Twist in Chaucer tale

November 3, 2000

Chaucer may have supervised parts of the making of one of the earliest manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales, researchers have discovered.

Evidence in a digital facsimile of the "Hengwrt Chaucer" manuscript, held by the National Library of Wales, points to different stages in development that researchers believe may be linked to Chaucer's death 600 years ago.

Scientists involved in the Canterbury Tales Project at De Montfort University compared sections of text with digitally enhanced images to examine changes made.

They were looking for signs of Chaucer's involvement because re-dating of another manuscript, the "Ellesmere Chaucer" held in California, pushed back the date of the Hengwrt manuscript, possibly to within Chaucer's lifetime.

Project director Peter Robinson said: "There appears to be considerable disruption in the preparation of these manuscripts that seems to coincide with Chaucer's death. Some parts seem extremely well prepared, while others are in considerable disorder.

"A high-resolution digital camera has brought the manuscripts to life. We are able to see changes in the ink and pieces of scribble that allow us to reconstruct stages of writing. We think that in his last years, Chaucer was trying to put The Canterbury Tales together in an authorised form. It is as if, with his scribes, he was trying to work out how the tales all fit together."

Details: www.sd-editions.com www.cta.dmu.ac.uk/projects/ctp

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