Reading Gower in the 17th Century in Print and Manuscript

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


This paper focuses on two early printed books in the St Andrews University Library Special Collections. The first is a copy of Berthelette's 1554 edition of Confessio Amantis which has various points of damage and a number of annotations that reveal the active reading of its early modern owners. One of those readers was Christopher Edmundson (d. 1675), a Cambridge graduate whose clerical career was spent in Lancashire. A fragment of a letter in his hand, bound into the volume, discusses arrangements for the binding of his books with wide margins to accommodate notes. The paper considers what this volume reveals about how Gower was read in the seventeenth century. The second book is a copy of Historia Saracenica, printed in Leyden in 1625 and written in Arabic; its point of interest is that it was owned by Charles Gedde, gentleman of St Andrews. Gedde donated the Trentham manuscript (BL Additional 59495) to Thomas Fairfax in 1656, suggesting that prior to that date the Trentham manuscript must have been in St Andrews. Previous researchers have noted Gedde's ownership but uncovered nothing about his identity. Starting with evidence of his book ownership the paper pieces together Charles Gedde's career and circle, and the nature of his links to Fairfax.
Period8 Jul 2023
Event titleFifth International Conference of the John Gower Society: Gower in Context: His Words, His Books, His Heritage
Event typeConference
LocationSt Andrews, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • John Gower
  • Charles Gedde
  • Thomas Fairfax
  • Christopher Edmundson
  • 17th century
  • manuscript
  • book history
  • provenance
  • Thomas Berthelet
  • Confessio Amantis