The Reading of Books and the Reading of Literature

Reading the Ideal Copy > Confessio Amantis in Print

Compared to early printed editions of Chaucer, this 1554 edition of Confessio Amantis, printed by Thomas Berthelette, looks plain.

This book is dedicated to Henry VIII, and the epistle to the King emphasizes Gower’s learnedness. It says that Confessio features material from philosophy, history and the Bible and should be read with great care, as it will instill virtue in its readers. Whoever reads this book will “get right great knowlage.”

Following the dedicatory epistle, the editor addresses the reader. What he seems to be most concerned with is how the differences between the print and manuscript editions of the book might be accounted for. These discrepancies are of importance because they directly relate to Confessio’s history and its content. Because the printed copies and manuscript copies do not agree, the editor chooses to reproduce both. Here, he prints the text from the manuscript copy.

This is the beginning of Book 1. The two-column format makes the text difficult to read and leaves little room for marginal notes.

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