We have incurred many debts during the years we have been working on Laud Misc. 581 (L). We are specially grateful 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 every subsequent year 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.

We 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 Professor John Unsworth, Dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, who until this year has been a colleague in the English Department at the University of Virginia and Director of IATH. His support for the Archive has been both generous and unstinting. He has provided equipment, software, space, and monies for research assistants. Even more, he has given us his personal time and shared with us his vast knowledge of computer technology. On too many occasions to detail, he has saved us from the consequences of our ignorance and folly. Other members of his staff have been unfailingly generous with their time and knowledge, especially Daniel Pitti, Project Director of IATH, who has also worked overtime to solve our problems. Thanks are due also 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 and Chris Jessee, who helped us over many technical and conceptual hurdles, some of our own creation, with unfailing competence, courtesy, and charity. Kirk V. Hastings wrote the scripts to convert our SGML files to the XML and HTML files. John Price-Wilkin, who created the first Document Type Definition (DTD) for both The Piers Plowman Electronic Archive and SEENET, taught us to appreciate the elegant complexities of the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), and shepherded us through a myriad other problems. Shayne Brandon provided the final scripts that make automatic loading of scripts and programs possible. Peter Baker, in permitting us to use and extend his Old English Junius fonts and to use his Junicode font has enabled us to display non-standard characters such as yoghs, punctus elevatuses, raised points, etc. Bjarne Melin of the Finnish firm Citec Software LTD Oy, makers of Multidoc Pro and Doczilla Pro, has been extraordinarily helpful and patient in helping us work out various problems related to display. Judith E. Thomas, Director of the Robertson Media Center, Jama S. Coartney, Associate Director of Digital Library Production Services, and Michael Tuite, Head of the Digital Media Lab at the University of Virginia guided us in the reduction and preparation of the JPEG images of the manuscript from the Bodleian's TIFF files. Special thanks are due to William Hodges, Russell Edwards, Jean-Pierre Mialon, and Alan Carter for their help over the years in examining the manuscript.

The editors are deeply grateful to Eugene Lyman, who created the Elwood Viewer, the new text and image browser that enables display and manipulation of the underlying XML text. Thanks are also due to Jonathan Rodney who wrote the suite of style sheets that will permit readers to access our text and introductory files via Internet Explorer.

The editors wish to thank the Curators of the Bodleian Library for their kind permission to reproduce the color images of the 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 W and other manuscripts of Piers Plowman. Those competent and energetic young scholars are named on the title page for their part in preparing this text.

Our work has been generously supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency.

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, as well as one of the most important tasks facing any editor. After several years of checking their apparatus in a variety of contexts, we can say that it is practically perfect. 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.

Ralph Hanna

Hoyt N. Duggan

1 August 2004