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Title: Authorial or Scribal?
Subtitle: Spelling Variation in the Hengwrt and Ellesmere Manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales
Series Title: LOT Dissertation Series 198
Description:

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales has come down to us in about 80
fifteenth-century manuscripts, none of which is in his own hand. What is
conventionally referred to as ‘Chaucer’s language’ is the language found in
two early texts of The Canterbury Tales, the Hengwrt and the Ellesmere
manuscripts. Despite the fact that these manuscripts were copied by the
same scribe, traditionally known as Scribe B and recently identified as
Adam Pinkhurst, they are characterised by significant spelling differences.

This dissertation is an analysis of spelling variation in Hengwrt and
Ellesmere, supplemented by comparisons with three other texts copied by
this scribe, i.e. three quires of a manuscript of Gower’s Confessio
Amantis, a fragment of the Prioress’s Prologue and the Prioress’s Tale and
a fragment of Troilus and Criseyde. Comparison of spelling variants in all
fifteenth-century manuscripts of the The General Prologue, The Miller’s
Tale, The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and The Nun’s Priest’s Tale was made
possible by the digital tools recently developed by the Canterbury Tales
Project at the University of Birmingham. The results of the present study
show that spelling differences between Hengwrt and Ellesmere are not due to
changes in Scribe B’s spelling habits, but to his different approach
towards the two texts. Hengwrt is a manuscript produced to collect all
tales in one codex, whereas Ellesmere is a more prestigious version of the
same work. The spelling in Hengwrt is probably more faithful to the
original version, while in El the scribe appears to have normalised the
spelling in accordance with his interpretation of what he assumed to be
Chaucer’s orthographic habits.

These findings will be helpful to scholars interested in doing further
research on the spelling of the Hengwrt and the Ellesmere manuscripts, and
more generally on Chaucer’s language.

Publication Year: 2008
Publisher: Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics / Landelijke (LOT)
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BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Ling & Literature
Spelling variation
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Versions:
Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9789078328728
Pages: 260
Prices: EuropeEURO 24.21