Relationships between the manuscriptsThe relationships between seven of the different manuscripts of the Chronicle. The fragment H cannot be reliably positioned in the chart. Other related texts are also shown. The diagram shows a putative original, and also gives the relationships of the manuscripts to a Northern version that does not survive but which is thought to have existed.
The manuscripts are all thought to derive from a common original, but the connections between the texts are more complex than simple inheritance via copying. The diagram at right gives an overview of the relationships between the manuscripts. The following is a summary of the relationships that are known.3
- A2 was a copy of A, made in Winchester, probably between 1001 and 1013.
- B was used in the compilation of C at Abingdon, in the mid-eleventh century. However, the scribe for C also had access to another version, which has not survived.
- D includes material from Bede's Ecclesiastical History and from a set of eighth-century Northumbrian annals, and is thought to have been copied from a northern version that has not survived.
- E has material that appears to derive from the same sources as D, but does not include some additions that appear only in D, such as the Mercian Register. This manuscript was composed at the monastery in Peterborough, sometime after a fire there in 1116 that probably destroyed their copy of the Chronicle; E appears to have been created thereafter as a copy of a Kentish version, probably from Canterbury.
- F appears to include material from the same Canterbury version that was used to create E.
- Bishop Asser's Life of King Alfred, which was written in 893, includes a translation of the Chronicle's entries from 849 to 887. Only A, of surviving manuscripts, could have been in existence by 893, but there are places where Asser departs from the text in A, so it is possible that Asser used a version that has not survived.7
- Æthelweard wrote a translation of the Chronicle into Latin in the late tenth century; the version he used probably came from the same branch in the tree of relationships that A comes from.8
- At Abingdon, some time between 1120 and 1140, an unknown author wrote a Latin chronicle known as the Annals of St. Neots. This work includes material from a copy of the Chronicle, but it is very difficult to tell which version as the annalist was selective about his use of the material. It may have been a northern recension, or a Latin derivative of that recension.8
History of the manuscripts
A: The Winchester Chronicle
The Winchester, or Parker, Chronicle, is the oldest manuscript of the Chronicle that survives. It was begun at Old Minster, Winchester, towards the end of Alfred's reign. The manuscript begins with a genealogy of Alfred, and the first chronicle entry is for the year 60 B.C.E. The first scribe stopped with the year 891, and the following entries were made at intervals throughout the tenth century by several scribes. The manuscript becomes independent of the other recensions after the entry for 975. The book, which also had a copy of the Laws of Alfred and Ine bound in after the entry for 924, was transferred to Canterbury some time in the early eleventh century. The last entry in the vernacular is for 1070. After this comes the Latin Acta Lanfranci, which covers church events from 1070-1093. This is followed by a list of popes, and the archbishops of Canterbury to whom they sent the pallium. The manuscript was at one time owned by Matthew Parker, who was archbishop of Canterbury 1559-1575.3
B The Abingdon Chronicle I
B was written by a single scribe in the second half of the tenth century. It begins with an entry for 60 B.C.E., and ends with the entry for 977. A manuscript that is now separate (British Library MS. Cotton Tiberius Aiii, f. 178) was originally the introduction to this chronicle; it contains a genealogy, as does A, but extends it to the late tenth century. It is known that B was at Abingdon in the mid-eleventh century, as it was used in the composition of C. Shortly after this it went to Canterbury, where interpolations and corrections were made. As with A, it ends with a list of popes and the archbishops of Canterbury to whom they sent the pallium.3
C The Abingdon Chronicle II
C includes additional material from local annals at Abingdon, where it was composed. It also includes an Old English translation of Orosius's world history, followed by a menologium and some verses of the laws of the natural world and of humanity. There follows a copy of the chronicle, beginning with 60 B.C.E.; the first scribe copied up to the entry for 490, and a second scribe took over up to the entry for 1048. B and C are identical between 491 and 652, but differences thereafter make it clear that the second scribe was also using another copy of the chronicle. This scribe also inserted, after the annal for 915, the Mercian Register, which covers the years 902-924, and which focuses on Aethelflaed. The manuscript continues to 1066, and stops in the middle of the description of the Battle of Stamford Bridge. In the twelfth century a few lines were added to complete the account.3
D The Worcester Chronicle
D appears to have been written in the middle of the eleventh century. After 1033 it includes some records from Worcester, so it is generally thought to have been composed there. Five different scribes can be identified for the entries up to 1054, after which it appears to have been worked on at intervals. The text includes material from Bede's Ecclesiastical History and from a set of eighth-century Northumbrian annals. It is thought that some of the entries may have been composed by Archbishop Wulfstan. D contains more information than other manuscripts on northern and Scottish affairs, and it has been speculated that it was a copy intended for the Anglicized Scottish court. From 972 to 1016 the sees of York and Worcester were both held by the same person-Oswald from 972, Ealdwulf from 992, and Wulfstan from 1003. This may explain why a northern recension was to be found at Worcester. By the sixteenth century, parts of the manuscript were lost; eighteen pages were inserted containing substitute entries from other sources. These pages were probably written by John Joscelyn, who was secretary to Matthew Parker.3
