The Canterbury Tales Project aims to investigate the textual tradition of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to achieve a better understanding of the history of its composition and publication before 1500. Here is how we work:

  • We have established a system of transcription for all the manuscripts and early printed books of the Canterbury Tales into computer-readable form.
  • We transcribe the manuscripts using this system.
  • We compare all the manuscripts, creating a record of their agreements and disagreements with a computer collation program (Collate).
  • We use computer-based methods, some drawn from evolutionary biology, to help reconstruct the history of the text from this record of agreements and disagreements.
  • We publish all the materials, the results of our analysis, and the tools which we use in electronic form.

We have pioneered new methods for transcription, collation, analysis and publication, now used by several other projects. We have published seven CD-ROMs to date, with more coming soon. We have begun internet publication with the Caxtons online, and you can see web samples of our Hengwrt, Miller's Tale and Nun's Priest's Tale CD-ROMs online. Altogether, we have published transcripts and images of over 5000 pages from manuscripts and early editions of the Tales, amounting to around 20% of all surviving fifteenth-century witnesses.

We have been leaders in manuscript digitization, and in publication of digital manuscript facsimiles. This has shown us the potential of digital manuscript facsimiles to transform scholarship. Accordingly, we are active in promoting mass manuscript digitization: see the website we have established, in partnership with others.

We are now at the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing at the University of Birmingham.