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1 1. The edition

This Digital Edition of Cambridge University Library, MS Dd. 4. 24 (Dd) of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales offers a detailed study of Cambridge, University Library, MS. Dd.4.24 (Dd). Dd is one of the earliest surviving manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales, dated traditionally within the first decade of the fifteenth century. It is the only surviving early witness of this Chaucerian text to be written on paper and containing the possible name of the scribe. ‘Wytton’ appears on several folios in the main hand: at the end of the 'Knight's Tale' (fol. 39r), the ‘Miller's Tale’ (fol. 47r) and the ‘Summoner's Tale’ (fol. 92r). Dd has often puzzled scholars who on the one hand have praised the quality of its text and some of its codicological features, but on the other have considered the manuscript as the work of an amateur in a provincial milieu, probably a university student (Manly and Rickert 1940, 1, p. 105). The dual response to Dd by critics has cast a shadow over the manuscript’s overall reception. I, however, have argued, and still maintain, that the Dd scribe is most probably part of a network of scribes working in London (Da Rold 2007a), and that Dd has much more to offer as a central witness both to the early development of the text of the Canterbury Tales and to the early genesis of the tale-order (Da Rold 2003). 

1 1.1. Rationale

This digital edition contains high resolution colour images, electronic transcriptions and a detailed codicological study of Dd. The edition is designed to accommodate textual and contextual information that can rapidly be searched and compared. The declared focus of this digital edition is the codicological importance of Dd in the textual transmission of the Canterbury Tales and, more broadly, in medieval book culture. Thus, much of the ‘Background Information’ looks at the materiality of the text, considering the making of the manuscript in relationship to the copying of the text. Of course, the nature of the text and its association with the wider tradition of the Canterbury Tales is not completely neglected and some considerations are offered in ‘Dd and the making of the Canterbury Tales.

The decision to concentrate on the material aspect of Dd follows discussions on the importance of codicology to define, observe and describe literary and non-literary texts holistically (Gumbert 2009). It is also common practice amongst editors of facsimiles, either digitally available or on paper, to dedicate most of the introductory material to structural and paleographical matters. The editors of the facsimiles published by the Variorum Chaucer, the Early English Text Society, and the Society for Early English and Norse Electronic can be considered key examples of this practice.

Building on the seminal work by Manly and Rickert (1940, 1, pp. 101-107), Blake (1985), Owen (1991), Seymour (1997, pp. 43-47) and Mosser (2011), a detailed analysis of the material and the manuscript structure accompanies further considerations on the scribe who copied Dd. It is the aim of sections 3, 4, 6 and 7 to comment on the making of Dd, that is, the material composition, the organisation of the quires, and to show how the text of Dd was assembled. These sections make use of diagrams and tables indicating the composition of the quires, the distribution of the watermarks, the distribution of the text and the colour of the ink. The data are illustrated with nine figures, which represent the nine quires of the manuscript. In the explanation of the figures, I consider one quire at a time, discussing within each quire the type of ink used by the scribe and significant features of the text in relationship to the watermarks, as appropriate. Observations are also included on the relationship between the text and the rubrics. Rubrics are in English and in Latin, and a discussion of their distribution is relevant for an understanding of the material from which the scribe was copying and the extent to which he knew what he was copying. A separate section on ‘The conservation of Dd.4.24’ by Kristine Rose further discusses the condition of the manuscript, and the type of work that has been carried out on the manuscript to clean and recondition it.

The palaeographical section includes a description of the hand, abbreviation, punctuation and corrections. It also contextualises the hand of the scribe within his wider professional training, that of a clerk in medieval London. A full tabular graphic profile of the scribe is included. Additional tagging has been inserted in the transcriptions to enable searches for specific palaeographical features. The [emph] tag is silent in the display of the text, but can be searched. This tag is present in all those letters which display any degree of calligraphic sophistication. This feature has been used to compile the palaeographical profile from a selection of significant examples, therefore this profile should give the reader a clear idea of what precisely is tagged.

The text and glosses of the manuscript have been fully transcribed and tagged in XML. The text has been transcribed following the guidelines of the Canterbury Tales Project (Robinson and Solopova 1993), and the lineation system of the Canterbury Tales Project (Blake 1997). It is possible for users to run textual and concordance searches. Corrections, incipits and explicits are important features of scribal activity, hence the tagging has also been included to allow searches for these elements. It is possible to study the text, both side by side with and hyperlinked to the relevant digitised colour images for convenience of use, but also for possible pedagogical exercises in the classroom.

The digital images were taken following the decision to partially disbind the manuscript into quires in October 2004. This procedure eased the process of digitization and enabled a better analysis of the structure of the manuscript.

It is hoped that this material will enable further research on medieval book production and material analysis as well as prompting new textual and linguistic work on the Canterbury Tales

1 1.2. Acknowledgements

This digital edition has been long in the making. It started with a PhD thesis (Da Rold 2002), which I completed at De Montfort University, Leicester, under the supervision of N. F. Blake, and has since developed into a project in its own right, bouncing back from setbacks and delays. Over the years, many friends and colleagues have offered advice and constant support. I will always be grateful to Norman for his encouragement in the early stages of the edition. I regret that he was not able to see this finished version. Norman's advice, which was always given with good humour and wit, will never be forgotten. I hope that the outcome will meet some of his expectations.

I thank De Montfort University for the bursary which funded my PhD, the Bibliographical Society for a grant to travel to Cambridge University Library to study the paper and the transcripts of Dd. For the reproduction of the images of Dd, I would like to thank the Syndics of Cambridge University Library. I am also very grateful to the conservation staff at Cambridge for allowing me to see their work on Dd and to Kristine Rose, in particular, for sharing her expertise on the scribe. I learned a lot from their knowledge of medieval manuscript production. My gratitude goes also to the staff of the Manuscript Reading Room in Cambridge University Library for their kind and helpful assistance during my work on Dd, and to Ulrike Graßnick and Suzanne Paul for reading a draft of the 'Background Information', and to Elaine Treharne for various discussions on editions and transcriptions. I owe Estelle Stubbs and Michael Pidd a debt of gratitude for their help on the first draft of the transcriptions of Dd. Thanks to Gavin Cole, Jacob Thaisen, Pip Willcox for checking my transcriptions, and to Suzanne Paul for looking over the transcriptions of the glosses. In particular, I acknowledge the valued and enthusiastic discussions with Estelle Stubbs, whose accurate knowledge on the provenance and details of the manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales has always been freely given, since my first introduction to the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. Special thanks are also due to Michael Pidd for all the technical work on the realization and functionality of the edition, and more simply for not letting me give up hope.

Many other friends and colleagues have supported me during these years, perhaps even without realising it: my gratitude to all. I appreciate immensely the support of Inan, Elif and, the new arrival, Eren. I wish to dedicate this book to the 'magister'.