WEMSK30:Old English Literature


                WEMSK30 -- Old English Literature

1. Quick reference: James L. Harner, Literary Research Guide, 3d
ed. (NY: MLA, 1998).  See "Old English Literature," 190-203. A
perceptive guide. Read it first.

2. Short bibliography: Fred C. Robinson, Old English Literature: A
Select Bibliography. Toronto Medieval Bibliographies 2 (Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 1970). Can still be useful for a quick

3. Full bibliography:

a. Stanley B. Greenfield and Fred C. Robinson, A Bibliography of
Publications on Old English Literature to the End of 1972 (Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 1980).  As Harner says (p. 194): "The
closest we are likely to come to an exhaustive bibliography" of Old
English Literature.

b. Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature.  The third edition
of vol. 1 has been announced.  When it appears, Greenfield-Robinson
and CBEL will be all you need for while, bibliographically
speaking. Meanwhile, one will have to do with the New Cambridge
Bibliography of English Literature and the periodical

4. Periodical Bibliographies.  You can keep up with work being done
by looking at such things as YWES and the MLA bibliography.  It is
well to look at:

a. Anglo-Saxon England, 1972-.  You will have to use this anyway,
but it offers a summary of work done each year.

b. Old English Newsletter, 1967-.  This contains a "The Year's Work
in Old English Studies."  Online information at:

http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/oen/oenhome.html, but you need to
subscribe.  I remember running off the early copies of this for
Fred in my basement, so I retain a kind regard for it.

5. Handy one-volume surveys:

a. William L. Renwick and Harold Orton, The Beginnings of English
Literature to Skelton, 3d ed., by Martyn F. Wakelin. Introductions
to English Literature 1 (London: The Cresset Press, 1966).  The
best of these; good selective bibliography; not bad to just read

b. George K. Anderson, The Literature of the Anglo-Saxons
(Princeton: PUP, 1949; repr. NY: Russell & Russell, 1962). Good,
though occasionally panned. Bibliography.

c. Kemp Malone and Albert C. Baugh. The Middle Ages. A Literary
History of England, 2d ed., vol. 1. A casual sort of survey; a good

d. David M. Zesmer, Guide to English Literature from Beowulf
through Chaucer and Medieval Drama, with extensive, annotated
bibliographies of thee Old and Middle English Periods by Stanley B.
Greenfield. College Outline Series, No. 53 (NY: Barnes & Noble,
1961). Not bad for a survey.

6. List of the corpus:

a. Angus Cameron, "A List of Old English Texts," A Plan for the
Dictionary of Old English, ed. Roberta Frank and Angus Cameron
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973), 25-306.  Revised for
the Concordance and for the Dictionary; functions as a list of the

b. Neil R. Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon
(Oxford: Clarendon, 1990). A reissue of his 1957 book + his

c. Helmut Gneuss, "A Preliminary List of Manuscripts Written or
Owned in England up to 1100," ASE 9 (1981), 1-60.  Especially good
for Latin manuscripts. A revision is on the way.

7. The corpus:

a. The standard edition of the poetic texts is: George P. Krapp &
Elliott V. K. Dobbie, The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, 6 vols. (NY:
Columbia UP, 1931-55).  These are also available in various
hypertext and scanned forms (see Cathy Ball's site for a list; an
easy online version of the ASPR is:

b. Christian W. M. Grein and Richard P. Wuelker, Bibliothek der
angelsaechsischen Prosa, 13 vols. (Goettingen/Leipzig: Wigand,
1857-1933).  Some of these have been reissued by the
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, with up-to-date

c. The entire corpus of OE literature is available on CD-ROM from
the Dictionary of Old English project at Toronto; also available
from the Oxford Text Archive. Also University of Michigan Press.