E The Peterborough Chronicle
In 1116 a fire at the monastery at Peterborough destroyed most of the buildings. The copy of the chronicle kept there may have been lost at that time or later, but in either case, shortly thereafter a fresh copy was made, apparently copied from a Kentish version-mostly likely from Canterbury. The manuscript was written at one time and by a single scribe down to the annal for 1121. The scribe added material relating to the abbey which is not in other versions. The Canterbury original which he copied was similar but not identical to D; the Mercian Register does not appear, and a poem about the Battle of Brunanburh, in 937, which appears in most chronicles, does not appear here. The same scribe then continued the annal through 1131; these entries were made at intervals and are presumably contemporary records. Finally, a second scribe, in 1154, wrote an account of the years 1132-1154; his dating is known to be unreliable. This last entry is in Middle English, rather than Old English. E was once owned by William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury 1633-1654, and so is also known as the Laud Chronicle.3
F The Canterbury Bilingual Epitome
At about 1100 a copy of the Chronicle was written at Christ Church, Canterbury, probably by one of the scribes who made notes in A. This version is written in both Old English and Latin; each entry in Old English was followed by the Latin version. The version the scribe copied is similar to the version used by the scribe in Peterborough who wrote E, though it seems to have been abridged. It includes the same introductory material as D and, along with E, is one of the two chronicles that does not include the "Battle of Brunanburh" poem. The manuscript has many annotations and interlineations, some made by the original scribe and some by later scribes.3
A2/G Copy of the Winchester Chronicle
A2 was copied from A at Winchester. The last annal copied was 1001, so the copy was made no earlier than that; and an episcopal list appended to A2 suggests that the copy was made by 1013. This manuscript was almost completely destroyed in a fire at Ashburnham House in 1731, where the Cotton Library was housed at that time. A few leaves remain. However, a transcript had been made by Laurence Nowell, a sixteenth century antiquary, and it was used by Abraham Wheloc in an edition of the Chronicle printed in 1643. Because of this, it is also sometimes known as W, after Wheloc.3
H Cottonian Fragment
H consists of a single leaf, containing annals for 1113 and 1114. In the entry for 1113 it includes the phrase "he came to Winchester"; hence it is thought likely the manuscript was written at Winchester. There is not enough of this manuscript for reliable relationships to other manuscripts to be established.3
I Easter Table Chronicle
Part of I was written by a scribe soon after 1073. After 1085, the annals are in various hands and appear to have been written at Christ Church, Canterbury. At one point this manuscript was at St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury.39
Sources, Reliability and Dating
The Chronicle incorporates material from multiple sources. The entry for 755, describing how Cynewulf took the kingship of Wessex from Sigebehrt, is far longer than the surrounding entries, and includes direct speech quotations from the participants in those events. It seems likely that this was taken by the scribe from existing saga material.10 Early entries, up to the year 110, probably came from one of the small encyclopaedic volumes of world history in circulation at the time the chronicle was first written. The chronological summary to Bede's Ecclesiastical History was used as a source. The Chronicle gives dates and genealogies for Northumbrian and Mercian kings, and provides a list of Wessex bishops; these are likely to have had separate sources. The entry for 661 records a battle fought by Cenwalh that is said to have been fought "at Easter"; this precision implies a contemporary record, which survived and was re-used by the Chronicle scribe.11
Contemporary annals began to be kept in Wessex during the seventh century.12 The material compiled in Alfred's reign included annals relating to Kentish, South Saxon, Mercian and, particularly, West Saxon history, but, with the exception of the Cynewulf entry, does not gather momentum until it comes to the Danish invasions of the late eighth century onwards.13 The Chronicle grew out of the tradition of the Easter Tables, drawn up to help the clergy determine the dates of feasts in future years; a page consisted of a sequence of horizontal lines followed by astronomical data, with a space for short notes of events to distinguish one year from another. As the Chronicle developed, it lost its list-like appearance, and such notes took up more space, becoming more like historical records. Many later entries, especially those written by contemporaries, contained a great deal of historical narrative under the year headings.14
As with any source, the Chronicle has to be treated with some caution. For example, between 514 and 544 the Chronicle makes reference to Wihtgar, who is supposedly buried on the Isle of Wight at "Wihtgar's stronghold," which is "Wihtgaræsbyrg" in the original. The name "Isle of Wight" is derived from the Latin name "Vectis," so it does not derive from Wihtgar. The actual name of the fortress was probably "Wihtwarabyrg," "the stronghold of the inhabitants of Wight," and either the chronicler or an earlier source has misinterpreted this as referring to Wihtgar.1516
