Norman Blake Editions of The Canterbury Tales

The Norman Blake Editions is a series of online editions which present full diplomatic transcriptions of seven manuscripts of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

During late 2010 and throughout 2011 The Digital Humanities Institute developed a series of online editions called The Blake Editions of the Canterbury Tales, in honour of Professor Norman F Blake, formerly the Head of the Department of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Sheffield.header-homepage


The Blake Editions presents full diplomatic transcriptions of eight manuscripts of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. These manuscripts are presented as two editions:

  • Cambridge University Library Dd 4.24
  • A Multitext edition containing all seven manuscripts:
    • Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales MS. Peniarth 392 D (Hengwrt)
    • California, San Marino, Huntington Library MS. Ellesmere 26 C 9 (Ellesemere)
    • Oxford, Corpus Christi College MS. 198
    • London, British Library MS. Harley 7334
    • Cambridge University Library MS. Dd.4.24
    • London, British Library MS. Lansdowne 851
    • Cambridge University Library MS. Gg.4.2.7
    • London, British Library MS. Additional 35286


The individual manuscript edition of Dd is slightly different to the multitext edition. It reflects the editor’s own view of what an edition of that manuscript should be, in terms of the representation of the text and the accompanying critical apparatus and scholarship.

The multitext edition, on the other hand, is more utilitarian. It simply provides access to eight manuscript transcriptions with the facility to conduct searches and generate line-by-line comparisons of the textual variants within each manuscript. In the multitext edition, the user is able to determine which manuscripts are compared, line by line, and in which order.


The Blake Editions of the Canterbury Tales, in particular the multitext edition, did not set out to be all things to all people. We were not seeking to present copious amounts of background information, or to provide users with every text analysis tool and functionality that one could conceivably ever want.

Our intention was simple: to make the texts available to the public.

Finally, we hope that The Blake Editions of the Canterbury Tales will, at long last, realise the vision of its original Director, Professor Norman Blake, and democratise the debates about editing the text of The Canterbury Tales.

Historical Background

Where do The Blake Editions come from?

During the 1990s the British Academy and the Arts & Humanities Research Board funded a project called The Canterbury Tales Project, directed by Professor Norman Blake.

The project produced a number of CD-ROMs published by Cambridge University Press and Scholarly Digital Editions, such as The Wife of Bath’s Prologue on CD-ROM, The General Prologue on CD-ROM and the Hengwrt Manuscript CDs.

The project originated at Sheffield and then, in a second phase of funding and upon Norman Blake’s retirement, the project transferred to De Montfort University.

The Sheffield phase of the project ran from 1994 to 1999. The Sheffield phase included work by Estelle Stubbs, Michael Pidd, Simon Horobin, Claire Thomson, Linda Cross and Orietta Da Rold. In total the Sheffield team transcribed eight manuscripts in their entirety and the majority of seven further manuscripts in addition to all witnesses of the Franklin’s Tale. This represents about 330,000 words. On average the transcription of each manuscript was proofread three times. None of this work has been made available to the public before.

It is this body of data – the manuscripts which were transcribed at Sheffield under the directorship of Professor Norman Blake – which will constitute The Blake Editions of the Canterbury Tales.

The Blake Editions is not a continuation of The Canterbury Tales Project and it is not affiliated to, representative of or in any way related to The Canterbury Tales Project.


Financially supported by The Digital Humanities Institute

Transcriptions originally funded by the British Academy and the Arts & Humanities Research Board

Project Team

  • Michael Pidd (The Digital Humanities Institute)
  • Dr Orietta Da Rold (University of Leicester)
  • Dr Estelle Stubbs (University of Sheffield)
  • Dr Simon Horobin (University of Oxford)
  • Dr Claire Thomson (Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln)
  • with contributions from Linda Cross
  • Ryan Bloor (Developer – The Digital Humanities Institute)