In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • The Piers Plowman Electronic Archive
  • Stephen A. Barney
Hoyt N. Duggan, Project Director. The Piers Plowman Electronic Archive. The Society for Early English & Norse Electronic Texts (SEENET). Seven compact disks. Vol. 1: Robert Adams, Hoyt N. Duggan, Eric Eliason, Ralph Hanna III, John Price-Wilkin, and Thorlac Turville-Petre, eds. Corpus Christi College, Oxford MS 201 (F). $77.50. Vol. 2: Thorlac Turville-Petre and Hoyt N. Duggan, [End Page 396] eds. Cambridge, Trinity College, MS B.15.17 (W). $80.00. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000. For the Medieval Academy of America and SEENET. Vol. 3: Katherine Heinrichs, ed. Oxford, Oriel College, MS 79 (O). 2004. $50.00; £30.00. Vol. 4: Hoyt. N. Duggan and Ralph Hanna, eds. Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud Misc. 581 (L). 2004. $50.00; £30. Vol. 5: Eric Eliason, Thorlac Turville-Petre, and Hoyt. N. Duggan, eds. London, British Library MS Additional 35287 (M) 2005. $50.00; £30.00. Vol. 6: Michael Calabrese, Hoyt N. Duggan, and Thorlac Turville-Petre, eds. San Marino, Huntington Library Hm 128 (Hm, Hm2). 2008. $50.00/£30.00. Vol. 7: Robert Adams, ed. London, British Library, MS Lansdowne 398 & Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson Poetry 38 (R) 2011. $50.00; £30.00. Rochester, N.Y.: Boydell & Brewer.

This magnificent resource takes pride of place in sophistication if not size among the many other massive digitizing projects in literary studies, among them the Dante and Rossetti materials, the Chaucer Project, the huge Middle English database of the University of Michigan Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse (which includes older editions of Piers Plowman by Skeat and Schmidt), the enormous TEAMS Middle English Texts Series—along with the ever-expanding corpora of high-quality medieval manuscript facsimiles on line, especially in England (the whole Parker Library! select Oxford manuscripts, including Piers MS F of B!), France, Germany, and Italy. When put together with JSTOR’s trove of scholarly articles and Google’s (warmly to be thanked) search engine and free scholarly book services, we are simply in a different research world from even ten years ago. This Archive and its peers have scarcely begun to be exploited.

Each of the Archive’s disks contains complete color facsimiles of the manuscripts treated, presented in two levels of photographic quality (I found no need for the sharper of the two), along with searchable and manipulable transcriptions of the texts and long introductions. The transcriptions, with elaborate but user-friendly hyperlinks, are able to show manuscript features well beyond what used to be called “diplomatic” texts—such things as the color of ink, the “touching” of letters with red, parasigns, cartouches, superscripts, marginalia, catchwords, croppings and various other types of damage to the writing, abbreviation expansions, corrections, and additions. A manuscript like M (vol. 5), with its 5,000 erasures and 3,500 additions by various hands, is [End Page 397] surely more manageable for study in this form than in the flesh. Not tagged, for good reason, are grammatical and metrical features of the text. As the editors point out, it is easy for an individual user to construct a concordance of each manuscript’s text using various inexpensive or free programs.

A 1994 online prospectus written by Hoyt Duggan, the leader of this project, sketches its origins in his and Robert Adams’s dissatisfaction with some features of the great Athlone edition of Piers directed by George Kane, specifically in that edition’s failure to exploit Duggan’s and Thomas Cable’s findings about the meter of alliterative b-verses, and in its narrow focus on individual lections and single lines as opposed to larger textual units. By 1994, Duggan and Adams were joined by Eric Eliason, Ralph Hanna III, and Thorlac Turville-Petre, and the five, later joined by at least seven other editors, have persisted with the good health and the financial backing—especially that of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia— required for such a project. They have also been supported by the publishers who issued the CDs, and the fragile nature of such support is indicated by the shift of publishers after the first...