Digitizing Chaucer

The Guardian: British Library digitises Chaucer for the internet. Aside from the lowercase i, what’s interesting about this story is that they’re not talking about making the text available (it’s already pretty widely available), but high resolution images, as they helped to do with the Gutenberg Bible project.

There are two interesting things about this project:

  1. Typography freaks like myself will get to see in glorious hi-res the work of William Caxton, who was one of the earliest printers in England.
  2. The existing books are pretty fragile and this will make sure that people have an alternative to viewing them in person, which exposes them to additional damage.

I used to work at the Electronic Text Center when I was an undergrad at Virginia. I was reading Beowulf in Old English at the time, and was blown away when I saw the British Library’s first digitizations of the Beowulf manuscript. I could look at the passages that were debated by scholars and understand why they were debated (generally, the manuscript was falling apart in places).