Chaucer's Works (ed. Skeat) Vol. I/Introduction
The present edition of Chaucer contains an entirely new Text, founded solely on the manuscripts and on the earliest accessible printed editions. For correct copies of the manuscripts, I am indebted, except in a few rare instances, to the admirable texts published by the Chaucer Society.
In each case, the best copy has been selected as the basis of the text, and has only been departed from where other copies afforded a better reading. All such variations, as regards the wording of the text, are invariably recorded in the footnotes at the bottom of each page; or, in the case of the Treatise on the Astrolabe, in Critical Notes immediately following the text. Variations in the spelling are also recorded, wherever they can be said to be of consequence. But I have purposely abstained from recording variations of reading that are certainly inferior to the reading given in the text.
The requirements of metre and grammar have been carefully considered throughout. Beside these, the phonology and spelling of every word have received particular attention. With the exception of reasonable and intelligible variations, the spelling is uniform throughout, and consistent with the highly phonetic system employed by the scribe of the very valuable Ellesmere MS. of the Canterbury Tales. The old reproach, that Chaucer's works are chiefly remarkable for bad spelling, can no longer be fairly made; since the spelling here given is a fair guide to the old pronunciation of nearly every word. For further particulars, see the Introduction to vol. iv. and the remarks on Chaucer's language in vol. v.
The present edition comprises the whole of Chaucer's Works, whether in verse or prose, together with a commentary (contained in the Notes) upon every passage which seems to present any difficulty or to require illustration. It is arranged in six volumes, as follows.
Vol. I. commences with a Life of Chaucer, containing all the known facts and incidents that have been recorded, with authorities for the same, and dates. It also contains the Romaunt of the Rose and the Minor Poems, with a special Introduction and illustrative Notes. The Introduction discusses the genuineness of the poems here given, and explains why certain poems, formerly ascribed to Chaucer with more rashness than knowledge, are here omitted.
The attempt to construct a reasonably good text of the Romaunt has involved great labour; all previous texts abound with corruptions, many of which have now for the first time been amended, partly by help of diligent collation of the two authorities, and partly by help of the French original.
Vol. II. contains Boethius and Troilus, each with a special Introduction. The text of Boethius is much more correct than in any previous edition, and appears for the first time with modern punctuation. The Notes are nearly all new, at any rate as regards the English version.
The text of Troilus is also a new one. The valuable 'Corpus MS.' has been collated for the first time; and several curious words, which have been hitherto suppressed because they were not understood, have been restored to the text, as explained in the Introduction. Most of the explanatory Notes are new; others have appeared in Bell's edition.
Vol. III. contains The House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women, and the Treatise on the Astrolabe; with special Introductions. All these have been previously edited by myself, with Notes. Both the text and the Notes have been carefully revised, and contain several corrections and additions. The latter part of the volume contains a discussion of the Sources of the Canterbury Tales.
Vol. IV. contains the Canterbury Tales, with the Tale of Gamelyn appended. The MSS. of the Canterbury Tales, and the mode of printing them, are discussed in the Introduction.
Vol. V. contains a full Commentary on the Canterbury Tales, in the form of Notes. Such as have appeared before have been carefully revised; whilst many of them appear for the first time. The volume further includes all necessary helps for the study of Chaucer, such as remarks on the pronunciation, grammar, and scansion.
Vol. VI. contains a Glossarial Index and an Index of Names.