Gower MSS - Harley 7184

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


London, British Library, MS Harley 7184
Confessio Amantis (a large and magnificent MS, much mutilated)
London, s.xv, third quarter


(fols 1ra-134vb) Confessio Amantis  Prol.1 - VII.3593

Torpor ebes sensus scola parua labor minimusque, &c. (6 lines of Latin verse).  Of them that writen vs tofore <> Is yit comended ouerall
Book I (fol.8rb) wants 3321-end; Book II begins imperfect at line 47 (fol.26ra); Book III (fol.45rb) wants 1908-2103; Book IV (Latin verse-heading, fol.59va, English text and decoration, fol.59vb) wants 400-575 and 3701-end; Book V begins imperfect at line 162 (fol.79ra) and wants 6183-6360; Book VI (fol.118vb, Latin verse-heading, lines 1-3 only) wants Latin verse-heading lines 4-8 and English text 1-182, and also 1671-end; Book VII begins imperfect at line 1406 (fol.127ra) and wants 2354-3088 and 3594-end; Book VIII is lost.
A leaf is lost after fol.25, with text of I.3321-II.46; a leaf after fol.55 (III.1908-2103); a leaf after fol.61 (IV.400-575); a leaf after fol.78 (IV.3701-V.161); a leaf after fol.110 (V.6183-6360); a leaf after fol.118 (VI.Latin verse-heading, lines 4-8, and English text 1-182); twelve leaves after fol.126 (VI.1671 [Macaulay has 1571, a rare mistake] -VII.1405); four leaves after fol.131 (VII.2354-3088); and about thirty leaves after fol.134 (VII.3594-VIII end)

Text: collated by Macaulay (sigil H3): III. There is a Latin `nota' at II.3243 (fol.43v) and speech-prefixes at V.5497 and 5500 (fol.107r) that are not found in the Fairfax MS as printed by Macaulay.  Macaulay says that it is `almost certain' that Harley 7184 is ultimately derived from the Keswick MS (Geneva, MS Bodmer 178, q.v.), perhaps through a common exemplar with Magdalen College, Oxford, MS lat.213, which is very close textually (Macaulay, I.clxiii).  The MSS have common errors and shared readings of an unusual kind, and both omit the Latin summaries in a part of Book VII, e.g. 1641-1884 (fols 127ra-128va), 1917-2354 (fols 128vb-131vb).  Further, inequalities in the text of Harley 7184 (in the accuracy of its representation of metre, for instance) correspond closely with the difference of hands in the Keswick (Bodmer) MS, especially with the stint of the careless third scribe of that MS.  There is also a shift in textual affiliation in Harley where leaves are missing in Keswick (Bodmer) at III.1087-1686 (beginning fol.51r).


No illustration. The fact that the excised leaves include the beginnings of five of the nine books might suggest that those five leaves had illustrations, but since there are no illustrations in the books whose beginnings survive it is more likely that the decorated initials were the target. Fol.5 is cropped to the text-margin, but not, as far as can be deduced, for any reason to do with illustration or decoration.


Books of which the beginnings survive (Prol., I, III, IV) are introduced with very elaborate decorated 8-10 line initials, opening to a demi-vinet (Prologue) and to partial central demi-vinets with central column and lower border only (I, III) or with central column and upper border only (IV).  All are in gold, blue, red and green.  Rickert (1940: I.578) compares the decoration with that of Bodleian MS Rawlinson poet.223 of the Canterbury Tales, the scribe of which has been associated with the `hooked g scribe' (see below).  Fine 2-line pen-flourished initials, gold on blue, introduce major text-divisions. A 7-line initial introduces a major text-division at I.389, the extension prompted, as is the case elsewhere in Gower MSS, by the character of initial ‘I’. One-line initials, gold alternating with blue, more than usually elaborate, introduce minor text-divisions, Latin verse-headings and summaries, and running-titles (the running-titles have gold lombards on recto, and blue on red on verso, except for fols 48-58, where vice versa).  Elaborately decorated paraph marks, gold alternating with blue, introduce those shorter Latin notes that are set in the margins, speech-headings (always set in the margins) and catchwords. Some of the shorter Latin notes, especially in the early part of the poem, where the scribe, as is often the case, is gradually familiarising himself with the strictness of the hierarchy of decoration, are set in the column, like the Latin summaries, but with no introductory marking. All capitals at line-beginning are coloured in a yellow wash.


I           Parchment, 545 x 370 mm.

II         i + 134 + i.  The outer leaves are modern paper endleaves.  Foliation modern, replacing an earlier modern foliation that runs one too many up to fol.12 (through omission of fol.5 in the numbering).

