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The framework of english society poured in the canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer

Adam scriveyn, if ever it thee bifalle Boece or Troylus for to wryten newe, Under thy long lokkes thou most have the scalle, But after my makyng thow wryte more trewe; So ofte adaye I mot thy werk renewe, It to correcte and eke to rubbe and scrape, And al is thorugh thy negligence and rape. But the framework of english society poured in the canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer society was also vibrant, creative and increasingly literate, a time of resurgence for the English language as a literary medium.

The books and manuscripts of the framework of english society poured in the canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries give us direct access to this vital culture. Whether workaday or gloriously illuminated, their pages offer fascinating glimpses of the late medieval world from which they came.

Chaucer was not a professional writer, but a courtier and civil servant who successfully served three kings in a long and varied career. Born in about 1342 into a middle-class merchant family, by the age of seventeen he was placed as a page in the household of Prince Lionel, one of the sons of Edward III.

During this period, he soldiered again in France, and travelled to Spain, France, and Italy. From 1374 to 1386 he was Controller of wool customs, and also involved in diplomatic and secret missions to France and Italy, for both Edward and his successor Richard II.

He then served as a Member of Parliament for Kent, managing in 1388 to survive unscathed the undermining attacks on Richard II when many associates of the royal household were executed. He either lost or relinquished this position in 1391, but was later given the sinecure of a subforestership. After years of an increasingly tyrannous rule, Richard II was deposed in 1399.

The new king, Henry IV, confirmed and augmented the annuities originally granted to Chaucer by Richard, a great relief at a time when he was beset by money troubles.

Chaucer died a year later, at about the age of sixty. His early lyrics and translations, such as The Romaunt of the Rose and the ABC, were grounded in the culture of the court. One of the expected accomplishments of any young courtier would have been an ability to produce love songs and poems for the amusement of an aristocratic audience. That he was a keen observer of men is obvious from his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales.

The framework of english society poured in the canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer

Even if we feel ignorant as to what motivated him as an author, his surviving work is testament to the fact that he managed to write some of the greatest and most original poetry in the English language in spite of such a busy life. But very few manuscripts of his works actually survive from the Fourteenth Century, and there are none that are in his hand or known to have been definitively corrected or authorised by him.

Most of the texts we know today as being by Chaucer are based on posthumous copies of his work, and these may well have been subject to scribal editing and errors in their transmission from copy to copy. Many years of painstaking research by scholars in collating all the different versions of the early manuscripts results in the poems published in modern editions. We know from one poem to his scribe, Adam, that Chaucer was, in fact, anxious that his texts should be preserved as he wrote them and not corrupted by careless copying: Less than a third of Chaucer's Middle English translation of the poem has survived.

Although the question of its authorship has caused considerable argument, it has become generally accepted that Chaucer at least wrote the first section to line 1705, and that this was completed at an early stage in his literary career before his principles of versification were fixed.

The manuscript was copied in about 1440, some decades after Chaucer's death in 1400. It is not known who originally owned it, and some of its pages have been lost, including the first text-leaf.

Elegantly decorated throughout with gilt letters and floral sprays, it boasts several particularly ornate pages embellished with an abundance of floral designs, chiefly of Lords-and-Ladies or Cuckoo Pint. This flower is an appropriate accompaniment to a poem on love, and the artist has made suggestive play with its appearance. This manuscript has been digitised in its entirety and may be viewed page by page. The first printed edition of the poem edited by William Thynne in 1532, as described below has also been digitised, and it is possible to view both printed and manuscript copies in tandem.

Page with the framework of english society poured in the canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer by compositor folio 58r Decorated page, with annotation by compositor folio 13v Decorated page, with annotation by compositor folio 17v Excerpt from The Romaunt of the Rose folio 143v Chaucer The workes of Geffray Chaucer newly printed, with dyuers workes whiche were never in print before London: It was edited by William Thynne and is regarded as being vital for sustaining interest in Chaucer, ensuring his lasting reputation the framework of english society poured in the canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer influence.

Sections of text in the manuscript have been carefully marked off in order to make up the pages of print. The page displayed to the left corresponds to folio 58r of the manuscript, shown above.

This mark indicated to the compositor where the second column of text in the corresponding printed page was to begin, as can be seen in the first line of the second column on page shown here: This part of the poem is actually from a section that most scholars have agreed is not by Chaucer, but by an unknown author using a northern dialect.

However, Simon Horobin has recently questioned this traditional assertion; he suggests that Chaucer may well have experimented with northern rhymes early in his career and that the language and authorship of the whole text should be reconsidered. Folios the framework of english society poured in the canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer and 17v from the manuscript shown above are marked by further annotations from the compositor.

Thynne primarily reused Caxton's blocks from his second edition of c. Like The Romaunt of the Rose, this was the first time that the poem appeared in print. In having the characters tell stories to while away the time en route, Chaucer provides the perfect framework for a series of narratives, told in a wide variety of styles and genres, that together mirror the framework of english society poured in the canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer human life.

It has been universally celebrated for its dramatic qualities and inimitable humour. The work, however, was never completed and Chaucer died leaving it unrevised. It survives in ten fragments; there are no explicit connections between these or any real indication of the order in which Chaucer intended that they should be read.

