Scientific Correspondence

Nature 394, 839 (27 August 1998) | doi:10.1038/29667

The phylogeny of The Canterbury Tales

Adrian C. Barbrook1, Christopher J. Howe1, Norman Blake2 & Peter Robinson3

Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales survives in about 80 different manuscript versions1. We have used the techniques of evolutionary biology to produce what is, in effect, a phylogenetic tree showing the relationships between 58 extant fifteenth-century manuscripts of "The Wife of Bath's Prologue" from The Canterbury Tales. We found that many of the manuscripts fall into separate groups sharing distinct ancestors.

  1. Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1QW, UK
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  2. Humanities Research Institute, Arts Tower, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK
  3. The Division of Learning Development, Gateway House, De Montfort University, Leicester LE1 5XY, UK