A large editorial project such as the Online Froissart (OFP) inevitably faces two major challenges: the diversity of the manuscript sources and the differences in approaches adopted by earlier editors and by the members of the team itself. These challenges, of course, are also its strengths. OFP has prepared full or partial transcriptions of several dozen manuscripts of the Chroniques dating from the end of the fourteenth to the end of the fifteenth century, giving users an opportunity to appreciate the diversity and change undergone by the Middle French language over a period of more than one hundred years. In addition, the project has benefited from the contribution of many people with different areas of expertise; some transcriptions incorporated in OFP were first produced as parts of earlier projects, with different research goals in mind. In order to accomodate this diversity we quickly became aware of the requirement to make our work as consistent as possible and to record practices finally adopted in a set of guidelines regularly revised by the team to reflect different aspects of the material treated.
Due to the nature of the project, OFP transcriptions are neither critical editions of the text nor diplomatic transcriptions of individual manuscripts. Their aim, rather, is to allow users easy access to the texts of every individual witness that we have been able to transcribe. The transcriptions do not establish a perfect version of the text, nor do they go into the minute details of individual witness characteristics such as abbreviations or word separation. One of the major aspects of the Online Froissart website is its ability to display transcriptions of several witnesses of the same text in collation, allowing users to view on one screen how the same sentence or passage from the Chroniques is rendered in different witnesses. In this viewing mode, the similarities and differences between witnesses quickly become apparent; even the smallest individual traits of each witness such as spelling, word order or dialectal features can be seen at a glance, but could have been omitted from a critical edition. Another feature of the OFP is the access it provides to digital images of some of the manuscripts transcribed: users interested in a more detailed analysis of the practices adopted by the scribe can adapt and fine-tune the OFP transcriptions to their particular needs.
As a general rule, the OFP editors present the text of each individual manuscript with only minimal editorial interventions. Abbreviations are expanded taking into account the overall practice of the particular scribe but are not signalled, and editorial corrections are suggested where the manuscript is damaged or where there is an obvious mistake such as an omitted word or phrase, wrong or badly corrupted name, or incorrect verb form. The original reading of the manuscript is retained but displayed with a red background, and the editorial correction (based on the reading of a closely related manuscript) supplied as an alternative (accessible by clicking on the word in red). Modern punctuation is necessarily imposed on the text, although OFP transcribers have avoided as much as possible the use of colons, semi-colons and brackets. In order to reproduce the rhythms of Froissart’s prose in its manuscript setting, initials and larger letters in the manuscripts are considered to signal the beginning of a sentence, unless this is not syntactically possible.
The OFP editorial practices are based on the guidelines established by the Ecole des Chartes for medieval prose texts. For practical purposes, and in order to facilitate the collation of different witnesses and successfully implement links to the Dictionnaire du Moyen Français (DMF), word separation in the manuscripts is not retained; with a small number of exceptions, the editors have followed a consistent practice based, wherever possible, on modern usage and, in the case of specifically medieval words and expressions, on the lexicographical practice of the DMF. The use of capital letters is also determined by modern French usage.
The Chroniques are a prose text and their understanding, editing and enjoyment are not predicated upon the knowledge of the exact number of syllables in each individual word, as would have been the case for a work written in verse. Therefore the use of diacritic signs, and especially of the diaeresis, is kept to a minimum, and only three types of diacritic sign are retained. The acute accent over ‘e’ in the last syllable signals that the vowel is emphasized (pronounced) in the final position or before ‘z’ or ‘s’: thus, ‘travailliéz’, ‘advisié’. The cedilla, as in modern French, indicates that ‘c’ stands for an [s] sound before ‘a’, ‘o’ and ‘u’. The diaeresis (tréma) is used sparingly and strategically over ‘i’, ‘y’ and ‘u’ to distinguish between homographs. It can both indicate the difference in pronunciation (e.g. between ‘veü’ past participle of ‘voir’, and ‘veu’ meaning a vow) or signal preterite forms as opposed to past participles, as for ‘oir’ (‘il oï’ and ‘il a oi’) and ‘obeir’ (‘il obeï’ and ‘il a obei’). This light-touch use of diacritics is designed to assist the user in reading and understanding the text without overcomplicating the experience, for we hope that the OFP will attract a broad range of users including, but not limited to, specialists of Middle French morphology and syntax.
The above principles were adopted by the team at an early stage of the project to ensure consistency and cohesion of the material, but final checks of the existing transcriptions aimed at bringing all the data into line with the editorial policy are still under way. For a more detailed description of the project's editorial practices and encoding principles, please see the project Guidelines: OFP Guidelines for transcription and markup.