15.08.50, Gneuss and Lapidge, Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts

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Leslie Lockett

The Medieval Review 15.08.50

Gneuss, Helmut, and Michael Lapidge. Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: A Bibliographic Handlist of Manuscripts and Manuscript Fragments Written or Owned in England up to 1100. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014. pp. xix, 937.
Reviewed by:
Leslie Lockett
The Ohio State University

Thousands of manuscript codices were presumably imported into England or copied there between the Augustinian mission in 597 and the turn of the twelfth century. However, setting aside charters and single-sheet documents, fewer than 1300 manuscript books and fragments written or owned in Anglo-Saxon England survive today. While most scholars of textual culture have lamented this circumstance as an impediment, for several decades Helmut Gneuss has treated it as a marvelous opportunity: if fewer than 1300 manuscripts have come down to us from Anglo-Saxon England, then a single-volume, comprehensive reference work can identify them all and catalogue their contents. This is precisely what Gneuss did, first in "A Preliminary List of Manuscripts Written or Owned in England up to 1100" (Anglo-Saxon England 9 [1981]: 1-60), and then in a revised and expanded form in his Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts (Tempe, AZ, 2001). In 2005, Michael Lapidge joined Gneuss to co-author the monumental Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: A Bibliographical Handlist, in which a new revision of Gneuss's Handlist serves as the framework for bibliographical entries covering each of the manuscript books and fragments.

Readers who are familiar with the Handlist of 2001 will find that the scope and organizational principles established there are maintained here. The Bibliographical Handlist covers all manuscripts that were demonstrably or arguably copied or used in medieval England up to the beginning the twelfth century, irrespective of the language of the texts preserved in the manuscript. Thus, as in Gneuss's earlier reference works, the scope of the Bibliographical Handlist overlaps with that of N.R. Ker's venerable Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon (London, 1957); however, Ker includes twelfth- and thirteenth-century manuscripts containing Old English, which Gneuss and Lapidge exclude on chronological grounds, and Ker excludes the many Anglo-Saxon manuscripts written solely in Latin, which Gneuss and Lapidge include if they were in England prior to ca. 1100. Gneuss and Lapidge omit charters and other single-sheet documents because the Electronic Sawyer project already supplies detailed and updated descriptions for such items, with bibliography, at .

As for the organization of the volume's contents, manuscripts are ordered alphabetically by library, with all British and Irish libraries preceding libraries outside the British Isles; see p. 3 for Gneuss and Lapidge's handling of complications, such as newly discovered and recently relocated items. For each fragment, codex, and section of a composite volume, the authors list the date, place of origin, and provenance. The introduction clarifies the authors' treatment of several "doubtful areas," that is, groups of manuscripts whose place of origin resists definitive identification: e.g., manuscripts that may be Irish or Northumbrian, and manuscripts copied by Anglo-Saxon scribes either in England or at missionary centers on the Continent (4-5).

In the Handlist of 2001, most entries do not recommend further reading. Gneuss used the heading FC ("full contents") to introduce citations of "full descriptions or editions" of complex manuscripts only in cases where he felt that his abbreviated list of manuscript contents could not "do justice to such complex books as the copies of Wulfstan's 'Handbook' or to the widely varying contents of liturgical books" (Handlist, 9). The Bibliographical Handlist, in contrast, provides more varied and extensive bibliography whenever possible. This material is categorized under subject headings: MS, on the manuscript as physical artifact; DEC, on the manuscript's decoration and artwork; ED, on "editions of texts which are either based on this manuscript or for which this manuscript was collated" (9); LANG, on notable features of the language of texts in the manuscript, primarily concerning Old English; ST, on "information which may be relevant in situating the manuscript in a cultural context, or evaluating its position in a textual transmission" (10); and FACS, on complete print and digital facsimiles as well as individual plates showing decorative and paleographical features. Online resources are typically omitted from the FACS section, but Gneuss and Lapidge's Introduction lists a few major repositories of digital images from Anglo-Saxon manuscripts (10-11). The bibliography is not meant to be exhaustive (although it is virtually exhaustive in most entries on manuscript fragments), and the authors specify that they have typically excluded translations and literary-critical analyses of texts contained in the listed manuscripts.

To give potential readers an idea of what to expect from the Bibliographical Handlist, I will describe the contents and scope of two entries: one for a well-known volume of Old English poetry with illustrations, and one for a less familiar manuscript containing both Latin and Old English texts.

Manuscript no. 640 in the Bibliographical Handlist is Oxford, Bodleian Library, Junius 11 (S.C. 5123); at the head of the entry, the authors provide the manuscript's informal names, the "Caedmon Manuscript" and the "Junius Manuscript" (491). The Old English poems Genesis, Exodus, and Daniel appear in the older section of the codex, followed by Christ and Satan in the younger section; the title of each work is marked with two asterisks, indicating that these works are written in Old English alliterative verse (a designation not employed in the Handlist of 2001). The fact that the codex was completed in phases separated by as much as several decades is clearly communicated in the section on dating and origin ("s. x2 and xi1") and is reiterated in the list of contents (491).

