12 John Gower 1330-1408
Confessio amantis
English manuscript on vellum, 171 leaves, England, ca. 1400 (Plimpton 265)
John Gower was a contemporary and acquaintance of Chaucer, and, although his poetic gifts did not equal Chaucer's, he stands as a major figure in the history of literature who helped mold his Middle English dialect into the national literary language. Confessio amantis consists of a series of 112 allegorical tales set within the framework of a dialogue between the poet and a priest of Venus, taking as its theme various aspects of the notion of love. Drawn from history, legend, scripture and classical mythology, the thirty thousand rhymed lines, divided into a prologue and eight books, were composed probably in 1383 and 1384 at the request of Richard II. This manuscript, which extends from line 504 of the Prologue to line 2,791 of Book VIII, is of special interest since it may have been prepared during the poet's lifetime. Written in an English gothic minuscule hand, it contains full page illuminated floral borders and, on folio 2 verso, a miniature of the statue of which King "Nabugodonor" (Nebuchadnezzar) dreamed.
Gift of George A. Plimpton

Collections and Treasures