The Old English Bede: Transmission and Textual History in Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


An unknown author translated the Old English version of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History (OEB) around the ninth century. Previous research focused on the text’s authorship, specifically on Mercian linguistic features in its earliest manuscript, rather than the reception and transmission of its manuscripts (Miller, 1890; Whitelock, 1962; Kuhn, 1972). This thesis considers the OEB’s reception and transmission as evident in its copyists’ scribal performances. Conservative and innovative textual variants are identified for the OEB, and scribal behaviour categorised according to the framework devised by Benskin and Laing (1981) in their study of Middle English scribes. A detailed linguistic comparison of OEB witnesses combined with a close examination of the physical manuscripts reveals the working methods of scribes involved in their production. The manuscripts examined are: Oxford, Bodleian Library Tanner 10 (T) Oxford, Corpus Christi College 279B (O) Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41 (B) Cambridge, University Library Kk.3.18 (Ca) Each chapter analyses a particular scribal performance. O’s scribe created a Mischsprache text, combining Mercian and West-Saxon forms, yet conflicting views of what constituted a good text are revealed by O’s producers’ extensive textual corrections. Relict forms in B demonstrate that its exemplar was illegible in places and that the scribe was forced to make several textual repairs. Ca has long been considered a direct copy of O, however my detailed comparison of the two manuscripts reveals that this cannot be the case. Finally, some previously unnoticed and unpublished drypoint annotations to O’s text are presented and explored in the context of other Anglo-Saxon scratched material. This thesis shows the benefits of examining the OEB from a scribal viewpoint, identifying common modes of scribal behaviour across the medieval period. It proposes a set of features belonging to the original translation, some of which hint at an earlier date of composition than previously supposed.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Sheffield
  • Fitzmaurice, Susan, Supervisor, External person
  • Faulkner, Mark, Supervisor, External person
Award date30 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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