Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur
Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur is one of the most important literary works written in Middle English prose. It has continued to fascinate readers throughout the centuries and exists in two considerably different primary versions, one manuscript and one print. The Winchester manuscript, produced by two professional scribes, is the earliest surviving version of Le Morte Darthur, survives at the British Library (classmark Add. MS 59678) and there are two extant copies of William Caxton's printed edition: a complete one in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York and one lacking eleven leaves, in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester. The first phase of this project focuses on the Winchester manuscript and which will produce:
- High-resolution digital images of the Winchester manuscript, captured by the Humanities Media Interface (HUMI) project
- A full searchable transcription, linked to the images page-by-page
- Editorial notes, which illuminate the logic behind the text
- Cross-references to the Caxton or Vinaver's edition
- Searchable scribal practices (mistakes, corrections, marginalia, textual divisions)
- Searchable names, place-names and key words
Samples of the digitization with explanations of what can be seen are available from the link on the left.
This electronic edition of the Winchester manuscript is part of a larger project in which Caxton's Malory and another early printed copy in the John Rylands Library will be digitized. The John Rylands Caxton copy then will be digitally collated with the other existing Caxton copy. Transcriptions of all the texts will be textually collated. This digital Malory as an intellectual infrastructure will enhance further Malory textual studies as well as serve teaching purposes, and preservation purposes, as it will minimise demands to use the original.
The digital Winchester phase is the result of collaboration between the British Library, the HUMI Project at Keio University, Tokyo, the Centre for Textual Studies (CTS) at De Montfort University, and the University of Wales Bangor. The digitisation was undertaken by a team of Japanese experts in a range of fields: a professional photographer, bibliographers and IT specialists, all from the HUMI Project. It was led by director Professor Toshiyuki Takamiya and technical director Professor Masaaki Kashimura.
The HUMI project is supported by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's Open Research Center (ORC) Project. The HUMI Project--HUMI, read as "fumi" (letters), a Japanese word that can mean documents, literature, and history--aims to pursue research in the field of digital bibliography and to construct a research environment for that purpose. The project has also digitised the British Library's two copies of the Gutenberg Bible and Caxton's first and second editions of The Canterbury Tales.
This web-based edition of the manuscript is being developed by Dr Takako Kato at the CTS at De Montfort University, Mr Colin Wight and his colleagues at the British Library, Professor P.J.C. Field and Dr Raluca Radulescu at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Wales Bangor, and Professor Toshiyuki Takamiya at Keio University. The entire work will be viewable page by page.
It is also planned to develop an enhanced version with a fully searchable transcript, including details of spelling variants, abbreviation and presentation, linked to the page images. This will permit some intriguing features of the manuscript to be investigated. These include scribal errors and corrections, marginalia, textual divisions, the extensive use of red ink, watermarks, dry-point glosses, and offsets of printing ink from Caxton's workshop, as discovered by Dr Lotte Hellinga in 1977. This edition will also be enhanced by essays from experts in the field.