The bibliographical portion of the Junius 11 entry is thoughtfully selective, given the overwhelming amount of scholarship available on this manuscript and its contents. Under the heading MS, the authors list twenty items, eleven of which have appeared since 2000; another 29 items appear under the heading DEC. Under the heading FACS the authors include two complete facsimiles (one print, one digital) and thirteen printed studies that incorporate images of the manuscript, and under ED they list three scholarly editions of the entire group of poems as well as multiple editions of each individual poem. Two essays are cited under the heading LANG, and under the catch-all category of ST are twelve diverse items, ranging from dedicated bibliographies on Junius 11 to studies that propose cultural contexts for the manuscript's production. Each area of the bibliography signals diverse and up-to-date studies alongside classic, influential selections. The selectivity of the bibliographical section is, in fact, one of its great merits: plenty of other reference works provide copious bibliography about the texts contained in Junius 11, but Gneuss and Lapidge have done the difficult work of identifying those studies that are most pertinent to students of the manuscript itself and the immediate circumstances of its production.

Manuscript no. 808 in the Bibliographical Handlist is less familiar to scholars who do not specialize in penitential texts. Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, 8558-63 (2498) is a composite codex whose first section (s. x1) contains the enlarged version of Chrodegang's Regula canonicorum (incomplete), Augustine of Hippo's Soliloquia, and a sermon by Caesarius of Arles; the second and third sections of the codex (s. x med. and s. xi1 respectively) contain a mixture of Old English and Latin penitential texts and collections of canons. Gneuss and Lapidge's conventions for describing the manuscript make the dates and contents of each section utterly clear, and the use of the single asterisk to designate Old English texts is particularly useful in a codex containing so many texts for which both Latin and Old English versions survive.

While the entry on Junius 11 serves the reader well by virtue of its selectivity, the great value of the Brussels 8558-63 entry resides in its full coverage: no other reference work supplies so thorough and varied a bibliography on this manuscript. Under the heading MS appear 26 items, fifteen of which postdate the year 2000. Under FACS the authors include one full microfiche facsimile as well as an edition that contains a single image from the youngest section of the codex. In accordance with the principles outlined in the introduction (9-10), under the heading ED the authors list nine items: most are editions of Old English items contained in the codex, but there are also two editions of the Latin Poenitentiale pseudo-Egberti that signal readings from Brussels 8558-63. Critical editions of Latin texts such as Chrodegang's Regula canonicorum and Augustine's Soliloquia are omitted because their editors have not collated this manuscript. Under LANG are listed three items and under ST another eight: with the exception of one study that treats the Old English glosses on Chrodegang's Regula, all of these deal with the Old English penitentials and canons.

The Bibliographical Handlist incorporates 1291 discrete entries, which combine to yield a list of works cited that reaches nearly 200 pages (693-886). Although I have provided summaries of only two of these 1291 entries, these should give a sense of the enormous value of the Bibliographical Handlist for Anglo-Saxonists and indeed for scholars in any field whose work touches on Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, however tangentially. The framework and descriptive content of the first two incarnations of Gneuss's Handlist have already become indispensable to Anglo-Saxonists, such that scholars routinely attach "Gneuss numbers" to the shelfmarks of manuscripts under consideration. The Bibliographical Handlist essentially reproduces all the features that make Gneuss's earlier works indispensable while also making it possible for any user to engage in a considerably deeper investigation of each manuscript without spending hours wading through the many different bibliographical repositories that would have to be consulted in order to find the relevant scholarship in the fields of manuscript studies, history, Old English and Latin literature, and so forth.

Those who are interested in the history of Anglo-Saxon studies will find Gneuss and Lapidge's concise Preface illuminating (ix-xii). Here the authors explain how Gneuss first began planning his Handlist in the early 1950s, and how the project, though propelled and stabilized in the intervening decades by Gneuss's own dedication, is deeply indebted to dozens of other contributors, particularly the junior scholars of the University of Munich and colleagues at Cambridge University. In the wake of the publication of Gneuss's "Preliminary List" in 1981, and again after the Handlist appeared in 2001, Gneuss received abundant additions and corrections from Old English and Medieval Latin specialists; these have been incorporated into the Bibliographical Handlist, as has the ongoing archive of bibliography on Anglo-Saxon manuscripts compiled at Munich and subsequently continued under the direction of the late Mechthild Gretsch at the University of Göttingen. Gneuss and Lapidge refuse to allow any sentimentality to creep into their Preface, but it nonetheless kindles (in this reader, at least) a sense of nostalgia and admiration for the interpersonal ties, intellectual respect, and rigorous training that created the scholarly network that collectively generated this remarkable volume over the course of more than half a century.

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