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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 12:53 GMT
Ancient manuscript goes on CD
Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer died in October 1400
Exactly 600 years ago, one of the greatest writers in the English language, Geoffrey Chaucer, died.

Now, one of the most important manuscripts of his work - which has been in safe-keeping in Wales since at least the 17th Century - is being made available to new audiences via computer technology.

For the last 100 years, the Hengwrt Chaucer manuscript has been in the manuscripts department of the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

New technology

Soon, the treasures of the Hengwrt Chaucer will be seen in all their glory on a CD-Rom which is the result of a partnership between the library and the Canterbury Tales Project.

The library will be publishing two versions of the CD-Rom, one with greater detail than the other.

A first edition of the Canterbury Tales s
In 1998, a first edition of the Canterbury Tales sold for 4.5m at auction
The CD will also have a copy of the Canterbury Tales manuscript which has marginal notes written in the Welsh language.

According to Dr Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan of the National Library of Wales, the manuscripts have been in the Hengwrt collection since around 1650.

"Robert Vaughan of Hengwrt in Meirionethshire was one of the main collectors of manuscripts in Wales.

"It is likely he got the manuscript from the collection of Llanfair-is-Caer, between Y Felinheli and Caernarfon," she said.

Biography of a literary giant

Information about Geoffrey Chaucer's own life is fairly sketchy, although some of the main dates and highlights are known.

It is known he was born in London between 1340 and 1344, the son of John Chaucer, a wine merchant.

In 1357 he was a page in the home of Prince Lionel, who later became the Duke of Clarence.

Chaucer was a servant to him for some years.

In 1359-60, Chaucer was in the army of Edward III in France, where he was captured by the enemy.

By 1366, he had married Philippa Roet, the sister of John of Gaunt's third wife.

Between 1370 and 1378, Chaucer was working as a foreign diplomat travelling extensively in Europe.

The official date of his death is 25 October, 1400.

He was buried in Westminster Abbey, the first person to be buried in the part of the building which is now known as 'Poets' Corner'.

Enduring classic

He wrote his unfinished masterpiece, the Canterbury Tales, in 1387.

The work was never fully appreciated until the 18th Century, because of the way the language in which he wrote had developed since his own time.

However, since then, it has been recognised as one of the literay classics of the Western world and has spawned numerous projects and versions.

An animated version of all the tales was made as a co-production between the BBC, the HBO company, BBC Wales and the Welsh fourth channel, S4C.

It won a number of awards, including an Oscar nomination in 1999.

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17 Mar 99 | The Oscars 1999
The animator's tale
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