8. Histories of literature:

a. Stanley B. Greenfield and Daniel G. Calder, A New Critical
History of Old English Literature.  With a survey of the Anglo-
Latin Background by Michael Lapidge (NY: NYUP, 1986).  Replaces
Greenfield's 1965 volume. We could probably call this `the standard
treatment', though it is only ca. 370 pp.

b. Two turn-of-the-century German compendia are still worth looking
at: Alois Brandl, "Die angelsaechsische Literatur," in Pauls
Grundriss, vol. 2 (Strassburg: Truebner, 1908), 941-1134; available
also separately: Geschichte der altenglischen Literatur
(Strassburg: Truebner, 1908).  Richard P. Wuelker, Grundriss zur
Geschichte der angelsaechsischen Literatur (Leipzig: Veit, 1885).
Good as a list of the corpus.

c. The Cambridge History of English Literature, vol. 1, ed. A. W.
Ward andd A. R. Waller (Cambridge: CUP, 1901). Available on the
net. Old, but free.

d. The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England, ed. Michael
Lapidge, et al. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999. Signed articles and
bibliographies. As Charlie Wright recommends, this ought perhaps to
be your first port of call.

9. Collected papers of interest:

a. Reading Old English Texts, ed. Katherine O'Brien O'Keefe
(Cambridge: CUP, 1997), TOC: The comparative approach, Michael
Lapidge -- Source study, D.G. Scragg -- Language matters, Daniel
Donoghue -- Historicist approaches, Nicholas Howe -- Oral
tradition, Andy Orchard -- The recovery of texts, Paul E. Szarmach
-- At a crossroads: Old English and feminist criticism, Clare A.
Lees -- Post-structuralist theories: the subject and the text,
Carol Braun Pasternack -- Old English and computing: a guided tour,
Peter S. Baker.

b. The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature, ed. Malcolm
Godden and Michael Lapidge. Cambridge Companions to Literature
(Cambridge: CUP, 1991).  TOC: Anglo-Saxon society and its
literature, Patrick Wormald -- The Old English Language, Helmut
Gneuss -- The nature of Old English verse, Donald G. Scragg -- The
nature of Old English prose, Janet Bately -- Germanic legend in Old
English literature, Roberta Frank -- Heroic values and Christian
ethics, Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe -- Pagan survivals and popular
belief, John D. Niles -- Beowulf, Fred C. Robinson -- Fatalism and
the millennium, Joseph B. Trahern, Jr. -- Perceptions of
transience, Christine Fell -- Perceptions of eternity, Milton McC.
Gatch -- Biblical literature : the Old Testament, Malcolm Godden --
Biblical literature: the New Testament, Barbara C. Raw -- The
saintly life in Anglo-Saxon England, Michael Lapidge -- The world
of Anglo-Saxon learning, Patrizia Lendinara.

10. Facsimiles:

a. Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile, (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde
and Bagger, 1951-).  At present 27 vols. Usually quite good; full-
sized, deluxe reproductions: 1. The Thorkelin Traascripts of
Beowulf (1951) -- 2. The Leningrad Bede (1952) -- 3. The Tollemache
Orosius (1953) -- 4. The Peterborough Chronicle (1954) -- 5. Bald's
Leechbook (1955) -- 6. The Pastoral Care (1956) -- 7. Textus
Roffensis, Part 1 (1957) -- 8. The Paris Psalter (1958) -- 9. The
Moore Bede (1959) -- 10. The Blickllng Homilies (1960) -- 11.
Textus Roffensis, Part 11 (1962) -- 12. The Nowell Codex (1963) --
13. Aelfric's First Series of Catholic Homilies (1965) -- 14. The
Vespasian Psalter (1967) -- 15.  The Rule of St. Benedict (1968) --
16. The Durham Ritual (1969) -- 17. A Wulfstan Manuscript (197l) --
18. The OId English Illustrated Hexateuch (1974) -- 19. The
Vercelli Book (1977) -- 20. The Durham Gospeis (1980) -- 21. Cotton
Tiberius B. v (1983) -- 22. The Epinal, Erfurt, Werden, and Corpus
Glossaries (1988) -- 23. Old English Poetic Texts (1991) -- 24. The
Tanner Bede (1992) -- 25. The Copenhagen Wulfstan Collection (1993)
-- 26. The Liber Vitae of the New Minster, Winchester (1995).

