Skeat on the Manuscripts of the Anglo-Saxon Gospels

The following paragraphs are copied from Walter W. Skeat’s Preface to The Gospel According to Saint Mark in Anglo-Saxon and Northumbrian Versions Synoptically Arranged, with Collations Exhibiting All the Readings of All the MSS., Edited for the Syndics of the University Press by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat (Cambridge, 1871).

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As to the general account of our early versions of the Scriptures, and the MSS. in which they are contained, the reader cannot do better than consult the Preface to “The Gothic and Anglo-Saxon Gospels,” &c., edited by the Rev. Joseph Bosworth, D.D., and G. Waring Esq., published in 1865. In the Preface also to the Wycliffite Versions of the Holy Bible, edited by the Rev. J. Forshall and Sir F. Madden, K.H. in 1850, there is a passage which exhibits the whole matter so clearly and briefly that it is advisable to quote it at length, together with the valuable footnotes appended to it.

“The poem which bears the name of Cædmon, gives several passages of Scripture with tolerable fidelity, and it might require extended notice, if the epic and legendary character of the composition suffered it to be ranked among the versions of holy writ. 1 Aldhelm, bishop of Sherborn, who died in 709, is reported to have rendered the Psalter into his native language, 2 and the Anglo-Saxon version, discovered in the Royal Library at Paris about the beginning of the present century, has been supposed to be at least in part his production. The first fifty psalms are in prose, the others in verse. 3

“Bede wrote chiefly for the learned; yet that the common people might more easily be taught the elements of their religion, he turned the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer into Anglo-Saxon, and frequently presented copies of these formularies to such illiterate priests as came under his notice. 4 He died in 735, and one of his last efforts was a translation of the Gospel of St John, which he seems to have completed, just as death put an end to his labours. 5

“Alfred, in his zeal for the improvement of his country, did not overlook the importance of vernacular Scripture. At the head of his laws he set in Anglo-Saxon the ten commandments, with such of the Mosaic injunctions in the three following chapters of Exodus, as were most to his purpose. What other parts of the Bible he translated, it is difficult to determine. A remarkable passage in his preface to the Pastoral of Pope Gregory6 leaves no room for doubt, that if the more necessary portions of holy writ were not made accessible to his subjects in their own tongue, it was only because this wise and pious prince failed of the opportunity to accomplish his wishes.

“Whatever might be the extent of Alfred’s biblical labours, it is beyond question that soon after his days the Anglo-Saxon Church had her own interpretations of those parts of Scripture which were in most frequent use. The Psalter ascribed to Aldhelm, if it be not the work of that prelate, certainly cannot be later than the ninth century. To the same period may be safely attributed the Anglo-Saxon translation of the Gospels. 7 Several MSS. of it are preserved; but none of them appear to give the version in its original purity. Successive transcribers adapted the language to the idioms and inflexions of their own times and provinces. Some however of the copies are earlier and less degenerate than others. The latest seems to be considerably subsequent to the conquest, the most ancient may have been written more than a hundred years before it. 8

“But it was not solely to this version that the unlettered Anglo-Saxon was indebted for a knowledge of what the Evangelists record. Access was also afforded to their narratives by means of verbal glosses made in copies of the Latin Gospels. These glosses were written between the lines of the text, rendering it in the same order word by word. Of the two glosses which are now exstant, one is found in the famous book of Durham, 9 and was made by the priest Aldred, probably in the tenth century; the other of the same age is contained in a MS. of the Bodleian Library, 10 and had for its authors Owun and Farman, the latter a priest at Harewood.

