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Geoffrey Chaucer from the Ellesmere Manusctipt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Geoffrey Chaucer from the Ellesmere Manuscript
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Geoffrey Chaucer and St Valentine’s Day.

As we know, Valentine’s Day was not a romantic day until Chaucer made it so. In The Parlement of Foules (1382), Chaucer wrote

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

[“For this was Saint Valentine’s Day when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”]

The above illumination is from one of the 86 manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales, the Ellesmere manuscript. Included among these 86 manuscripts is William Caxton’s printing of the Tales, one of the earliest printed books: 1478. Very early printed works, published between 1450 to 1501, are called incunables.

Johannes Gutenberg (1398 – February 3, 1468) is considered the first printer (c. 1439).  Early printers, printers of incunables, sometimes left blank spaces where enluminures or illuminations were inserted. Historiated (see below) first letters are quite common in incunables. 

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John Dowland‘s “Goe from my window”


© Micheline Walker
14 February 2012