One possible flaw of scholarly editions is that they can reflect the interests of the compiler and nothing else. However, to my mind, the purpose of editions is to have the maximum utility to the maximum possible range of interests.

This goal is something I've been reflecting on a lot recently. Nils-Lennart was firstly a syntactician, and his early work was mostly on the grammar of English, especially medieval English, as well as on the writings of J.R.R Tolkien. Later, he became more interested in the manuscript features of the Ormulum and especially in the Latin source materials which inspired Orrm's homilies. I am mainly a phonologist, working with the sounds of English, and I have some experience as a literary scholar. This means that in the directors of the project, five possible kinds of study are highlighted. Syntax, material history, cultural history, phonology and literature are probably enough to be going on with, but there are certainly more ways to view the Ormulum. Orrm's theology is often dismissed as pedantic, repetitive and derivative, but so what? Historians of religion may take an interest in the Ormulum precisely because it represents typical homilies to be read in church to ordinary, uneducated people. Historical linguists will be more interested in things like word order and the inflectional and derivational morphology reflected in grammatical endings. The Ormulum is also in verse, which means it can be analysed as if it were a poem, with all that implies.

Taking these possible areas of interest, I think that at least five versions of the edition are necessary.

A printed diplomatic edition. This is the most detailed sort of edition, with heavy annotation detailing every identifiable feature of the manuscript. Considering that the only extant copy of the Ormulum is Orrm's own working draft, such an edition will be enormous. Since there are so many different symbols, it would probably also bevery expensive to produce. It would be of most use to philologists, phonologists and historians.

A printed critical edition. A simplified version which represents the text in what we think is its intended final form, taking into account the details and changes, but not highlighting or commenting on them. This would be most suitable for students and enthusiasts of Middle English, historians of religion and literary scholars. It would probably be useful for some linguistic purposes too.

A corpus-searchable version of the critical and diplomatic editions in plain text, for programmes like AntConc. This would allow for text features to be revealed by statistical analyses.

A lemmatised, tagged and parsed corpus comparable to the York-Helsinki corpora, and compatible with corpus analysis programmes like CorpusSearch. This would allow for grammatical features to be subject to statistical analysis. It's been a while since I did any serious corpus work, so maybe there are more modern programmes available.

Most importantly, a hypertext edition incorporating all the features of the diplomatic and critical editions, along with supporting materials accessible through this site. This really is the ultimate goal of the online part of the Ormulum project. For this goal, my website design skills are as naught. However, we may soon be in a position to hire a software developer for this very task. Watch this space.      -Andrew