Geoffrey Chaucer (-1400), Canterbury tales, between 1400 and 1410. EL 26 C 9. Huntington Library.




The beginnings of the project date to 1989-90, to experiments in manuscript transcription and collation carried out at Oxford University Computing Services by Peter Robinson in the 'Computers and Manuscripts' Project, led by Susan Hockey and funded by the Leverhulme Trust. This project was based on Robinson's earlier work with the manuscripts of the Old Norse Svipdagsmál, described in articles in Literary and Linguistic Computing. The experiments included the Wife of Bath's Prologue: the success of these suggested that the methods developed by this project (which led to the creation of the Collate program) might be the basis of wider work on the Canterbury Tales tradition.

In late 1991, Elizabeth Solopova began work on this project: she and Robinson in the next year developed the formal transcription guidelines which are now our cornerstone. In mid-1992 Robinson and Solopova met Norman Blake, then of the University of Sheffield, and the three agreed to co-operate in the aim of the project: to use computer methods to achieve a better understanding of the textual tradition of the Canterbury Tales. Funding from the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, and the universities of Oxford and Sheffield, enabled the project to employ its first staff. Our first publications followed: the Wife of Bath's Prologue (Robinson) in 1996; two volumes of Occasional Papers (1993 and 1997). Our first doctoral students, Claire Thomson and Simon Horobin, completed their dissertations.