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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

Chapter 6 - Chaucer’s Books

from Part II - Books, Discourse and Traditions

Summary

Chaucer’s works demonstrate that he was extremely well read. He engages intensively with major authors and texts of classical and medieval literature such as Boccaccio, Boethius, Dante, Ovid, Petrarch and the Romance of the Rose. He also frequently cites respected ‘authorities’, including the Bible and commentaries on it. For a layman, he appears to have had access to an unusually wide range of reading material. His love of books and reading is also represented in many of his works, where his fictional alter egos are often to be found poring over texts and sitting up reading late at night. Getting access to reading material would, however, not have been as easy as we might imagine from reading his works. Manuscripts were costly and probably hard to come by, especially well-copied and reliable ones. Chaucer may have borrowed books from wealthy patrons and well-connected friends, bought second-hand copies, or had access to the libraries of religious institutions.

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