Tuesday, October 28, 2008

An Official Word

I passed. There's loads of editing to do before final submission of the dissertation, but the 5 members of my committee saw fit to pass me, and even praised sections of the work as being "groundbreaking" and "fascinating". I for one am quite pleased.

The Chaucer Rap

I found this rather amusing, from YouTube:

Chaucer Rap

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cotton Library Day

The Great Nokes over at Unlocked Wordhoard reminds everyone that today is Cotton Library day....the day in 1731 of the Ashburnham House, then housing the nascent national library, burned down in which much of the Cotton Collection suffered some kind of damage. For us Anglo-Saxonists of all stripes, it's a day to be grateful that we have what we have. The Great Nokes asks readers what their favorite Cotton manuscript is. I went with the obvious one: Cotton Vitellius A.xv.

But it reminded me to talk about a manuscript that *didn't* go through the Ashburnham House fire. I'm sure the one or two people reading this (and I can safely say with absolute certainty that neither reader is my mom or my spouse!) are saying "Huh?"

Oxford Bodleian Library Laud 509 is a copy of Aelfric of Eynsham's "translations" of the Heptateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua, followed by Aelfric's sermon summarizing Judges). These are followed by Aelfric's letters to Wulfgat and Sigeweard, and then a copy of prose Life of Guthlac that is now a separate manuscript, London, British Library Cotton Vitellius D.xxi, but was originally the ending of Laud 509. The other main manuscript with the Hexateuch is also a Cottonian manuscript, Claudius B.iv and has the advantage of being wonderfully illustrated.

Ok, so, the attentive reader will have noted that Laud 509 has a copy of a text that is also in a Cottonian manuscript, and what's more part of Laud 509 remained with the Cottonian library, and obviously both went through the fire. So that should indicate that Laud 509 was once a part of the Cottonian Library...how did it come to Oxford and be designated Laud 509?

Well, there's a nice little story there, and I at least find it interesting. Laud 509 was in fact part of the Cotton Library. William L'Isle in the early 17th century became interested in learning Old English and to establish certain doctrines of the Anglo-Saxon church. The Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation were still in full swing and one of the points that L'Isle and other Protestants continued to argue was the doctrine of the Eucharist and the Biblical text in the vernacular. As is well known, the English Reformers used Aelfric and other Anglo-Saxon writers to justify their views. So L'Isle borrowed from Cotton the two manuscripts with the Hexateuch. He made notes from them and in them over the early years of the 17th century and returned the illustrated hexateuch in Claudius B.iv to Cotton as the more valuable of the two. He returned and reborrowed Laud 509 over the years and even offered an exchange of some of his manuscripts in return for 509. Cotton died, and after his death L'Isle simply kept the manuscript for his use in preparing a vernacular edition of the English Bible in Old English, a project that his own death prevented him from completing. It is apparent that at some point early on, Cotton himself separated the Guthlac from the other texts as there is no evidence of L'Isle's notes in that portion and that the Guthlac traveled with the Cotton Library and not with L'Isle's 509.

L'Isle died in the late 1630s and somehow the manuscript was acquired by Archbishop Laud, seemingly with an interest in the vernacular Bible of the Anglo-Saxon period as L'Isle was. But Laud was running afoul of Parliament: by this time we're fast approaching Cromwell and Milton et al, both of whom are already active. If memory serves Laud, sensing trouble brewing, made two large manuscript bequests to Oxford in 1641-2, including this manuscript. And that's how a Cottonian manuscript came to Oxford and escaped the Ashburnham House fire of 1731.

In full disclosure, the foregoing is not the result of my original research. It is a summary of what is found in Neil Ker's Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon and Graham, Timothy. “Early Modern Users of Claudius B.Iv: Robert Talbot and William L’Isle.” In The Old English Hexateuch: Aspects and Approaches, ed. Rebecca Barnhouse and Benjamin C. Withers. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000. For more, I write about this manuscript in chapter 3 of the ol' beast.

Today, Post 1

I do have a couple of posts hanging out there like chads that I aim to complete someday soonish and then move on to the next Medieval Literature I Didn't Know piece, the one that inspired the series in fact, and will go well with Dr. Nokes' monster class if I get it translated for him so he can use it in class which most likely won't happen.

Ok, long breath....24 hours away from becoming, after a 25 year journey, Dr. Larry Swain.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Everyone has a blogroll. At a prompt from Steven Till, I'm updating mine at long last. My principal for this update is: I'm not including other blogs I post to, I'll put those up in the title. And these are blogs *I* currently read with regularity and that have postings that may be read with regularity....interesting blogs I check but that haven't had a posting in a year or 6 months aren't included. It will take me awhile, perhaps a couple weeks to complete this as the roll is long and I've been having trouble getting them all in without the window to Blogger shutting down, so I'm now doing it piecemeal. If you don't see yours, send me a note and I'll add it to the list. (Oh, I've also excluded blogs by other Heroic Age board members, I'll highlight those over on the HA blog.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Naked Philologists

NP shared this on her blog and I thought it was too good not to pass on in case you missed it: http://nakedphilologist.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/proffessorial-quote-of-the-day/

Monday, October 06, 2008

Readyish to Share

Well, I have a defense date. Oct 24 I go before a board of 5 and defend my work. I'm more nervous about the editing than I am about the content.

Still, it isn't done. I just want to graduate and get a job someday. There's much yet to do on the work. But I thought I'd share for those who might possibly want to read it (ok, that's you Mom, but you should probably wait for the hardback).

Its here.

Undoubtedly between now and the defense I'll tweak it more, and after the defense I'll tweak it more, and after I know where I'm going there'll be significant changes to move it into a book. But there it is.