English Prof. Peter Robinson, who led the project, said it’s the first major literary work, in any language, presented in an app.
“We wanted the public, not just academics, to see the manuscript as (Geoffrey) Chaucer would have likely thought of it — as a performance that mixed drama and humour,” Robinson said.
“We have become convinced, over many years, that the best way to read the Tales is to hear it performed — just as we imagine that Chaucer himself might have performed it at the court of Richard II.”
Jones was a medievalist who wrote two books on Chaucer. Both books are featured in the introduction and notes to the app, along with his translation of The General Prologue.
Robinson believes the work Jones did on the app was his last major project before he passed away on Jan. 21.
“We were so pleased that Terry was able to see and hear this app in the last weeks of his life. His work and his passion for Chaucer was an inspiration to us,” Robinson said.
“We talked a lot about Chaucer and it was his idea that the Tales would be turned into a performance.”
The app is the culmination of 25 years of work by Robinson to digitize The Canterbury Tales.
Chaucer never finished writing The Canterbury Tales, and it has been left to scholars to reconstruct the text from over 30,000 pages in 80 manuscripts.
“The app is important for people who do not know the history behind the production of the Canterbury Tales, and to understand how the modern concept of author didn’t exist back then,” Robinson said.
“We have many manuscripts copied by hand over time, and the Canterbury Tales project hopes to establish where they come from, how they were created and who produced them as part of that history.”
Medievalist Prof. Richard North from University College London, who was part of the project, added the app was designed with just not scholars in mind.
“While the app has material which should be of interest to every Chaucer scholar, it is particularly designed to be useful to people reading Chaucer for the first time,” North said.
“These include not only bachelor of arts university students and school children but also members of the public who have their own interest in Chaucer and his works.”
The app was released on Feb. 1 and Robinson said they have enough material to develop at least two more apps, including Miller’s Tale, the second story in The Canterbury Tales.
The app is available at the Apple Store, Google Play Store and online at http://www.sd-editions.com/CantApp/GP/.