“Similar glosses had been made on the Psalter. A gloss of this kind, probably of the ninth century, was published in 1640 from a MS. 11 belonging to sir Henry Spelman, by his son, afterwards sir John. 12 Another gloss of the same period was published by the Surtees Society in 1843. 13 Variations from these glosses are found in several other MSS. 14 Glosses also occur on the canticles of the church, and the Lord’s prayer; on portions of Scripture in the ritual of Durham, 15 and on the more difficult words of the book of Proverbs. 16

“Towards the close of the tenth century Ælfric translated, omitting some parts and greatly abridging others, the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, a portion of the books of Kings, Esther, Job, Judith, and the Maccabees. 17 He also drew up in Anglo-Saxon a brief account of the books of the Old and New Testament; 18 and lastly, by the texts and quotations used in his numerous homilies, he added greatly to the knowledge of the sacred volume. 19

“The writings which are still exstant shew that the Anglo-Saxon church must have had in her own tongue a considerable amount of scriptural instruction. But these cannot be the full measure of what our forefathers possessed. Much, it cannot be doubted, perished in the troubles and confusion attending the incursions and pillages of the Danes; and much, subsequently, through the disfavour shewn by the Normans to the Anglo-Saxon language and literature. 20


1 “Cædmon was a monk of Whitby, in the seventh century. The poem as it now exists has, probably, been materially altered by the reciters and transcribers of a later period. It has been twice published, first by Francis Junius in 1655, and next by Mr. Benjamin Thorpe in 1832.” Also by C. W. M. Grein in 1857.

2 “Bale, Scriptorum illustr. catalogus, ed. 1557, p. 84.”

3 “It was edited for the delegates of the Oxford University Press by Mr. Benjamin Thorpe, under the title, Liber Psalmorum, versio antiqua Latina, cum Paraphrasi Anglo-Saxonica, etc. 8vo. Oxon. 1835.”

4 “Bedæ ep. ad Egbertum; see Hist. Eccl. ed. Smith, Cantab. 1722, p. 306.”

5 “Cuthberti Vita Bedæ; see Eccl. Hist. p. 793.”

6 “See Annales Ælfredi, auct. Asserio, ed. Wise, [Annales Rerum Gestarum Ælfredi Magni, auctore Asserio Meneuensi, Recensuit Franciscus Wise, Oxford, 1722] p. 84.”

7 “Published three times: 1. by abp. Parker in 1571; 2. by Dr Marshall, rector of Lincoln college, in 1665; and 3. by Mr Benjamin Thorpe, in 1842.” Also by Dr. Bosworth, 1865.

8 “The MSS. still remaining are, 1. Corp. Ch. Coll. Camb. S. 4; 2. Brit. Mus. Cotton. Otho C. 1; 3. Bodl. 441; 4. Univ. Lib. Camb. Ii. 2. 11; 5. Brit. Mus. Old R. Libr. 1 A. 14; and 6. Bodl. Hatton 65. The first two are the earliest.”

9 “Brit Mus. Cotton. Nero D. 4.”

10 “Bodl. Rushworth 3946.”

11 “Afterwards in the Stowe collection No. xxviii. and now in the possession of the Earl of Ashburnham.”

12 “With the title Psalterium Davidis Latino-Saxonicum Vetus. 4to. London, 1640.”

13 “Anglo-Saxon and Early English Psalter, 2 vols. 8vo. 1843, edited by the Rev. J. Stevenson. The Anglo-Saxon gloss is taken from the Cotton MS. Vespasian A. 1, and besides the Psalter, comprises Ps. cli., nine of the Canticles, and hymns for matins, the evening, and the Lord’s day.”

14 “Of three MSS. partial collations are given by Spelman; namely, 1. Univ. Lib. Camb. 256; 2. Trin. Coll. Camb. 35; and 3. Brit. Mus. Arundel 60. A gloss also occurs in Brit. Mus. Old R. Libr. 2 B. 5; Cotton. Vitellius E. 18 and Tiberius C. 6; in Bodl. Junius 27; in the Lambeth MS. 427, and in that of Salisbury Cathedral marked 141.”

15 “Edited for the Surtees Society by the Rev. J. Stevenson, 8vo. London 1840.”

16 “Brit. Mus. Cotton. Vespasian D. 6.”

