The 1807 edition of The Book of the Duchess

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Simone Celine Marshall


The 124-volume edition of The Poets of Great Britain, containing The Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, came into being when, in 1807, a group of thirty-three London booksellers began publication of a work that claims, from its title page, to be a reprint of John Bell’s 1782 series The Poets of Great Britain. The reality, however, is somewhat different. In fact the works of Chaucer have been markedly revised and re-edited, a feature that until now had not been noted by scholars.

The following article is a textual analysis of some of the most striking features to have emerged from an analysis of the 1807 edition of The Book of the Duchess, as compared with its predecessors. The Book of the Duchess has been chosen as a sample text for this consideration, primarily because it is of sufficient scope to offer, on the one hand, a substantial enough sample from which to draw conclusions, and, on the other hand, limited enough to be manageable. In addition to these particular reasons, The Book of the Duchess is a poem the authority of which has never been questioned, and thus it has appeared in every printed edition of the works of Chaucer, providing this study with extensive points for comparison.


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Author Biography

Simone Celine Marshall, University of Otago

Senior Lecturer

Department of English and Linguistics

University of Otago

New Zealand


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