III        Collation: i-ii12, iii12 wants 2 (after fol.25), iv12, v12 wants 9 (after fol.55), vi12 wants 4 (after fol.61), vii12 wants 10 (after fol.78), viii-ix12, x12 wants 7 (after fol.110), xi12 wants 4 (after fol.118), xii12 missing (after fol.126), xiii12 wants 6-9 (after fol.131). Thirty leaves missing after fol.134.  Catchwords in the scribe's hand.

IV        Written space 405 x 215 mm. 49 lines per column, 2 columns per page.  Ruled, lines and margins; also ruled vertically to provide guideline for justification of prose lines of Latin summaries.  Running titles across opening, with decorated initials in the outsize textura script also used (after a 4-line or 6-line space) for explicit/incipit and opening words of each book after the first, of those that survive.  Latin verse-headings and summaries in red in column, shorter notes and speech-headings in red in margin. Latin summaries are sometimes inserted in the wrong place in the body of the English text-paragraph, but only rarely with rubrication in the wrong place (examples at Prol. 503, I.101, VI.830). Latin summaries very occasionally spill over by one word onto the end of the following English line (e.g. I.98), and with a one-line initial for the stray word at I.389.

V         A fine regular bastard secretary, with much decorative light flourishing of individual letters, a hand similar to that of the `hooked-g scribe', a London-based scribe active during the third quarter of the 15th century whose hand has been identified in several copies of poems by Chaucer and Lydgate and in two other copies of the Confessio (Bodl.MS Lyell 31 and Magdalen College Oxford MS lat.213) in addition to this one (see Edwards and Pearsall 1989:265 and 277, nn.74-5; where the scribe was first identified and named; also Doyle and Parkes 1978:201, n.102). However, further research (Mooney and Mosser 2004) has shown that at least two and perhaps as many as four scribes are involved in the ‘hooked-g’ group. Harley 7184, with Rawlinson poet.223 of the Canterbury Tales (see above, under ‘Decoration’), is possibly in the same hand as Lyell 31, with differences suggesting that these two were later in the scribe’s career (see Mooney and Mosser 184). Lyell is one of a considerable number of MSS by the ‘slanting hooked-g scribe’, who is distinctly different from the ‘hooked-g’ scribe as earlier identified. Magdalen 213, which has the same exemplar as Harley 7184 (see above, ‘Contents’, ‘Text’), is not by the same scribe but by yet another scribe earlier identified with the ‘hooked-g’ group.

VI        Very little punctuation except for punctus at end of some Latin summaries. An inverted semi-colon occasionally marks a prominent syntax-break, e.g. III.1537, V.6557, and a raised punctus is used for the same purpose at V.4931 (fol.104r).

VII      Sewn on six tabs, 19th-century half-binding in dark brown morocco on brown morocco cloth over millboards, with two gold fillets at edge of spine and corner tabs, coat of arms of B.M. gold-stamped on front cover, and gold tooling and lettering on spine: GOWER \CONFESSIO \AMANTIS \\\MUS.BRIT. \BIBL.HARL.\7184.

2o fo (fol.2ra) Which eueri day now groweth newe (Prol.163)


fol.1r               (top right)  `Oxford B.H.' (s.xviii)
fol.18v             (left)    `1548' written in a large crude hand, with other (children's ?) scribbles
fol.24v             (bottom)          'The son of Ihon Bon […..] Johna & Bon' (s.xvi)
fol.48v             (left)  at III.620, ‘Noet’ (s.xv)
fol.54v             (written vertically between columns)  inscription
fol.63v             (bottom)          ‘no vere v ni ver si (breope?)so me’   Johenes’ (s.xv/xvi)
fol.68v             (bottom)          `Iohn a Belontin with my/In my beinning [sic] long’ (the last word crossed through, being a mistake for ‘lord’, suggests Linne Mooney, at the beginning of a set prayer, ‘Lord be with me’) (s.xvi, in an untrained hand)
fol.82r             (bottom)          `liber pilip(a?)' (s.xv/xvi)
fol.87v             (bottom)          '?Ihon'
fol.93v             (left)                ?'suthwarke' (s.xvi) (see Harris 1993:110, n.62)