17 “What remains of this translation was printed in 1698 by Edw. Thwaites, from the Bodl. MS. Laud E. 19. under the title Heptateuchus, liber Job et Evangelium Nicodemi, Anglo-Saxonice. Historiæ Judith fragmenturn, Dano-Saxonice. 4to. Oxon. 1698. Another MS. occurs in the Cotton collection, Nero B. 4.”

18 “Edited by Will. L’Isle, with the title, A Saxon Treatise concerning the Old and New Testament. 4to, Lond. 1623.”

19 “His homilies, eighty in number, have been edited for the Ælfric Society, by Mr Benj. Thorpe, 2 vols. 8vo. 1843-1846.”

20 “See the remarkable verses of a writer of the 12th century, quoted in Wright’s Biogr. Brit. Lit. (Anglo-Saxon Period), p. 60.”

Description of the MSS.

The following description of the MSS. is partly compiled from the accounts by Wanley 1 and by Dr Bosworth, 2 and partly from the results of my own observation.

I. The Corpus MS.—MS. No. cxl. (formerly S. 4) in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; described by Wanley, p. 116. 3 Its contents are—

(a) The four Gospels in Anglo-Saxon.

(b) At the beginning of the MS. (but added afterwards) are certain forms of manumissions, several of which make mention of Ælfsige, abbot of Bath. 4 These are enumerated by Wanley, who in another place (p. 149) calls attention to the fact that a leaf has been here extracted from the MS., but is still preserved by being placed in another MS., so as now to be found at p. 7 of MS., Miscell. G. (now No. 111) in the same library. The forms are printed in Madox, Formul. Angl. p. 416; Dugdale’s Monasticon, ii. 265; and Thorpe, Dipl. Angl. Ævi Saxon. pp. 640—642; cf. Kemble, Cod. Dipl. Ævi Sax. iv. 270, and vi. 209. All of them are connected with St Peter’s Abbey-church at Bath. Amongst them is a document which is printed separately (from the MS. now being described) in Thorpe’s Dipl. Angl. Ævi Sax. p. 436, with the title—“The Prior and Brotherhood of Bath. Agreement with Sæwi and Theodgyfu.”

(c) At the end of the Gospel of St Mark is a piece entitled “Scriptum de Cœlo Delapsum,” which is really a homily concerning the observation of the Lord’s day. Begins—Men þa leofestan. Her onginð þæt halie gewrit þe com fram heofenan into hierusalem. Ends—and se þe underfehð witigan on þæs witigan naman he underfehð þæs witigan mede.

(d) At the end of the Gospel of St Luke are lists of popes and of English archbishops and bishops. The last pope mentioned is Alexander II., elected a.d. 1061; many of the lists end long before that date. At the end of the Gospel of St John are two Latin documents of later date, both referring to Bath; see Nasmith’s catalogue of the Corpus MSS. It deserves to be mentioned that the scribe Ælfric did not write the whole of the Gospels himself; for in the Gospel of St Mark, from the word gorst-beam (xii. 26) to he (xii. 38), there is a single page written in a different and inferior hand.

At the end of the Gospel of St Matthew is this note—Ego Ælfricus scripsi hunc librum in Monasterio Baðþonio et dedi Brihtwoldo preposito—I, Ælfric, wrote this book in the monastery at Bath, and gave it to Brihtwold the prior. It is some satisfaction to know the original locality of this MS.: it would be a still greater satisfaction if more could be ascertained about Brithwold. If we suppose him to be the same Brithwold who was bishop of Sherborne from a.d. 1006 to 1046, 5 we might conclude that the MS. was written before a.d. 1006. Wanley dates it a little before the conquest; Dr Bosworth puts it about a.d. 995, or between a.d. 990 and 1030. We may very safely date it, in round numbers, about a.d. 1000. Wanley suggests that it was copied from one a little older. Whence he derived the notion is not apparent, yet it is almost certain that the Corpus, Bodley, and Cotton MSS. had all a common origin.

