Piers Plowman Electronic Archive


The long-range goal of the Piers Plowman: Electronic Archive is the creation of a multi-level, hyper-textually linked electronic archive of the textual tradition of all three versions of the fourteenth-century allegorical dream vision Piers Plowman. Project editors Robert Adams, Eric Eliason, Ralph Hanna, III, Thorlac Turville-Petre, and I will begin by making documentary editions of B manuscripts CFGHmLMRW in the first years, by preparing color digital facsimiles of those manuscripts, by reconstructing the B archetype (the latest common copy from which all extant witnesses can be shown to descend), and by establishing a critical edition of the B version with appropriate textual, linguistic, and codicological annotation for each of the three levels of the Archive. We will continue preparing documentary editions of the remaining B manuscripts and early printed texts and begin transcribing A and C manuscripts.

William Langland wrote three distinct versions (A, B, and C) of Piers Plowman. Scribes and early editors produced several more combined versions of A and C. Of the fifty-four more or less complete surviving manuscripts of the poem, seventeen are of the B version, which is now the most widely read, and also the version with the most complex textual history. All the surviving witnesses are full of errors, some the result of incompetence, others the product of sophisticated re-writing.

An electronic edition does not suppress editorial disagreement or impose spurious notions of authority, as printed editions often tend to do. Instead, it embraces the provisional nature of scholarly editing. We shall make permanently available the texts on which future editorial and literary study must be based, and we shall propose a set of solutions to editorial problems without suggesting that they will have final authority. Future scholars will be able to incorporate their own insights into the Archive. By tackling what is textually the most difficult work in Middle English, we hope to develop a model for computer-generated editions that will have value beyond the confines of Middle English literary studies.

– Hoyt Duggan


Hoyt Duggan
Email: hnd@virginia.edu

Last recorded change to this page: 2007-09-21  •  For corrections or updates, contact web@tei-c.org