b. Anglo-Saxon manuscripts in Microfiche Facsimile, Phillip
Pulsiano, general editor. Medieval & Renaissance Texts and Studies,
136- (Binghamton, NY: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance
Studies, 1994-). TOC: v. 1. London, British Library MSS: 1. Cotton
Caligula A.vii. 2. Cotton Galba A.xiv. 3. Cotton Nero A.ii. 4.
Cotton Vitellius C.iii. 5. Harley 585. 6. Harley 2965. 7. Harley
6258B. 8. Royal 2.A.xx. 9. Harley 7653. 10. Royal 12.D.xvii. With
accompanying description volume, BxW.

c. For help in reading facsimiles:

1. Wolfgang Keller, Angelsaechsische Palaeographie, 2 vols.
Palaestra 43 (Berlin: Mayer & Mueller, 1906).

2. According to Fred Robinson, p. 60, "The section of the
Introduction {to Ker's Catalogue of Manuscripts, 6b above} entitled
`Notes on the Palaeography and History of the Principal
Manuscripts' (pp. xxiii-lvi) is the best available introduction to
OE paleography.'

11. Commentaries:

a. I shall mention here, since I don't know where to put it:
Methuen's Old English Library. TOC: The Dream of the Rood, Bruce
Dickins and Alan S. C. Ross -- The Battle of Maldon, E. V. Gordon -
- Three Northumbrian Poems, A. H. Smith -- Judith, B. J. Timmer --
Deor, Kemp Malone -- Juliana, Rosemary Woolf -- Cynewulf's Elene,
P. O. E. Gradon -- The Seafarer, I. L. Gordon -- The Parker
Chronicle (832-900), A. H. Smith -- Aelfric's Colloquy, G. N.
Garmonsway -- Sermo Lupi ad Anglos, Dorothy Whitelock -- The
Wanderer, T. P. Dunning and A. J. Bliss -- Daniel and Azarias, R.
T. Farrell -- Aelfric: Lives of Three English Saints, G. I. Needham
-- Finnsburh Fragment and Episode, Donald K. Fry. These are
published under various auspices: Methuen, Appleton-Century-Crofts,
Manchester University Press, Barnes and Noble.  They usually have
an intro, an edition, a commentary and a glossary.

b. The recent series Annotated Bibliographies of Old and Middle
English Literature (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1992-) has items of
interest, e.g.:

1. Stephanie Hollis and Michael Wright, Old English Prose of
Secular Learning (vol. 4, 1992): Dicts of Cato -- Durham and Other
Proverbs -- Solomon and Saturn and Adrian and Ritheus --
Elucidarium -- Apollonius of Tyre -- Alexander's Letter to
Aristotle and Wonders of the East -- Bryhtferth of Ramsay and
Computus -- Lapidary -- Leechbook, Lacnunga, Recipes and Folklore -
- On the Human Foetus -- Herbal and Peri Didaxeon -- Medicina de
Quadrupedibus -- General and Miscellaneous Magico-Medical.

2. Russell Poole, Old English Wisdom Poetry (vol. 5, 1998): The
Fortunes of Men -- The Gifts of Men -- Homiletic Fragment I --
Homiletic Fragment II -- Maxims I and II -- The Order of the World
-- Precepts -- The Rune Poem -- Solomon and Saturn -- Vainglory.

11. Anglo-Latin:

a. A great deal of the interest in Latin literature in England in
the early days has been fueled by the Hiberno-Latin discussion,
based to a great deal on Bernhard Bischoff's initiative (see Old
Irish and Latin). For a useful introduction and survey: Charles D.
Wright, The Irish Tradition in Old English Literature. Cambridge
Studies in Anglo-Saxon England 6 (Cambridge: CUP, 1993). More than
a survey, of course; there's some deep stuff in there.

b. For a survey, see W. F. Bolton, A History of Anglo-Latin
Literature, 597-1066, vol. 1 (597-740) (Princeton: PUP, 1967).
Unfortunately, vol. 2 has not appeared, but one can refer to
Manitius and to Michael Lapidge's two volumes, Anglo-Latin
Literature, 900-1066 (London: Hambledon Press, 1993), and Anglo-
Latin Literature 600-899 (London: Hambledon Press, 1996).

