This blog entry represents the first breaking of ground of the new Ormulum Project website. The Ormulum is a book of sermons, written by a monk and designed to be read by priests in services. It is written in a unique variety of Middle English, from southern Lincolnshire, between around 1150 and 1180. This project presents a searchable, fully annotated edition of the Ormulum suitable for any sort of research project, along with substantial ancilliary information about all its aspects.


The Ormulum is an important source of information about the English language after the Norman Conquest, as very little English was written until around 1300, as English had been replaced by French in all official documents and in most other writing too. It is referenced in hundreds of research articles and dictionary entries. Indeed, for many dozens of words, the Ormulum is the first time the word is found in English writing. However, there are complicating factors. The manuscript is the author's own personal working copy, which he worked on with the help of one assistant for around 30 years. There are literally thousands of erasures, deletions, replacements, cross-references, overwritings, modifications, corrected errors, uncorrected errors, errors corrected with further errors, burns, tears, scratches, blots, smudges and little bits of scribbly parchment jammed in between the pages. It took 30 years to make it and it would take 30 years just to make sense of it.

Fortunately, Nils-Lennart Johannesson spent nearly 30 years making sense of it. His contribution to the understanding of the Ormulum in a modern context can never be overstated. Comparable amounts of time spent by earlier scholars lead to an edition in 1852 and a reworking in 1878. These editions are useful for some applications, but are imprecise and unreliable in various ways, which I'll probably explore in later blogs.

The purpose of this website is to provide electronic editions of the Ormulum based on Nils-Lennart Johannesson's findings, and to pursue original research on the same text. This blog will keep the reader informed of the developments as the website is constructed. We hope to have all the essential documentation online by January 2021.   -Andrew