Posts tagged ‘canterbury tales’

Reading the Canterbury Tales, old school

After my previous encounters with the Canterbury Tales, I’ve decided to read the entire thing. As before, I think that reading a modern translation loses the interesting parts of the language and screws up the poetry, so I want to read it in Middle English. and just because I can, I’m reading (a copy of) a 600-year old handwritten version. Those are images of the Hengwrt (“HENG-urt”) manuscript, which was probably written sometime between 1400 and 1410 (note that Chaucer himself died in 1400, but it’s hard to get closer to when he was alive). The images are very high quality; click the “all sizes” button towards the top to enlarge it a bit, then the “original resolution” link to see its true glory. I wish there was a way to set the default resolution higher, but I don’t know if that’s possible.

Sure, I could read a version with original spelling in a modern font, and towards the end I probably will. but for the moment, the novelty of reading a handwritten manuscript hasn’t worn off, so I’m persisting. It took a bit of time to get the hang of the handwriting and grammar, so in the interests of helping others follow in my footsteps, here is an illustrated guide to reading the manuscript.

Learn about letters and the alphabet, grammar, spelling and vocabulary, and other tips for reading Middle English manuscripts behind this cut →

Vannevar Bush would be proud