II. The Cambridge MS.—MS. Ii. 2. 11 in the Cambridge University Library, described by Wanley, p. 152, 6 and in the Catalogue of Cambridge University Library MSS. Vol. iii. p. 384. It is a folio volume, on vellum, containing 402 pages of about 23 lines each. Its contents are :—

(a) The four Gospels in Anglo-Saxon, with numerous rubrics, directing when certain portions are to be read.

(b) An Anglo-Saxon translation of the Pseudo-Gospel of Nicodemus. Printed by Thwaites, at the end of his Heptateuchus, published in 1698. 7 There is another copy of this in MS. Cotton Vitellius A. XV. hom. III. (Wanley, p. 218) which is imperfect at the beginning. Junius made a transcript of the Cambridge copy, and collated it with the Cotton MS. The results of the collation are printed by Thwaites, on the last page of his volume. Junius’s transcript is now in the Bodleian Library, marked Jun. 74, and is described by Wanley, p. 96. There is also an abbreviated copy of the same story in MS. Cott. Vespasian D. XIV. hom. XXXIII. (Wanley, p. 204). It may perhaps here be worth while to remark a circumstance which seems to have escaped the observation of the editor, viz. that there is a considerable hiatus in the story in the MSS. between the words “nan oðer ne dorste” and “Ða wæs hym ðær neh sum wer standende,” 1. 5, p. 6, in Thwaites. The whole account of Christ’s crucifixion is omitted. A note to this effect has, at my suggestion, been made in the Cambridge MS. As the omission there occurs in the middle of a page, it is very probable that the narrative was copied from an older MS. which had lost a few leaves.

(c) The embassy of Nathan the Jew to Tiberius Cæsar, together with the legend of St Veronica; also in Anglo-Saxon. Printed among the Publications of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society; edited by C. W. Goodwin, MA. Cambridge, 1851; entitled “Anglo-Saxon legends of St Andrew and St Veronica.” A fragment of the same story is contained in six leaves at the end of MS. C. C. C. D. 5 (now No. 196) described in Wanley, p. 109; and the former part of it, concerning Nathan’s embassy, is also found in MS. Cott. Vesp. D. 14. hom. XXXV.; Wanley, p. 204.

At the back of the leaf containing the last few words of this text is the manumission of a certain Reinold, consisting of only a few lines. Wanley prints the whole of it. See also Thorpe’s Diplom. Angl. Ævi Sax. p. 622.

Various notes in the MS.—printed by Wanley—tell us its history. It once belonged to Bishop Leofric, and was given by him to the Church of St Peter the Apostle in Exeter. In 1566, it was given by Gregory Dodde, dean of Exeter, with the consent of his brethren, to Matthew Parker, archbishop of Canterbury, who afterwards gave it to the University of Cambridge in 1574. There can hardly be a doubt that this is the identical volume which is mentioned in the catalogue of Leofric’s gifts to St Peter’s church in the terms: “I. Englisc Cristes boc;” i. e. one copy of the Gospels in English. 8 Leofric was bishop of Devonshire and Cornwall from about 1046 to 1073. 9 Wanley puts the date of the MS. at about the time of the Norman conquest, but it is probably a little earlier; and we safely assign to it the locality Exeter, and the date about a.d. 1050. It appears to be very accurately written throughout. …

III. The Bodley MS.—MS. Bodley NE. F. 3. 15, now Bodley 441; described by Wanley, p. 64. 10 It is a folio volume, on vellum, containing 194 leaves. But it must be particularly noted that some of these must have been supplied from the Corpus MS. by Parker’s direction in imitation of the old writing, and are valueless. I may mention in particular leaves 57—62, containing Mark i. 1 to iv. 37; leaf 90, containing the last three verses of St Luke; and leaves 192—194, John xx. 9 to the end. … Nothing seems to be known of its history except that it was once in all probability in the possession of Matthew Parker, archbishop of Canterbury. This is rendered probable by the way in which several rubrics have been copied into it from the Cambridge MS. But internal evidence proves its extremely close connection with the Corpus and Cotton MSS., and renders it absolutely certain that these three MSS. are copies from a common original. The Bodley MS. e.g. frequently uses the same contractions as the Corpus MS. in the same places. Throughout page 112 (ch. xiv. 13—22) it only has one different reading, viz. þas for þa in v. 13. The only other variations of any kind on this page are, that it has “him” for the contracted form “hī” four times; also “sittendum” and “twelfum” for “sittendū” and “twelfū,” and, conversely, “sū” for “sum”; also “Soþlice,” “ge-sylþ,” “cweðan,” “Ða,” for “Soðlice,” “gesylð,” “cweþan,” and “Þa”; it accents “án” in v. 18, and puts a stop after “bræc” in v. 22.

