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Feathering the Text


Freeman, C, Feathering the Text, Rethinking Chaucerian Beasts, Palgrave Macmillan, C Van Dyke (ed), New York, pp. 33-47. ISBN 978-0-230-33858-6 (2012) [Research Book Chapter]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2012 Carolynn Van Dyke

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Real he was, he was namoore aferd.
Hefethered Pertelote twenty tyme,
And trad hire eke as ojte, er it was pryme.

"The Nun's Priest's Tale," Geoffrey Chaucer.

Imagine you are reading Chaucer's words as they were originally inscribed in a parchment codex. If you are not forced to wear cotton gloves because of the fragility of the manuscript and the efficiency of librarians or museum staff, you can feel the soft, buff-colored, slightly stiff pages and remember they were once pink and covered with hairs - a warm, supple part of an animal. Eighty-two parchment manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales have survived from the fifteenth century. The Hengwrt Chaucer, probably the earliest manuscript of this work, is inscribed on heavily stained and damaged parchment, described as "scruffy, incomplete, mis-bound and rat-damaged." Images of the manuscript online give us some idea of the appearance of the pages, but little of the information given on websites addresses the idea of the animal as the book. In contrast, the Ellesmere Chaucer is said to be written on fine vellum by a highly accomplished scribe. The Huntington Library website notes that the manuscript is made of calfskins, and estimates that the largest would have measured about two feet by three feet. "Such a skin would have made four leaves (or eight pages). Thus the Ellesmere manuscript took at least fifty-eight of the largest skins."

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Microbiology
Research Field:Microbiology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Communication
Objective Field:Communication across languages and culture
UTAS Author:Freeman, C (Dr Carol Freeman)
ID Code:83818
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:English, Journalism and European Languages
Deposited On:2013-03-22
Last Modified:2017-11-20

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