Even modern editions today differ in the order in which the tales are presented. Over eighty complete and fragmentary manuscript copies of the poem survive today. The colophon of this volume supplies the information that it was made by Geoffrey and Thomas Spirleng and completed in January 1476. Written on paper in an ordinary business hand, the manuscript's leaves are generously sized but the layout of the text is economical with no attempt at expensive decoration.

Geoffrey Spirleng was a civic official in Norwich. He and his son probably copied the poem out for their own use.

The framework of english society poured in the canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer

Their version is somewhat eccentrically ordered; they originally missed out two tales that then had to be added in at the end. Shown to the left is the page with the original colophon, crossed out by Spirleng after he realized that he had not quite finished after all. It is followed by the first of the appended tales, that of the Clerk shown below right.

As well as inadvertently omitting part of the text, Spirleng furthermore copied out the Shipman's and Prioress's tales twice. Shown below are the beginnings of his two versions of the tale of the Shipman.


Such mistakes unwittingly offer us a fascinating glimpse into late medieval scribal practises. Copying the same tales out twice indicates that Spirleng worked on his manuscript over a long period of time, while his problems with ordering have been attributed to the fact that he used two separate and differently ordered manuscripts as copy texts for his own book.

It consists of a series of stanzas addressed to the Virgin, each celebrating a different aspect of her particular qualities and power.

The title comes from the fact that each verse begins with a different letter of the alphabet, going from A-Z. It was probably written in the 1370s, at a time when Chaucer was beginning to experiment with the pentameter. It follows the prose text without a break. This edition from 1492 was printed by Richard Pynson. One of his first issues, The Canterbury Tales brought Pynson instant fame. He went on to publish some four hundred works, and his books are technically and typographically the finest specimens of English printing of their period.

This edition is enlivened by woodcuts that portray the different pilgrims. Moreover, he is shown caryying a distinctly unscholarly bow and arrows. Woodcuts were expensive to produce and, in fact, in this work occasionally the same cuts have been used to represent different pilgrims. For further information about this copy of The Canterbury Tales see the May 2004 Special Collections 'book of the month' article.

Woodcut of the pilgrims folio c2v Woodcut of the wife of Bath folio s2r Woodcut the framework of english society poured in the canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer the knight folio c4v First surviving page: Both books are from the library of William Hunter. Hunter the framework of english society poured in the canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer his other copy shown above at the sale of John Ratcliffe in 1776.

Incunabula were much sought after by collectors at the time and Hunter paid two pounds and four shillings for it. It is not known when or from whom he acquired this second copy of the work, but it is nonetheless very interesting for its annotations and other signs of use by past owners.

The fact that it is incomplete - lacking several pages at the start and end, and with several pages torn and missing internally - is indicative of the wear and tear it was subject to by a succession of readers over a period of three hundred years before reaching Hunter's hands. Hunter chose not to have this volume rebound and therefore its front pastedown survives. Its inscriptions provide some clues of ownership prior to Hunter. More intriguing, however, is a note that ascribes its ownership to J.

Herbert, who lends it 'to Mr Urry for his use in setting out a new edition, Sept. John Urry actually died in March, 1715 and his edition of Chaucer's works, which was a collaborative effort anyway, eventually appeared in 1721. The framework of english society poured in the canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer title-page does state that he compared the texts of former editions and 'many valuable manuscripts' in its compilation, but most scholars were ultimately dissatisfied with the end result.

This book appears only in the web version of the exhibition. The volume is augmented by the inclusion of Troilus and Criseyde and The Book of Fame, each introduced by fine woodcuts. The House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls, and other shorter works were also included in the final section.

Lacking a general title-page, it seems that these parts were originally intended to be sold separately. The opening of Troilus the framework of english society poured in the canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer Criseyde is displayed to the left.

An historical romance, its tragic love story takes place during the Trojan War, an event favoured by many medieval writers. It has been suggested that this is the work by which Chaucer himself would have liked to have been remembered.

It was certainly written when he was at the height of his career and public fame as a poet, and, according to Pearsall, it is self-consciously and deliberately his masterpiece. It was based on the Filostrato by Boccaccio, a work which would have scandalized its contemporary readers as being both thoroughly modern and quite wicked in its unrestrained depiction of sexual love.

It contains only the text of The Canterbury Tales. In this copy, a seventeenth-century reader has annotated the list of tales found at the end of the printers' 'proheme'. He comments that the Miller's and Merchant's tales are 'baudy' and that the Wife of Bath's Tale is good.

Sadly there are no further expressions of opinion marked in the margins of the tales themselves. Throughout the work, Pynson made the most of his investment in the woodcuts of his 1492 edition by using them again. However, he also had some new blocks made up, including the woodcut of the pardoner displayed to the left. Pynson's 1526 text of The Canterbury Tales is based upon his 1492 edition. As has already been noted, this earlier edition closely follows Caxton's version of the text.

All these different editions do contain unique variations, however. In this work, for instance, Pynson consistently regularises Caxton's spellings, changing 'hem' for 'them' and 'thise' for 'those'. William Bonham, 1542 Hunterian Dr.