The Canterbury Tales was unfinished when Geoffrey Chaucer died in 1400 and none of the 84 surviving manuscripts are believed to be in Chaucer's hand. However, all 84 versions differ from each other as medieval scribes sought to comprehend and improve the text of the poem. So what did Chaucer actually write? And how do the 84 manuscripts relate to each other, given that scribes would often create a manuscript by copying from the text of another? We can only begin to answer these questions by making transcriptions of the manuscripts available for comparison and analysis.
The Norman Blake Editions is a series of online editions which present full diplomatic transcriptions of the key, surviving manuscripts of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The series is named in honour of Professor Norman F Blake, formerly the Head of the Department of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Sheffield. All technical design and development has been undertaken by the Digital Humanities Institute at the University of Sheffielde.
Copies of the transcriptions can be downloaded and re-used for free under a non-commercial licence via the DHI Data Service.
There are two types of editions in the series: 1) a multitext edition which presents full-text transcriptions of multiple manuscripts, enabling line-by-line comparison of the different versions; 2) and a single manuscript edition which presents a detailed study of the Dd manuscript.
Each type of edition has a slightly different focus: whereas the multitext edition is utilitarian, presenting only the bare bones of the text and tools for comparing them, the Dd manuscript edition reflects the editor's own view of what an edition of that manuscript should be, in terms of the representation of the text and the accompanying critical apparatus and scholarship.
Our intentions when presenting these editions are threefold: first, to make the texts available to the public; second, to realise the vision of our original Director, Professor Norman Blake; and third, to democratise the debates about editing the text of the Canterbury Tales.
The Multitext Edition
Editors: Estelle Stubbs, Michael Pidd, Orietta Da Rold, Simon Horobin and Claire Thomson with Linda Cross
Copyright: The University of Sheffield, 2013
Features: Full-text transcription of 8 complete manuscripts; full-text searching; ability to compare manuscripts line-by-line; ability to create your own edition of the Canterbury Tales using Edition Builder.
- Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales MS. Peniarth 392 D (Hengwrt)
- California, San Marino, Huntington Library MS. Ellesmere 26 C 9 (Ellesemere)
- Oxford, Corpus Christi College MS. 198
- London, British Library MS. Harley 7334
- Cambridge University Library MS. Dd.4.24
- London, British Library MS. Lansdowne 851
- Cambridge University Library MS. Gg.4.2.7
- London, British Library MS. Additional 35286
The Dd Manuscript
Editor: Orietta Da Rold
Copyright: The University of Sheffield, 2013. Manuscript images are the copyright of Cambridge University Library
Features: Full-text transcription of Cambridge University Library MS. Dd.4.24; images of every manuscript page; full-text searching; textual commentary; comprehensive background information about all aspects of the manuscript's provenenance, codicology, palaeography and place in the Cantebury Tales textual tradition.