Introducing: Confessio Amantis

Confessio Amantis

Collection & ID Number UCL Special Collections. Ref no: MS FRAG/ANGL/1
Maker Trevisa Gower scribe
Date Early 15th century
Dimension Approx 30cm x 60cm, 4 leaves (2 bifolia)
Material Parchment, Ink and Gold leaves

A fragment of a copy of John Gower’s poem ‘Confessio Amantis’. The exact date of completion of this particular copy of the poem is unknown, as well as the person(s) who first owned it, however current research estimates at the early 1400s. This fragment consists of four pages; the poem has been handwritten on the pages and decorations have been added to certain letters and headings, some of which having decorations made of gold leaf. Gower’s ‘Confessio’ has remained popular over the centuries, having a great influence on modern english literature. This manuscript, a copy of the original ‘Confessio’, would have been a very valuable item in its day, as texts were hard to produce and therefore very rare.

Tell me more about the 'Confessio Amantis'!

Confessio Amantis translates to ‘The Lover’s Confession’. It is a 33,000 line long poem (medieval poems were often as long as this!) which follows the lover Amans as he confesses and speaks to Genius, the priest of Venus. Genius instructs Amans in the art of courtly love; the poem consists of many sub-stories and tales about love, chivalry, morality and more. In our fragment of the poem, Genius is telling Amans about the religion of the world. 


How do we know who wrote this manuscript?

Thanks to the ‘Late Medieval English Scribes Project’, undertaken by academics at the University of York, we have been able to identify the scribe who wrote this manuscript by comparing hundreds of medieval manuscript fragments. The differences in handwriting across these fragments were identified, meaning that the work of individual scribes could be ascertained. Our scribe has been named the Trevisa-Gower scribe, as his work is predominantly copies of the works of John Trevisa and John Gower. For more info on this project, click here:


Do we know who owned this manuscript?

We know very little about who owned this manuscript before the 19th century. However we do know about one owner, due to records and markings made on the front and back of our fragment: the baronet and keen bibliophile (a collector of books) Sir Thomas Philipps (1792-1872). His collection of manuscripts was quite astonishing – he owned over 60,000 in his lifetime!


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