There is also frequent and occasionally extensive marginal annotation (all in the same hand, s.xvii/xviii), some of it rubbed and faded, not all of it transcribed here:
fol.1v               (lower right) at Prol.154, ‘no mans eye/ can read/ without/ dropping/ teares these/ taxations./ under pre/tence of /admonitions/ Heauen/ preserue/ princes, from/ finde faulz peas (?)/ whose motions/ rayse commotions’  
fol.6v               (left) at Prol.970, ‘The fruit of righteousness is/ sowen in peace of them/ that make peace’
fol.7r               (left) at Prol.1048, ‘good counsell’
fol.7r               (top right) at Prol.1077, ‘True saying. wittnes St James’ chap.iii/ vers: 16th . whear it written [sic]. Whear/ envying & strife is, thear is confus|/ & euery euill work’
fol.28v             (top left) at II.476, `This Leafe containes the demonstration/ of the common effects of Eager/ & speciall singular affection'
fol.29r             (left) at II.579, ‘memorandum’
fol.30r             (right) at II.810, `The charecter of a base spirited/ man'
fol.37r             (top left) at II.2006, ‘A prity craft’
fol.39v             (bottom left) at II.2494, ‘Lawles loue’
fol.40v             (left) at II.2663, `Sexes moste/ dangerous enimies'
fol.42r             (top left) at II.2921, ‘the law of/ surrendering/ the papacy/ from Celestin/ vnto Boniface’
                        (bottom left) at 2945, ‘truly attributed/ vnto these vices’
fol.43r             (bottom centre) at II.2961 [very long disquisition on envy]
fol.44v             (right) at II.3449, `the ancient forme/ of Babtisme'
fol.47r             (top right) at III.345, ‘Not soe, for grace is aboue nature/ which grace may obtained [sic] if rightly/ sought, wherby nature may be brought/ to subiection & not haue domination’
fol.50v             (left) at III.926, ` A good rule/ to Worke by'
fol.52v             (top left) at III.1274, ‘The exelent speech/ of the Philosopher’
fol.55v             (left) at III.1834, ‘True saying’
                        (bottom left) at III.1859, `good counsell'
fol.70v             (bottom right) at IV.2206, ‘what the world/ accomteth gentility’
fol.71r             (top left) at IV.2226, ‘No gentility is generated’
            (bottom left) at IV.2248, ‘thou by diuers ways/ all are alik /The beggar & /the Lord of one/ nature of/ earth our/ mother’  ‘gentility not found by kind’
                        (right) at IV.2271, ‘grace & vertu which is/ .. The true gentleman’ [long discourse on gentillesse]
fol.71v             (left) at IV.2343, `They that will/ thriue most Labor'
fol.83r             (right) at V.1003, `Neptune the founder of Troy'
fol.85r             (right) at V.1391, ‘Venus adorer. heer read/ your Godes vertus’
fol.85v             (top left) at V.1404, ‘You which wayt at Venus gate/ rede her qualitys heer written’
                        (left) at V.1428, `You Louers of venus heer see her/ vnmasked'
fol.87v             (right) at V.1865, ‘The Church of Rome’
fol.88r             (top left) at V.1865, ‘The fall from grace’
fol.91r             (bottom left) at V.2457, ‘mens courteouse/ decifered’
                        (top right) at V.2473, `A right discription of mens/ disposition'
                        (right) at V.2497, `therefor to be skorned'
fol.93r             (right) at V.2865, `No coueteouse person true tongue'
fol.104r           (top right) at V.4922, `Then shall she greeu for him that/ greeueth her'
fol.130v           (right) at VII.2140, ‘Euery subiect/ deserueth blame/ which conforteth/ not with goods/ and body, to vphold/ their kings royalty/ and is not [not inserted above line] intentiu to/ vphold his name’


A John Southwark (see fol.93v) was knighted in 1504 and his namesake in 1549 (Shaw 1906:II.34, 61; Harris 1993:110, n.62)


Macaulay, II.clxii

Catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts in the British Museum [by Robert Nares, et al], 4 vols (London, 1808), III.520

Doyle, A.I., and Parkes, M.B., `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

Edwards, A.S.G., and Pearsall, Derek, `The manuscripts of the major English poetic texts', in Book Production and Publishing in Britain 1375-1475, ed. Jeremy Griffiths and Derek Pearsall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp.257-78.

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

Mooney, Linne R., and Mosser, Daniel W., ‘Hooked-g Scribes and Takamiya Manuscripts’, in The Medieval Book and a Modern Collector: Essays in Honour of Toshiyuki Takamiya, ed. Takami Matsuda, Richard A.Linenthal and John Scahill (Cambridge: D.S.Brewer, and Yushodo Press, 2004), pp.179-96.

Rickert, Margaret, `Illumination', in John M.Manly and Edith M.Rickert (eds), The Text of the Canterbury Tales, edited on the basis of all known Manuscripts, 8 vols (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940), I.561-605.

Shaw, W.A., The Knights of England.  2 vols.  London, 1906

"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

Site Hosting Provided Compliments of Western Carolina University
Site Maintained by Dr. Brian W. Gastle
For Site Emendations please email bgastle@wcu.edu
How to Cite Information from the John Gower Society Web Site