The Book of Margery Kempe has become a major text in medieval studies, famed for its first‐person account of a lay woman’s quest for spiritual authority and mystic revelation in a period when some in England were imprisoned, and in a few cases burned, for heresy. The Book survives in a single manuscript: London, British Library, MS Additional 61823. A number of teaching editions have been published in recent years—all based on a critical edition in the EETS Original series (v. 212) from 1940 by Sanford Meech and Hope Emily Allen. This edition has many virtues, but it does not account completely for the interventions of annotating hands (most of these probably belonging to the Carthusians of Mount Grace Priory, themselves fascinated by Margery’s experiences) and it followed common practice in its own time by creating a hybrid critical and reader’s edition without offering a diplomatic transcription as a foundation for future scholars and editors.
Our project's goal is to publish, in collaboration with the British Library, a complete digital facsimile of the The Book of Margery Kempe alongside a transcription that solves many of the problems when print is used to represent medieval manuscripts. Modern transcriptions of medieval manuscripts have always faced compromises in their attempts to translate scribal practices to conventional typefaces and to readers unfamiliar with these practices. Visitors to our site can for the first time see the text of The Book of Margery Kempe stripped of annotating hands or preserved with these annotating hands in individual layers. Visitors will also see in the transcriptions fairly exact representations of medieval scribal practices including special characters, medieval punctuation, and abbreviations that transform or expand with a simple click (or tap). Scalable high‐resolution facsimiles of the manuscript offer many other opportunities for our visitors to investigate this important text.
The full manuscript facsimile of The Book of Margery Kempe in BL Add. 61823, and interactive transcriptions through folio 90, are currently viewable in Showcase. For assistance in using this Web‐based tool, please click (or tap) the Info button to the far right of the Web app's toolbar. The full facsimile and diplomatic edition of Wynkyn de Worde's pamphlet of extracts from The Book of Margery Kempe, based on the copy owned by Cambridge University Library, is also here in Showcase.
We hope to complete the online documentary edition of The Book of Margery Kempe in the fall of 2014.
Over the next year and more, we will add resources for our visitors—including:
a collection of scholarly articles about The Book of Margery Kempe;
interactive commentary from medieval scholars and researchers.
In the interim, we welcome your feedback as we work to bring the first phase of our project online.