Growing up, I thought that the only significant event or person that shared my birthday was Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, a big deal of course and a Mad magazine favorite.
I now know, however, that on April 17,1397, Geoffrey Chaucer told the Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II. I also learned that Chaucer scholars have identified the date exactly ten years prior to Chaucer's recitation, i.e., April 17, 1387, as the start of the pilgrimage from Southwark to Canterbury recounted in this masterwork.
Nothing to do with me,of course, but nice to know and a sense of perspective is always a helpful thing.
Upper: Image of Geoffrey Chaucer as a pilgrim from Ellesmere Manuscript in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. Early 15th century.
Second: A woodcut from William Caxton's second edition of the Canterbury Tales printed in 1483.
Third: Bors' Dilemma – he chooses to save a maiden rather than his brother Lionel. Paris Manuscript of Canterbury Tales, prior to 1430, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris. Once the property of Jean d'Orléans, comte d'Angoulème, who was a royal prisoner in England between 1412-1445 and the brother of the poet and nobleman Charles, Duke of Orléans.
Lower: St. Thomas Becket stained glass window (detail), Canterbury Cathedral. Created in the early 1900s using fragments of medieval stained glass.