The Ellesmere Chaucer is a beautiful and elaborately decorated manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Created between 1400 and 1405, it contains what is believed to be a portrait of Chaucer as well as miniature paintings of twenty-two of the fictional pilgrims who tell stories in order to enliven the journey from London to Canterbury. The manuscript is in excellent condition partly because it was undisturbed for about three centuries in the library of Sir Thomas Egerton (later Baron Ellesmere) and his family. The binding dates from 1995, when the manuscript was conserved and rebound to meet modern standards of preservation.
Like most medieval manuscripts, the Ellesmere Chaucer was written on vellum, which was probably made from calfskin. The largest calfskins measured about two feet by three feet after they had been prepared for use. Such a skin would have made four leaves (or eight pages). Thus the Ellesmere manuscript took at least fifty-eight of the largest skins.