Talk:Ælfric's Lives of Saints

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Information about this edition of the text[edit]

Welcome to this electronic edition of Ælfric's Lives of Saints, being the earliest hagiographic collection written in a European vernacular (vi⁊ Old English, West-Saxon dialect), on the edge of the first millennium.


Information about this edition
Edition: Ælfric's Lives of Saints, edited by Walter W. Skeat (1881 and 1900)
Source: Both volumes are available at the Internet Archive
Contributor(s): Júda Ronén
Level of progress: Partial; only some of the chapters are typed. Priority is given to strict hagiographies, with homilies following
Notes: If you contribute to this project, please pay attention to the exact formatting and orthography in use. Thank you!
Proofreaders: Júda Ronén

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This edition is in the public domain.

What is this?[edit]

Ælfric (born c. 955) is one of the most prominent authors in Old English. Among many other writings, he authored two series of homilies (Sermones Catholici). This hagiographic collection, which can practically be regarded as forming a ‘third series’, dates 996-997.

The electronic edition before you is based on an excellent edition by W. W. Skeat, which was edited primarily from MS. Cotton Julius E. vii. It basically reproduces the text as it stands in Skeat's edition, but with de-expanding the contractions, making it closer to the original manuscript.

Raison d'être (by Júda Ronén)[edit]

They say necessity if the mother of invention. Well, in my case it is necessity that drove me into tedious typing of thousands of lines in Old English: I'm currently writing an M.A. thesis on the narrative grammar of Ælfric's Lives of Saints. For my work, I needed an electronic — searchable, copy-paste-able — edition of the corpus. I've looked far and wide for such an edition, but all I found was the Toronto Dictionary of Old English corpus, which is indeed very impressive but ignores the original punctuation and orthography, and introduces various changes (such as modern punctuation, god forbid!…). For my purposes, this makes it quite unusable. So, if no one have made any suitable electronic edition of this wonderful text, I had to make one, and the result is before you (it is currently work in progress).

The way I see it editors are just another link in the long chain of scribes. Once they used to sit in candle-lit rooms using the skin of a dead animal; nowadays they sit under fluorescent lamps typing on keys made of ancient fossilized organic materials (again, dead animals…).

The previous link in this particular chain is W. W. Skeat (1835–1912), whose photograph is on the right. Between 1881 and 1900 he published the first press edition of Ælfric's Lives of Saints (Skeat, Walter W. (ed. and tr.), with Gunning and Wilkinson (translators into Modern English). Ælfric’s Lives of Saints. Being a set of sermons on saints’ days formerly observed by the English Church. EETS OS 76, 82 and 94, 114. London: N. Trübner & Co., 1881–85, 1890-1900. Reprinted as 2 volumes, 1966). This edition is still the one used today by scholars, more than one hundred years after its publication. It is on this distinguished edition that I based the one before you. It is by no means intended to be a replacement for Skeat's edition (it does not, for example, contain any scholarly notes or readings from manuscripts other than Cotton Julius E. vii), but a supplement, suitable for certain uses. A new, definitive, edition of this text is certainly needed; I have many ideas as to what exactly it will look like, but I hope this edition may be used in order to save time digitising the text.

This edition was originally meant to be hosted on a private yet publicly readable wiki. After reading this I've decided to use Wikisource instead, and I'm very happy with this decision!

--Rumpelstilzchen (talk) 12:30, 7 April 2012 (UTC)

Comparison of editions[edit]

  • style="border: 1px solid black"

Three first lines of the passion of Eadmund from MS Cotton Julius E. vii f. 203 recto

  • Eadmund-skeat.jpg

The same lines from p. 314 of the second volume of Skeat's edition

Eadmund se eadiga eastengla cynincg
ƿæs snotor ⁊ ƿurðfull · ⁊ ƿurðode symble
mid æþelum þeaƿum þone ælmihtigan god ·

This edition (use the Junicode font for best results)


This is how I see the desirable progress of this project:

  1. Finishing typing the hagiographies in
  2. Finishing typing the rest in
  3. Adding Skeat's footnotes
  4. Obtaining a digital facsimile of the main manuscript (MS Julius E. vii.), and uploading it to Wikimedia Commons. Right now I have low resolution files for Eadmund (#32) only.
  5. Fixing every place in which doubt occurs about the accuracy of Skeat's reading of the MS (I'm sure we will find most doubts unjustified)
  6. Unifying contractions according to the MS
  7. Linking the text with the images of the facsimile, by using the Proofread Page extension
  8. Obtaining digital facsimiles of the other MSs
  9. Linking them as well, page by page, so the reader will be able to compare them easily
  10. Verifying Skeat's footnotes
  11. Having eternal glory :-)

I'll be happy to hear your thoughts :-)

--Rumpelstilzchen (talk) 06:47, 8 April 2012 (UTC)

Hi. As a general comment, I think that if you will find the text to be uploaded to Commons, it is more convenient to do all the text work directly in the proofreading extension. You will avoid the typing thanks to OCR and can concentrate in fixing OCRs errors. Moreover, everything will be comparable page by page, not only the images.--Mpaa (talk) 11:26, 8 April 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for comment. Although this might ease the work on the Modern English translation in Skeat's edition (in which I'm not interested so much; if anyone else wants to add it, go ahead), I fear it will only slow things down as far as the Old English text is concerned, since the output of the OCR will be too jumbled to be useful. You see, even in a nice and tidy printed book like Skeat's, OCRing Old English poses various difficulties, such as the significant use of italics (e.g. "sancte" vs. "sancte") in modern editions. OCRing medieval manuscripts is well out of the question for the next hundreds of years… --Rumpelstilzchen (talk) 13:06, 8 April 2012 (UTC)

To this I'll add 10.5: a new translation! --Rumpelstilzchen (talk) 08:52, 9 April 2012 (UTC)

Chances are slim you'll pull off making the facsimiles publicly accessible. Libraries tend to assert copyright over the facsimiles they produce, no matter how you and I may protest about the principle of substantial modification. --Pslangeslag (talk) 20:27, 14 April 2012 (UTC)

Vim keymap[edit]

I've just uploaded the custom keymap I made for typing Old English in Vim. In case you want to contribute to this edition or type in Old English for any other purpose, you might be interested in having a look at it: [1]