Alex Steer

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Tweeting the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

348 words | ~2 min

This post is to announce @saxonchronicle, an automated Twitter account that is posting the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle one sentence at a time every hour.

Details first. The text is the public-domain version of the 1912 edition of Rev. James Ingram's 1823 Modern English rendering of the Chronicle, taken from the online text prepared by Douglas B Killings. Ingram's edition is a collation of readings from the nine different Chronicle manuscripts. His translation is not always great and some of his readings are very out of date, but the text was available, and it seemed a bit unnecessary to start tweeting in Old English (though maybe one day). If you're interested in the text of the Chronicle, see Tony Jebson's excellent online edition of the manuscripts.

I built @saxonchronicle partly as a proof-of-concept of an auto-tweeting script. The choice of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle happened, though, because I recognised something rather Twitter-like in the Chronicle as a text. It was begun, probably in Wessex in the 9th century, as a very snappy potted history of the world from a medieval English Christian point of view, and consists firstly of a whirlwind tour through the history of Britain from the birth of Christ to what was then the present day, and secondly of a series of short entries updating the Chronicle year on year. The latest-running version, maintained by the monks at Peterborough, was still being added to in 1154. Like most people's end-of-year letters, it contains a good mix of dramatic incident and humdrum personal notices. Much like Twitter, then.

The script I've written breaks the Chronicle down into sentences and posts them every hour. This may break sometimes if the post fails, and there may be a few sentences that are longer than 140 characters, though I hope not too many. It's all automated, and is a bit experimental, so treat it with patience. It's still easier to read than the original.

# Alex Steer (07/01/2010)