During the years I have been working on R, I have incurred many debts. Dr. Sean Patrick Taylor made available his SGML transcription from his 1995 University of Washington dissertation, "The R Manuscript of Piers Plowman B: a critical facsimile." That text served as the electronic base for the present edition. To Mr. William Plail, graduate student in the University of Virginia's German Department, are owed special thanks for compiling, organizing, and annotating the materials for the linguistic description.
I am particularly indebted to the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) at the University of Virginia. In 1992, IATH, funded by the University, the IBM Corporation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation, began its work of exploring and expanding the potential of information technology as a tool for humanities research. To that end, it has in subsequent years provided a series of faculty Fellows with equipment, extensive consultation, technical support, applications programming, and networked publishing facilities. Cultivating partnerships in humanities computing initiatives with libraries, publishers, information technology companies, scholarly organizations, and others interested in the intersection of computers and cultural heritage, IATH has transformed humanistic computing at the University of Virginia. Without its assistance, much of this edition simply could not have been created.
I have been fortunate to have worked in the company of computer specialists who have understood the special needs of English teachers. First and most profound thanks are offered to the computer professionals at IATH. Their technical support for the Archive has been generous and expert. Special gratitude is due Daniel Pitti, Co-Director of IATH and member of SEENET's Editorial Board, he has worked tirelessly to solve our problems. Thanks are due also to Susan Gants and Stephen Ramsay, whose Perl scripts simplified many a complicated task we could not have done on our own, as well as to Robert W. Bingler, all of whom helped us over many technical and conceptual hurdles, some of our own creation, with unfailing competence, courtesy, and charity. Joy Shifflette, Program Support Technician at IATH, helped us in innumerable ways. Peter Baker, in permitting us to use and extend his Old English fonts, has made it possible for us to display non-standard characters such as yoghs, punctus elevatuses, raised points, etc.
We thank Dr. Clive Field, OBE, former Director of Scholarship & Collections, and Mr. David Way, Director of Publications for the British Library, who gave us access to the manuscript and permission to make and publish digital images of the folios of the Lansdowne fragment. The editor wishes to thank the Curators of the Bodleian Library for their kind permission to reproduce the color images of the Rawlinson Poetry 38 manuscript as well as the Keeper and staff of the Department of Western Manuscripts for their cooperation and assistance in the production of this edition, especially Dr. Bruce Barker-Benfield and Mr. Julius Smit of the Bodleian Library's Imaging Services.
We wish to thank the graduate research assistants who have worked in Charlottesville with us on R. Those competent and energetic young scholars are named on the title page for their part in preparing this text. Their work has been generously supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
No one who works with Piers Plowman can fail to be indebted to the labors of Professor George Kane and his collaborators in editing the Athlone Piers Plowman. First, the Athlone texts were produced to an almost impossibly high standard of transcriptional and collational accuracy. In nearly every instance, we have found their apparatus both full and reliable. Simple transcriptional accuracy is by far the hardest, most demanding task facing any editor as well as one of the most important ones. After several years of checking the Athlone apparatus in a variety of contexts, we can say that it is practically perfect. They have set a high standard. Moreover, they have laid out in their detailed introductions — with an explicitness and transparency unparalleled in editions of Middle English texts — their reasons for hundreds of their editorial decisions. We are accustomed to textual notes for such purposes, notes that call attention to difficult cases and that serve as synecdoches for the full process of editorial reasoning. By publishing these arguments in their introductions, the Athlone editors have austerely placed upon their readers the severe burden of recapitulating at least portions of their editorial project. They have laid out explicitly the evidence they take to be relevant to their editorial decisions, and they invite their readers to challenge their text or their argument of the evidence. More than is usually the case, the Athlone editors have played fair with their readers. We are grateful to them for their achievement and their example.
15 December 2009