The Middle Ages saw a considerable quantity of writing in English, with perhaps five million words surviving from the eleventh century alone. Much of this material is available online, but at present it requires considerable expertise to know where.
The Searobend project – which takes its name from an Old English word meaning ‘clever linkage’ – will use techniques from computer science to link fifteen major resources for the study of English texts from the High Middle Ages (c. 1000-1300), making much clearer how much survives and what proportion of this is available digitally. This will considerably enhance the utility of these resources for scholars and facilitate the next generation of research on this formative period of literary, linguistic and cultural history.
It will also bring significant benefits for non-specialists approaching the medieval period, including schoolchildren, undergraduates and community groups, by reducing the sometimes confusing variety of names by which some works are known and providing basic information about each, thereby facilitating users to engage more deeply with these manuscripts.
Searobend is one of 21 research projects to receive investment under the IRC’s COALESCE programme awards.
Claire Breay, Head of Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts, The British Library and Secretary, Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections
Vasilis Karaiskos, Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English, University of Edinburgh
Martin Kauffmann, Head of Early and Rare Collections, Bodleian Library, Oxford
Terttu Nevalainen, Professor and Chair of English Philology, University of Helsinki, and Director of the Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English
Suzanne Paul, Keeper of Rare Books and Early Manuscripts, Cambridge University Library
Stephen Pelle, Co-Editor, Dictionary of Old English, University of Toronto
Paul Schaffner, Editor, Middle English Dictionary, University of Michigan
Laura Shanahan, Head of Research Collections, Library of Trinity College Dublin
Ann Taylor, Professor Emerita, Department of Language and Linguistic Science, University of York and Co-creator of the York-Toronto Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Old English Prose and Penn Parsed Corpus of Middle English Prose
David Woodman, Director of Studies in History, Robinson College, Cambridge and Secretary to the British Academy Committee on Anglo-Saxon Charters
Mark Faulkner is the Arts and Humanities PI on the Searobend Project. He is Ussher Assistant Professor in Medieval Literature in the School of English at Trinity College Dublin. He has published widely on twelfth-century English and is the author of A New Literary History of the Long Twelfth Century: Language and Literature between Old and Middle English (Cambridge University Press, 2022). Another strand of his work, evident in articles like ‘Quantifying the Consistency of ‘Standard’ Old English’, ‘Habemus Corpora: Reapproaching Philological Problems in the Age of Big Data’ and ‘Corpus Philology, Big Dating and Bottom-Up Periodisation’, centres on bringing new quantitative precision to our understanding of the medieval textual record. Mark has worked closely with Trinity’s Library to increase public access to manuscripts through lecture series like Beyond the Book of Kells and the Carnegie-funded Manuscripts for Medieval Studies project.
Colleen Curran is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Searobend project. She was previously employed as the main Anglo-Latin and manuscripts Postdoctoral Research Fellow on 'A Consolidated Library of Anglo-Saxon Poetry', an ERC-funded project based in the Faculty of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on hybrid scripts in the Insular world and the differences in the physical presentation of Latin and the vernacular on the manuscript page. She is also interested in the ever-evolving role of Digital Humanities within the study of medieval manuscripts.
Declan O'Sullivan is the Computer Science PI on the Searobend Project. He is a Professor in Computer Science at the TCD School of Computer Science and Statistics, and is a co-applicant Principal Investigator in the ADAPT SFI Research Centre. Since joining TCD from industry in 2001, Declan has established himself as an international research leader in his field: authoring 260+ scientific peer-reviewed papers and international Journals; being a member of 3 journal editorial boards and having undertaken 12+ chair roles in IEEE and IFIP conferences over the years. He has won competitive research funding as PI and Co-PI of approximately 7.8M euro. Funding has been won across a range of funding programmes: European Commission (H2020 and Marie Curie); Science Foundation Ireland (FAME, CNGL, ADAPT); HEA PRTLI (NEMBES, TGI) and from industry: Huawei, Accenture, Ericsson, Nokia Bell Labs, Ordnance Survey Ireland, Central Statistics Office. He was elected as a Fellow in Trinity College Dublin in 2019 in recognition for the quality of his contributions.
Lucy McKenna is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Searobend project. She previously worked as a postdoc on the Access Risk Knowledge (ARK) Project in the ADAPT Centre, Dublin City University. Lucy's research focuses on the use of Linked Data in the library, archive and museum domains.