Jeremy J.Smith (eds), The English of Chaucer and his Contemporaries (Aberdeen: University of Aberdeen Press, 1988).

Kathleen L.Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts 1390-1490 (A Survey of Manuscripts Illustrated in the British Isles, general editor, J.J.G.Alexander). 2 vols. London: Harvey Miller, 1996.

J.J.Smith, ‘The Trinity Gower D-Scribe and his Work in two early Canterbury Tales Manuscripts’, in Samuels and Smith 1988:51-69.

Gereth M.Spriggs, ‘Unnoticed Bodleian Manuscripts illuminated by Herman Scheerre and his School’, Bodleian Library Record, 7, no.4 (1964), 193-203.

Jacob Thaisen, ‘The Trinity Gower D Scribe’s Two Canterbury Tales Manuscripts Revisited’, in Connolly and Mooney 2008:41-60.

"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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