Palaeographical Cruxes in Old English Manuscripts

Principle Investigator

  1. Antoinette Healey, Editor, Dictionary of Old English, University of Toronto


  1. Stephen Pelle, University of Toronto
  2. Alex Fleck, University of Toronto

Systems Analyst

  1. Xin Xiang


The Dictionary of Old English (DOE, is a born-digital lexicographic project the aim of which is to define the vocabulary of the first six centuries (CE 600-1150) of the English language using the technological aids available at the start of the twenty-first century.

From time to time DOE cites a quotation where there is a crux or some sort of problem with the manuscript reading. The proposed project will allow users of DOE to “click” and see visually the problematic letter(s) and the surrounding space on a manuscript folio/page, in the case of manuscripts that are now available digitally in Parker on the Web, (

As we implement the hyperlinks between DOE and digital manuscript surrogates from Parker on the Web in collaboration with the Stanford University Libraries’ Modular and Interoperating Environment project, we will also engage in analysis and classification of the types of scribal habits and the possible social or linguistic circumstances that lie behind puzzling manuscript readings in the Old English period.


1. DOE will be providing its users with the evidentiary basis for its readings and interpretations of the puzzling word or phrase. The new evidence implicitly invites users to assess the evidence themselves (and agree or disagree with the DOE interpretations of each crux, and so the history of a word). It will shift the DOE – and in the process Parker on the Web and similar collections – in the direction of increased user interactivity.

2. This mapping of the text to image frees users from the redoubtable authority of the standard printed editions.

3. The project enables manuscript images to break out from the static and unsearchable world of facsimiles into a dynamic and searchable system.

4. The project will establish a standard for the linking up of manuscript images with text in a more refined and precise way than has previously been achieved and so facilitate interconnectivity and interoperability among other medieval digitization projects.

5. The project will provide basic data for a range of different studies including the theory of cultural transmission in the age of manuscripts, the understanding of how scribes and readers experience texts and the writing and reading communities they create, and the conceptualization of issues that aid or impede communication.