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Digitising the Canterbury Tales


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Ylva Tahnsjo, curator of Petworth House, describes the edition of the Canterbury Tales which has been digitised.

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

The version held at Petworth House can now be examined in detail by experts.

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

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

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

It is thought to have been at the West Sussex stately home for at least four hundred years.

""It 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." said Mark Purcell, Libraries Curator for the National Trust.

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."

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

The digitisation of the manuscript is part of a 18-month project, funded by Joint Information Systems Committee , which aims to showcase The University of Manchester as one of the country's leading centres for digitisation of rare books, manuscripts and archives.

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





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