The connection between the Bodley and Cotton MSS. is closer still, the former being a mere duplicate of the latter; … It follows that the text of the Bodley MS. is as good as that of the Cotton MS., and the remarks of Mr Thorpe in his short preface to his “Anglo-Saxon version of the Holy Gospels” are made at random. He was probably misled by observing some of the mistakes which are to be found in those pages of the Bodley MS. which are written in a modern hand. For example, in i. 43, the word bead (bade) is written bend in the spurious page of the Bodley MS., and is so printed in Parker’s edition. Another error, mine modor for min modor, occurs in iii. 34, both in the spurious page of the MS. and in Parker’s edition. But such errors must not be allowed to depreciate overmuch the value of such pages of the MS. as are genuine.

In the Bodley MS. the words are commonly written very closely together, and some few words are retained which the Corpus MS. omits. Yet it does not appear that this MS. is really older than the Corpus ; on the contrary, it is generally regarded as of later date. The handwriting is certainly not that of Ælfric, the scribe of the Corpus MS. …

IV. The Cotton MS.—MS. Cotton Otho C. 1, in the British Museum; described by Wanley, pp. 211, 212. Very little use seems to have been made of this MS.: it was not consulted by Marshall, and Dr Bosworth gives only one or two readings from it, yet it might be of service for the correction of the texts of St Luke and St John. I quote at length Dr Bosworth’s excellent description. 11

“A minute description is given of it by Wanley in 1704 [1705], when it was in a perfect state from Mat. xxvii. 6. It was so much injured by the fire, which destroyed many of Sir Robert Cotton’s MSS. on the 23rd of Oct. 1731, that what was defective only as far as Matt, xxvii. 6 before that calamity, afterwards looked like a charred mass. Planta, in his Catalogue of the Cotton MSS., describes it as ‘once consisting of 290 leaves, but now (1802) so much burnt and contracted as to render the binding of it impracticable.’ It was fortunately kept in a case; and what was found impracticable by Mr Planta, has been effected under the careful superintendence of Sir Frederic Madden, by whose judicious arrangements many MSS. have been restored, and made accessible to the public. The smallest part of this burnt mass has been carefully mounted on thick folio paper, which is cut away in the middle to fit the injured vellum, and made fast by transparent paper, gummed to the edges of the paper and the vellum; the MS. can, therefore, be easily read on both sides. It is now bound in two large folio volumes. Sir Frederic Madden tells us that twenty-five folios are lost since Wanley described it. The first small fragment of this MS. now remaining is from folio 26, which Sir F. Madden has marked as part of St Mark vii. 22. Such a note deserves the best thanks of all who consult the MS., as it saves much of their time. The fragments increase a little in size from folio 26 to 38. St Luke is nearly complete, and occupies fol. 39-93. St John fills fol. 95-135, and is nearly perfect, especially in the latter part. There are not any rubrical directions, and only a few badly formed capital letters of a dingy red colour in this MS.” It is unnecessary to describe the other contents of this MS., as Wanley explains that they have been brought together by a bookbinder, though written by different hands and at different times. But it may be observed that between the Gospels of St Luke and St John is inserted a charter relating to Aldhelm, abbot of Malmesbury in Wiltshire, who was afterwards bishop of Sherborne, in the time of Ine of Wessex, about a.d. 705 . 12 This hint may serve to connect the MS. with the locality of Malmesbury, whilst its internal evidence connects it with the Corpus MS. written at Bath, and even still more closely with the Bodley MS. It is supposed to be coeval with the Corpus MS. …

