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Page last updated at 13:56 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is digitised
By Hannah Ratcliffe
BBC Kent


Conservator Ylva Tahnsjo describes the manuscript which has been digitised

A medieval edition of The Canterbury Tales manuscript has been digitised.

Experts from The University of Manchester spent four days photographing the document with a £22,000 camera.

The images enable scholars to study the manuscript by Geoffrey Chaucer in huge detail.

The Canterbury Tales relate a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims to create an ironic picture of 14th century English life.

The edition of the famous stories being recorded by The University of Manchester staff was hand written between 1420 and 1450, just a few years after they were first conceived by Geoffrey Chaucer.

digitising the manuscript
Cutting edge equipment was used to record the manuscript

The digitisation of the Chaucer manuscript is part of a 18-month project, funded by Joint Information Systems Committee . The document is digitised by each page being photographed with a high specification camera. These images are then uploaded online , increasing access to the manuscript.

The John Rylands Library at The University of Manchester holds outstanding collections of rare books, manuscripts and archives from the Middle Ages in its Special Collections Division.

The Canterbury Tales manuscript lives at Petworth House in Sussex owned by the National Trust. It is thought to have been there for at least four hundred years.

Mark Purcell, Libraries Curator for the National Trust said: "It [The Canterbury Tales manuscript at Petworth House] is believed to have been written...perhaps for the 3rd Earl of Northumberland (1421-1461) or for the 2nd Earl (1394-1455), who was married to Eleanor Neville, Chaucer's grand-niece.

Another possibility is that the manuscript was bequeathed in 1451 by Sir Thomas Cumberworth to his grand-niece, whose husband acted as agent for the 4th Earl of Northumberland."

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