c. A good set of readings: Insular Latin Studies: Papers on Latin
Texts and Manuscripts of the British Isles, 550-1066, ed. Michael
W. Herren. Papers in Medieval Studies 1 (Toronto: Pontifical
Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1981. TOC: Hiberno-Latin philology,
the state of the question, Michael Herren--John Scottus, Martin
Hiberniensis, the liberal arts, and teaching, John J. Contreni
--The present state of Anglo-Latin studies, Michael
Lapidge--Scientific instruction in early insular schools, Wesley M.
Stevens--Geminus stilus, Gernot Wieland--Alcuin's grammar verse,
Colin Chase--English libraries before 1066, David Dumville--The
authenticity of the Dicta Candidi, Dicta Albini, and some related
texts, Christine E. Ineichen-Eder --Les vies de saints bretons les
plus anciennes, Francois Kerlouegan.

d. A listing of the corpus: Richard Sharpe, A Handlist of the Latin
Writers of Great Britain and Ireland before 1540 (Turnhout, 1997).
The Introduction hints at the possibility of "electronic form."
Note also Michael Lapidge, "Surviving Booklists from Anglo-Saxon
England," Learning and Literature in Anglo-Saxon England, ed.
Lapidge and Helmut Gneuss (Cambridge: CUP, 1985), 33-89.

e. It might be useful to look at R. M. Wilson, The Lost Literature
of Medieval England (NY: Cooper Square, 1969; repr. of a 1952
book), which is being updated by Fontes Anglo-Saxonici. A Register
of Written Sources Used by Authors of Anglo-Saxon England; see
their website: http://fontes.english.ox.ac.uk. See: Helmut Gneuss,
"A Preliminary List of Manuscripts Written or Owned in England up
to 1100," ASE 9 (1981), 1-60, mentioned above.

12. There is a microfiche concordance of the entire Old English
corpus, with an accompanying volume listing the entire corpus:
Richard L. Venezky and Antonette diPaolo Healy, A Microfiche
Concordance to Old English (University of Toronto: Centre for
Medieval Studies, 1980); this can be of enormous use. See also
their Dictionary project under Old English Language, or Antonette
diPaolo Healey, "The Dictionary of Old English Corpus on the World-
Wide Web," OEN 33.1 (Fall, 1999), 21-28.

13. As mentioned before, there will be a WEBWEMSK, but in the
meantime there are various websites with good bibliography and
guidance.  See the reports in OEN, usually in the Fall issue: Sarah
Keefer, 27.3 (Spring 1994), 31-34; Cathy Ball, 30.1 (Fall 1996),
17-19; Melissa Bernstein, 31.1 (Fall 1997), 22-27; Melissa
Bernstein, 32.1 (Fall 1998), 14-15; Martin Foys, 33.1 (Fall 1999),
16-20. These, with Peter Baker's report in Reading Old English
Texts (9a above), will keep you up to date, but let me point out
some here, as lagniappe:

1. OE Bibliography:

a. Charlie Wright's site:

b. Carol Biggam's site: http://bubl.ac.uk/docs/bibliog/biggam.

2. There are many, many OE sites; let me name but three, which will
link you to all the rest:

a. Cathy Ball's Old English site:


b. Online Reference Book: http:://www.the-orb.net.

c. Labyrinth:


(There are two OE sections, e.g.:


14. NB: There are likely to be studies and bibliographies of
individual works and manuscripts, and these can be quite useful,
such as: The Exeter Book: A Bibliography, compiled by Bernard J.
Muir. Exeter Medieval English Texts and Studies (Exeter: University
of Exeter Press, 1992). I am told that there is a second edition
with an index; my copy has no index, so is not overly useful.