V. The Hatton MS.—This MS., formerly marked Hatton 65, is now marked Hatton 38; it is now in the Bodleian Library, at Oxford, and is described by Wanley, p. 76. It is a neat volume, the leaves of which measure 9¼ by 6 inches, containing the four gospels, written in an exceeding uniform, upright, and clear hand, but of rather a late date, about the time of Henry II. The Gospels are arranged in the following order:—Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John. It is interesting as shewing how the language began to lose strength in its inflectional forms …. It formerly belonged to the Rev. John Parker, son to Archbishop Parker, whose name—Johēs parker—is written on the back of a fly-leaf. One leaf having been lost, the missing portion (Luke xvi.) was “restored” by Mr Parker.

VI. The Royal MS. This MS. is now in the Royal Library at the British Museum, where its class-mark is Bibl. Reg. 1 A. xiv. It is described by Wanley, p. 181. It is somewhat older than the Hatton MS., and was probably written in the time of Stephen. It contains 175 leaves, each measuring about 8½ by 5¾ inches. Leaves 3—173 are occupied by the Gospels, and contain about 25 lines on a page. The leaves at the beginning and end seem to have formed part of a Latin missal. The handwriting is in singular contrast to that of the Hatton MS., being bold, hasty, and rough. It may seem fanciful, but it gives the impression of having been written in troublous times, when the object was rather to have a copy for ready use than to spend time in elaborating it. The general agreement of it with the Hatton MS. is very close, excepting that it preserves more archaic forms; and it contains nearly the same rubrics in the same places. It appears by collation that the Hatton MS. was actually copied from it by a scribe who had plenty of leisure. All doubt on the subject is removed by observing that the last seven verses of St Mark’s Gospel, omitted by the scribe of the Royal MS., are supplied in it by the scribe of the Hatton MS. in his usual neat hand and with his peculiar spelling. This interesting fact seems never to have been hitherto observed. It proves, moreover, that the scribe of the Hatton MS. had access to some other MS. besides the Royal. The Gospels are in the order—Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. Wanley says that it formerly belonged to the Abbey of St Augustine’s, Canterbury, and was afterwards in the possession of Archbishop Cranmer, whose name—Thomas Cantuarien—is on the first page. This would seem to connect it with Canterbury as its locality.

VII. The Lindisfarne MS. This MS. is also known as the Durham Book; it is now one of the Cotton MSS. in the British Museum, its class-mark being Nero D. 4. This fine MS., one of the chief treasures in our national collection, has been frequently described at great length; see Wanley’s Catalogue, p. 250, and especially the descriptions in Professor Westwood’s “Palæographia Sacra Pictoria” and “Facsimiles of Miniatures and Ornaments of Anglo-Saxon and Irish MSS.”; also the Prolegomena to Part IV. of the “Lindisfarne and Rushworth Gospels,” edited for the Surtees Society by Stevenson and Waring. It consists of 258 leaves of thick vellum, each measuring 13½ inches by 9½, and contains the four Gospels in Latin, written in double columns, with an interlinear Northumbrian gloss; together with St Jerome’s Epistle to Pope Damasus, the Eusebian Canons, two prefaces, short notices of the four Evangelists, arguments of the sections into which the Gospels are divided, and tables of lessons to be read on Sundays, festivals, &C. 13 The Latin text was written in the island of Lindisfarne by Eadfrith, who was bishop of Lindisfarne a.d. 698—721; so that if he wrote it before his election we must date it before 698. We cannot be far wrong in dating it, in round numbers, about a.d. 700. The interlinear gloss is two and a half centuries later, having been made by Aldred, a priest, about a.d. 950, at a time when the MS. was probably kept at Chester-le-Street, near Durham, whither it had been removed for fear of the Danes. The stains made upon the edges of the leaves by sea-water, probably during its transit from Lindisfarne to the mainland, are still plainly visible. The Durham Ritual, edited for the Surtees Society by Mr Stevenson in 1840, is glossed by the same hand. 14 An entry at the end of St John’s Gospel gives the names of Eadfrith the writer, and Aldred the glossator, as well as of Æthilwald and Bilfrith, who were employed upon the cover of it. Æthilwald succeeded Eadfrith in the see of Lindisfarne, a.d. 721, and died about the year 737. …

