DOE Project Foundations
The Research Collection
In 1970, the Dictionary of Old English Project, under the direction of Angus Cameron, Professor of Old English, began with the establishment of a research collection.
The DOE's research collection includes a reference library of dictionaries; at least one copy of each known Old English text; semantic and etymological studies of Old English words; facsimiles of Old English and Latin manuscripts from Anglo-Saxon England; and a selection of scholarly journals and monographs about the language, literature, and culture of Anglo-Saxon England.
The DOE is proudest of its original volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary, pictured above. These were scrounged, through the kind offices of a friendly librarian, when the Faculty of Dentistry de-accessioned its holdings.
The DOE's research collection is continuously evolving. DOE researchers, colleagues, and collaborators keep track of current scholarship and update both the research collection and the Old English Corpus.
The DOE Corpus
After the research collection was established, the Dictionary of Old English Project turned to the creation of an electronic corpus that included at least one version of every known Old English text.
"In the early seventies [...] we rekeyed the entire corpus (that was almost the only means of data entry then) and our secretary, Elaine Quanz, spent most of six years typing it. But because time on the mainframe computer was very expensive, she didn't key the texts into an on-line file, but rather typed them in a special IBM Selectric font, OCR-B, which was legible to a primitive optical scanner. [...] The old-fashioned system did not function too badly, chiefly because of the extraordinary speed and accuracy--to say nothing of the good nature--of our secretary. The texts were typed one by one, coded with their alphanumeric text codes and entered with substitute characters for Old English æ, þ, ð, and ę. They were collected in batches and sent off to be scanned." (Ashley Crandell Amos, "Computers and Lexicography: The Dictionary of Old English," Editing, Publishing, and Computer Technology, AMS Press, Inc., 1988).
The scanning occurred not a moment too soon. Two scanning companies went out of business while Elaine was inputtting the original materials. The DOE managed to get the scanning done just in time, before the third company also went out of business.