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Detailed record for Harley 7184

Author John Gower
Title Confessio amantis, imperfect
Origin England, S. E. (?London)
Date 2nd or 3rd quarter of the 15th century
Language English and Latin (rubrics only)
Script Gothic cursive
Decoration Large initial in colours and gold with foliate decoration including acanthus leaves, ivy, and foliate feathering extending into the margins to form a partial border, including a male figure (f. 1). Large initial in colours and gold with foliate feathering extending between the columns and into the margins at the beginning of each book (ff. 7, 45 (with 2 dragons), 59v (with a male figure); the other ones are missing). Smaller initials in gold with purple (occasionally faded to grey; often combined with blue; including a dragon (f. 102v), a hybrid creature and male face (f. 109)) or ochre pen-flourishing, or in blue with red pen-flourishing. Running titles written in elaborate Gothic bookhand with flourished initials. Paraphs in gold with purple pen-flourishing or in blue with red pen-flourishing. Capitals marked in yellow. A few cadels (e.g., ff. 45, 51, 118). Ruled in purple. Catchwords written horizontally and introduced by a flourished paraph. The pen-flourishing is very elaborate and includes numerous foliate motifs.
Dimensions in mm 545 x 390 (400 x 215), in 2 columns
Official foliation ff. 134 (+ 4 unfoliated paper flyleaves at the beginning and at the end)
Collation Mainly in quires of 12.
Form Parchment codex
Binding BM/BL in-house. Marbled endpapers; edges speckled in blue and red.
Provenance Erased marginal inscription (f. 31).
Added pencil drawing a man and bird (f. 86).
Inscribed '1548' (f. 18v).
Added pen-trials and inscriptions, 16th-17th century (e.g., ff. 63v, 68v).
Added annotations in English, ?18th century (e.g., ff. 6v, 7, 28v, 29, 30).
The Harley Collection, formed by Robert Harley (b. 1661, d. 1724), 1st earl of Oxford and Mortimer, politician, and Edward Harley (b. 1689, d. 1741), 2nd earl of Oxford and Mortimer, book collector and patron of the arts. Inscribed 'Oxford B.H.' (f. 1).
Edward Harley bequeathed the library to his widow, Henrietta Cavendish, née Holles (b. 1694, d. 1755) during her lifetime and thereafter to their daughter, Margaret Cavendish Bentinck (b. 1715, d. 1785), duchess of Portland; the manuscripts were sold by the Countess and the Duchess in 1753 to the nation for £10,000 (a fraction of their contemporary value) under the Act of Parliament that also established the British Museum; the Harley manuscripts form one of the foundation collections of the British Library.
Notes Outer margin of f. 5 has been excised.
John Gower (b. 1330, d. 1408) wrote the Confessio amantis around 1390. In the third recension; lacking 1 folio after ff. 25 (containing the end of book 1 and beginning of book 2), 78 (containing the end of book 4 and beginning of book 5), 118 (containing the end of book 5 and beginning of book 6), 126 (containing the end of book 6 and beginning of book 7), and lacking the end (ending with verse 'Is yit comended over all' in book 7).
Select bibliography A Catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts in the British Museum, 4 vols (London: Eyre and Strahan, 1808-12), III (1808), no. 7184.

The English Works of John Gower, ed. by G. C. Macaulay, 2 vols (London: Early English Text Society, 1900-1901), I, Confessio Amantis, Prol.-Lib. V. 1970, Early English Text Society, Extra Series, 81, p. cxlxii.

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 & Libraries: Essays Presented to N. R. Ker, ed. by M. B. Parkes and Andrew G. Watson (London: Scolar Press, 1978), pp. 163-210 (p. 201).

Chris Fletcher, Roger Evans, and Sally Brown, 1000 Years of English Literature: A Treasury of Literary Manuscripts (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2003), pp. 28-29.

Derek Pearsall, ‘The Manuscripts and Illustrations of Gower’s Works’, in A Companion to Gower, ed. by Sian Echard (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004), pp. 73-97 (p. 76, fig. 1)

* * *
Illuminated initial

f. 1
Illuminated initial
Decorated initial

f. 45
Decorated initial
Decorated initial

f. 59v
Decorated initial
Decorated initial

ff. 59v-60
Decorated initial

f. 131

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