VIII. The Rushworth MS. This MS. is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and is marked Auct. D. ii. 19. 15 It now consists of 169 leaves of thick vellum, measuring 14 by 10½ inches, but is incomplete. It is described by Wanley, p. 81; by Professor Westwood in his “Palæographia Sacra Pictoria,” and his “Facsimiles of the Miniatures and Ornaments of Anglo-Saxon and Irish Manuscripts”; by Mr Waring, in his Prolegomena to St John’s Gospel, p. xlvii; and others. The Gospel of St Luke is incomplete, and there are no prefaces, arguments or tables, as in the Lindisfarne MS. In other points, however, it strongly resembles it, excepting that the Latin text is written all across the page, instead of in double columns. The Latin was written by a scribe who gives his name, at the end, as Macregol and Macreguil, but the date is uncertain. Wanley supposes it to have once belonged to Beda, who died a.d. 735; whilst, on the other hand, the Irish Annals of the year 820 record the death of a scribe named Mac Riagoil. We may, perhaps, refer it to the eighth century. The gloss is by two hands, those of Farman and Owun, whose names are given at the end of St John’s Gospel; and Farman is described as a priest of Harewood, which is in the West Riding of Yorkshire, on the river Wharfe. The portion written by the former ends at the word hleonadun in v. 15 of the second chapter of St Mark, as the reader may perceive by turning to p. 19, and observing that the thorn-letter (þ) seldom again occurs after that verse, except when used with a stroke through it, to denote the word “þæt.” 16 In v. 13 it occurs in þa þreat, in v. 14 in miðþy, and cweþ, and in v. 15 in miðþy, for the last time. The gloss may be referred to the latter half of the tenth century. Nothing more is known of the history of the MS. till we find it in the hands of John Rushworth, of Lincoln’s Inn, barrister, and deputy-clerk to the House of Commons during the Long Parliament; by whom it was presented to the Bodleian Library.

The Latin text of the Rushworth MS. differs but slightly from that of the Lindisfarne MS. … Hitherto, it hardly seems to have been pointed out with sufficient distinctness that the Rushworth gloss is really derived from the Lindisfarne gloss in a very direct manner. I have no doubt that Farman and Owun actually consulted the identical Lindisfarne MS. which we now possess, to assist them in glossing their own text, which occasionally differs, be it remembered, from the Latin Lindisfarne text. Hence it is that even the marginal notes of the one are reproduced in the other. In i. 6, we find a note on wudu hunig (woodhoney), viz. þt wæxes on wudu binde; this is reproduced in the Rushworth gloss in the form—þt wæxeþ on wude bendum. In v. 9, legio (legion) is explained in the Lindisfarne MS.—[ðusend] 17 l xii ðusend þt is legio [ðis] 17 wæs diowla legio. This is exactly reproduced in the margin also of the Rushworth MS. One more example may suffice. It so happens that, in the Lindisfarne gloss, wherein capital letters are very rare indeed, the word Ne is written with a capital in xiii. 31. Precisely the same phenomenon occurs in the Rushworth gloss, only that the Ne is shifted into the preceding verse owing to confusion of transibit with transibunt. This is more than coincidence; it is proof. It is clear that Farman and Owun had the pages of the Lindisfarne MS. open before them whilst engaged in writing their own glosses. At the same time they exercised an independent judgment. At times they took leave to alter, or to omit a gloss as doubtful. In the case of double glosses they generally took the first. Thus, at p. 111, xiv. 4, the Lindisfarne gloss for est is wæs vel is; the Rushworth gloss is wæs simply. In xiv. 12, the gloss to immolant is asægcas vel ageafað in L., but asægas only in R. Sometimes, both glosses are copied, in the order in which they occur. Thus, in xiv. 4, we find hia bulgon vel unwyrðe sægdon in the former, and hia bulgun vel unwyrðne sægdun in the latter. The fact of the Rushworth gloss being, to a considerable extent, a mere copy of the older one, does not seem hitherto to have been fully perceived; but it is a great help towards the right understanding of the later gloss, and sometimes even throws light upon the earlier one. It is not going far enough to say, as Mr Waring rightly says, that “both glossists drew from a common original”; we can go still further, because we know what this original was.