15. There are a number of translations available (see WEMSK on

a. For the poetry, you might as well stick with Robert K. Gordon,
Anglo-Saxon Poetry, rev. ed.  Everyman's Library 794 (London: Dent,
1954), now `replaced' by S. A. J. Bradley, Anglo Saxon Poetry.
Everyman's Library 1794 (London: Dent, 1982).

b. Translations of some of the sources are found in: Michael J. B.
Allen and Daniel G. Calder, Sources and Analogues of Old English
Poetry. The Major Latin Texts in Translation (Cambridge: Brewer,

c. See also Dorothy Whitelock, English Historical Documents, c.
500-1042, 2d ed. (London, 1979).

16. Some knowledge of runes may be needed (see WEMSK on runes):

a. Hertha Marquardt, Die Runeninschriften der Britischen Inseln.
Bibliographie der Runeninschriften nach Fundorten, 1. Teil.
Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenscchaften in Goettingen.
Philologisch-Historischee Klasse, dritte Folge, Nr. 48 (Goettingen:
Vandehhoeck & Ruprecht, 1961).  Even includes alleged runic
inscriptions in America.

b. R[aymond] I. Page, An Introduction to English Runes (London,

c. R. W. V. Elliott, Runes (Manchester: Manchester University
Press, 1963). Deals mainly with English runes.

d. For a quick and easy read: R[aymond] I. Page, Runes. Reading the
Past 4 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987).

18. There will be a parallel WEMSK on CD-ROMs, but I wanted to
mention here:

a. Electronic Beowulf, ed. Kevin Kiernan (Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan Press, 1999). 2 CD-ROMs. An excellent image-based edition
of Cotton MS. Vitellius A. Check out also his Beowulf website;
Kevin is a whilom Medtextler.

Tom Hill adds

Jim' WEMSK bibliographies are very helpful and I have downloaded a
bunch of them for my own use and for my students. For the Old English
bibliography I have some addenda and comments which I offer in the
spirit of friendly amendments to a project which helps us all...

1. As a general principle I would argue that annotated bibliographies
and bibliographical lists are enormously important in that it is hard
for anyone and particularly for a beginning student or a scholar who
works in some other area to read everything. An annotated
bibliography helps one to orient oneself in area relatively quickly
and enables one to find the work that one is particularly interested
in much more quickly and with much more assurance...

Hence the importance of the YWOES and the Years Work in English
Studies which is a few years late but still very handy. The Annotated
Bibliographies series from Brewer seems potentially very useful. I
have used Poole's bibliography of Old English Wisdom Literature (
which includes riddles BTW) a bit and like it a lot.
In fact in the absence of satisfactory up to date literary histories
etc, I would suggest that an annotated bibliography is a reasonable
substitute in that it at least allows students to see what people
have been saying.

2.If one has access to the Cetedoc CLCLT , the Celtic Latin Corpus
and the Chadwyck Healy Patrologia Latina and the OE Corpus from
Michigan one has access to electronic versions of everything in the
vernacular and a good chunk of what was written in Latin during this
period.It is all there to be  read and searched from ones home
computer . ( I know access is a problem for some people but there are
ways around it -- I think.) This should make an enormous difference
to us -- the new research tools are so breathtaking that it is taking
time for us ( or at least me) to get used to them.

3. Let me confess to a liking to some of the collections which Paul
Szarmach has edited. They are particularly useful for OE prose which
tends to get neglected.

The editing of Old English : papers from the 1990
 Manchester conference / edited by D.G. Scragg and Paul
 E. Szarmach ; with the assistance of Helene Scheck and
 Holly Holbrook.

Woodbridge, Suffolk [England] ; Rochester, NY : D.S.
 Brewer, c1994.

Holy men and holy women : Old English prose saints' lives
and their contexts / edited by Paul E. Szarmach. Albany, N.Y. : State University of New York Press, 1996. SUNY series in medieval studies

The Old English homily and its backgrounds / edited with
an introd. by Paul E. Szarmach & Bernard F. Hupp.Albany : State University of New York Press, 1978.

Studies in earlier Old English prose : sixteen original
contributions / edited by Paul E. Szarmach
Albany : State University of New York Press, c1986