It occurs to me that some of you might not know about the mapping project. Those of you who do might want more information on my sources and my progress. Here is an update on what the project is, how it’s going, and why I think it’s important.
Last spring I was inspired by Martin Foys’s project to assemble a digital map of all versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Most editions of the Chronicle are collations: that is, they take some annals from each and present them as one text. I find this misleading, at the very best.
Nine manuscripts or fragments exist:
A-Prime The Parker Chronicle (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS. 173)
A Cottonian Fragment (British Museum, Cotton MS. Otho B xi, 2)
B The Abingdon Chronicle I (British Museum, Cotton MS. Tiberius A vi.)
C The Abingdon Chronicle II (British Museum, Cotton MS. Tiberius B i.)
D The Worcester Chronicle (British Museum, Cotton MS.Tiberius B iv.)
E The Laud (or “Peterborough”) Chronicle (Bodleian, MS.Laud 636)
F The Bilingual Canterbury Epitome (British Museum, Cotton MS. Domitian A viii.)
H Cottonian Fragment (British Museum, Cotton MS. Domitian A ix.)
I An Easter Table Chronicle (British Museum, Cotton MS.Caligula A xv.)
I began my project by mapping the invasion sites–inherently geographical entries– of manuscript E:
|Ninth century invasion sites, Peterborough
Clicking on a location exhibits the place name, date, facsimile, transcription, and translation of the annal:
|Annals mentioning Thanet
This project is part of a larger effort to create a searchable map of the Peterborough Chronicle and, eventually, to incorporate optional layers for the other Anglo-Saxon Chronicles as well. I began working with a programmer to create a database that will sort the sites by place, event, and date range. A complete database will make the map an interactive site unto itself, reinvigorating the scholarly discussions of empire, borderlands, nation-building, warfare, changes in the English language and paleography, pre-printing book creation and dissemination, and sociological issues embedded in the texts’ chronological structures.
This summer I began my second pre-database stage: comparative mapping. This map charts sites from 10th c annals exclusive to any version of the Chronicle, displaying the regional and temporal privileging of each. Again, this is part of a larger endeavor to incorporate all mentioned places in each variant into a searchable, layered map/website.
|HOLLER. 10th century locations exclusive to each version.
One can easily spot emerging patterns, which is encouraging because the versions’ relationships with one another are notoriously difficult to trace.
Theoretically this is a project of both abstraction and production: in limiting the contexts and locations within these annals, each user will be creating a new object to be interpreted—one that sheds light on relationships within and among the textual variants. The evolution of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is notoriously difficult to discern, but perhaps visualizing its texts on a map will help us see new connections among them in what Franco Moretti might call a “diagram of forces.”
Yet even at this stage, the map is more than a diagram. Google Earth visually contextualizes the Chronicle’s events; zooming the viewers to particular locations and offering related hyperlinks, the map creates living memories for sites that usually don’t have any registers for modern readers. The zoom and linking features also call attention to the multiple temporalities with which we’re working.
The Chronicle Map’s practical uses range from referential index of place-names to digital compilation of the Chronicle’s texts; from battle-field map to paleography app. And can you imagine the teaching applications?! Importantly, creating a space for non-specialists to visually explore the chronicles and their content, especially in relationship to one another, will improve their accessibility and bring the texts into medievalists’ mainstream discourse.