In some cases, for example, the Rushworth gloss remains a mere riddle till the Latin of the Lindisfarne MS. has been consulted. I would particularly draw attention to such instances as the following. In iv. 36, the Rushworth MS. has ita ut erat, i. e. as he was; but erat is actually glossed by hiæ werun, i. e. they were. This singular mistranslation is, however, at once accounted for when we observe that the Lindisfarne MS. has erant, with the gloss hia weron. Once more, in vi. 14, the Rushworth MS. has et propterea operantur virtutes [in] illo, where operantur is glossed by un-woene sint, i. e. are unexpected; the simple clue to which is that the Lindisfarne MS. has not operantur at all, but inopinantur, by which the gloss there given, viz. un-woen sint, was evidently suggested. The result may be briefly expressed by saying that, whereas the gloss in the Lindisfarne MS. depends upon the Latin text of that MS. only, the gloss in the Rushworth MS. depends upon the Latin texts in both.


1. Antiquæ Literaturæ Septentrionalis liber alter, seu Humphredi Wanleii Librorum Vett. Septentrionalium Catalogus; Oxoniæ, 1705. It forms the second volume of Hickes’s Thesaurus Antiq. Lit. Septentrionalis.

2. The Gothic and Anglo-Saxon Gospels, pref. p. xiii. and p. 574.

3. This MS. forms the basis of Dr Bosworth’s text.

4. Died a.d. 1087; Dugdale’s Monast. ii. 257.

5. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, ed. Thorpe, ii. 253. But this Brihtwold is said to have been a monk of Glastonbury; Godwin, de Præsul. Ang. Comment. p. 335.

6. This MS. forms the basis of the text edited by Thorpe, whose account of the MSS. is inaccurate.

7. Or early in 1699. The date is printed ‘An. Dom. mdcxcviii.’ I have a copy in which the owner’s name and the date 1698 are written on the fly-leaf. Dr. Bosworth’s copy has—‘Imprimatur, Joh. Meare, Vice-Can. Oxon. Dec. 27, 1697.’

8. Wanley, p. 80; Thorpe, Dipl. Angl. Ævi Saxon, p. 430.

9. Anglo-Saxon Chron. ed. Thorpe, ii. 287 ; Conybeare’s Illustrations of Anglo-Saxon Poetry, p. 198.

10. This MS. forms the basis of the text edited by Junius and Marshall. Parker’s edition follows it closely throughout.

11. The Gothic and Anglo-Saxon Gospels; pref. p. xiv.

12. Beda, Eccl. Hist. lib. v. cap. xviii.

13. See Kemble’s edition of the Gospel of St Matthew, which contains—Prologus decem Canonum, p. 1; Canones, p. 4; Præfatio ejusdem (i.e. Hieronymi), p. 7; Præfatio Eusebii, p. 10; Argumentum Matthei, p. 12; Capitula Lectionum secundum Mattheum, p. 13; and Evangelium Secundum Mattheum, p. 21. The table of lessons from St Matthew is omitted by Kemble.

14. See Wright’s Biographia Britannica (Anglo-Saxon Period), p. 426.

15. The number 3946, assigned to it in note 3 on p. iv, is its number in the Old General Catalogue of MSS., printed at Oxford in 1697.

16. A rude figure, apparently of a flying lion, is drawn in the margin of the MS. to mark where the handwriting changes.

17. The words ðusend and ðis are supplied from conjecture; they have been cut away by the binder of the volume.