Earlier this 12 months, Oxford professor of English literature Marion Turner printed The Spouse of Bathtub: A Biography. Even in case you don’t know something about that guide’s topic, you’ve virtually actually heard of her, and maybe additionally of her touring companions just like the Knight, the Summoner, the Nun’s Priest, and the Canon’s Yeoman. These are only a few of the pilgrims whose storytelling contest buildings Geoffrey Chaucer’s fourteenth-century magnum opus The Canterbury Tales, whose affect continues to reverberate via English literature, even all these centuries after the creator’s dying. In commemoration of the 623rd anniversary of that work, the British Library has opened an enormous on-line Chaucer archive.
This archive comes as a end result of what the Guardian‘s Caroline Davies describes as “a two and a half 12 months challenge to add 25,000 photos of the usually elaborately illustrated medieval manuscripts.” Amongst these artifacts are “full copies of Chaucer’s poems but additionally distinctive survivals, together with fragmentary texts present in Center English anthologies or inscribed in printed editions and incunabula (books printed earlier than 1501).”
Should you’re on the lookout for The Canterbury Tales, you’ll discover no fewer than 23 variations of it, the earliest of which “was written just a few years after Chaucer’s dying in roughly 1400.” Additionally digitized are “uncommon copies of the 1476 and 1483 editions of the textual content made by William Caxton,” now thought of “the primary vital textual content to be printed in England.”
4 centuries later, designer-writer-social reformer William Morris collaborated with celebrated painter Edward Burne-Jones to create an version W. B. Yeats as soon as known as “essentially the most lovely of all printed books“: the Kelmscott Chaucer, beforehand featured right here on Open Tradition, which you may as well discover within the British Library’s new archive (as least as quickly as its ongoing cyber attack-related points are resolved). As its wider contents reveal, Chaucer was the creator of not simply The Canterbury Tales but additionally a wide range of different poems, the classical-dream-vision story assortment The Legend of Good Ladies, an instruction guide for an astrolabe, and translations of The Romance of the Rose and The Comfort of Philosophy. And his Trojan epic Troilus and Criseyde could sound acquainted, because of the inspiration it gave, greater than 200 years later, to a countryman by the title of William Shakespeare.
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Based mostly in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His tasks embrace the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the guide The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll via Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The Metropolis in Cinema. Comply with him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.