The dating of the events recorded also requires care. In addition to dates that are simply inaccurate, scribes occasionally made mistakes that caused further errors. For example, in the D manuscript, the scribe omits the year 1044 from the list on the left hand side. The annals copied down are therefore incorrect from 1045 to 1052, which has two entries. A more difficult problem is the question of the date at which a new year began, since the modern custom of starting the year on January 1st was not universal at that time. The entry for 1091 in E begins at Christmas and continues throughout the year; it is clear that this entry follows the old custom of starting the year at Christmas. Some other entries appear to begin the year on 25 March, such as the year 1044 in the C manuscript, which ends with Edward the Confessor's marriage on 23 January, while the entry for 22 April is recorded under 1045. There are also years which appear to start in September.17
The manuscripts were produced in different places, and each manuscript reflects the biases of its scribes. It has been argued that the Chronicle should be regarded as propaganda, produced by Alfred's court, and written with the intent of glorifying Alfred and creating loyalty.18 This is not universally accepted,19 but the origins of the manuscripts clearly color both the description of interactions between Wessex and other kingdoms, and the descriptions of the Vikings' depredations. An example can be seen in the entry for 829, which describes Egbert's invasion of Northumbria. According to the Chronicle, after Egbert conquered Mercia and Essex, he became a "bretwalda," implying overlordship of all of England. Then when he marched into Northumbria, the Northumbrians offered him "submission and peace." The Northumbrian chronicles incorporated into Roger of Wendover's thirteenth-century history give a different picture. "When Egbert had obtained all the southern kingdoms, he led a large army into Northumbria, and laid waste that province with severe pillaging, and made King Eanred pay tribute."2021
Occasionally the scribes' biases can be seen by comparing different versions of the manuscript they created. For example, Ælfgar, earl of East Anglia, and son of Leofric, the earl of Mercia, was exiled briefly in 1055. The C, D and E manuscripts say the following:2223
- C: "Earl Ælfgar, son of Earl Leofric, was outlawed without any fault… "
- D: "Earl Ælfgar, son of Earl Leofric, was outlawed well-nigh without fault… "
- E: "Earl Ælfgar was outlawed because it was thrown at him that he was traitor to the king and all the people of the land. And he admitted this before all the men who were gathered there, although the words shot out against his will."
Another example that mentions Ælfgar shows a different kind of unreliability in the Chronicle: that of omission. Ælfgar was Earl of Mercia by 1058, and in that year was exiled again. This time only D has anything to say: "Here Earl Ælfgar was expelled, but he soon came back again, with violence, through the help of Gruffydd. And here came a raiding ship-army from Norway; it is tedious to tell how it all happened."22 In this case other sources exist to clarify the picture: a major Norwegian attempt was made on England, but E says nothing at all, and D scarcely mentions it. It has sometimes been argued that when the Chronicle is silent other sources that report major events must be mistaken, but this example demonstrates that the Chronicle does omit important events.23
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is the single most important source for the history of England in Anglo-Saxon times. Without the Chronicle, and Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, it would be impossible to write the history of the English from the Romans to the Norman Conquest.24 It is clear that records and annals of some kind began to be kept in England at the time of the earliest spread of Christianity, but no such records survive in their original form. Instead they were incorporated in later works, and the Chronicle no doubt contains many of these. The history it tells is not only that witnessed by its compilers, but also that recorded by earlier annalists, whose work is in many cases preserved nowhere else.25
The three main Anglo-Norman historians, John of Worcester, William of Malmesbury, and Henry of Huntingdon, each had a copy of the Chronicle, which they adapted for their own purposes. Some later medieval historians also used the Chronicle, and others took their material from those who had used it, and so the Chronicle became "central to the mainstream of English historical tradition".26
Its importance is not limited to the historical information it provides, however. It is just as important a source for the early development of the English language.24 The Peterborough Chronicle changes from the standard Old English literary language to early Middle English after 1131, providing some of the earliest Middle English text known.3
History of editions and availability
An important early printed edition of the Chronicle appeared in 1692, by Edmund Gibson, an English jurist and divine who became Bishop of Lincoln in that year. Titled Chronicum Saxonicum, it printed Latin and Old English versions of the text in parallel columns, and became the standard edition until the nineteenth century.27 It was superseded in 1861 by B. Thorpe's Rolls edition, which printed six versions in columns, labeled A through F, thus giving the manuscripts the letters which are now used to refer to them. In 1892, C. Plummer produced an edition of the A and E texts, with material from other versions, entitled Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel, which was widely used.
Beginning in the 1980s, a new set of scholarly editions have been printed under the series title "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition." Some volumes are still projected, such as a volume focusing on the northern recension, but existing volumes such as Janet Bately's edition of A are now standard references.3 A recent translation is Michael Swanton's "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," which presents translations of A and E on opposite pages, with interspersed material from the other manuscripts where they differ.
Both translated texts and the originals are now freely available online.
- Anglo-Saxon Poetry
- Anglo-Saxon literature
- ↑ For example, Richard Abels says that "Historians are in basic agreement that the original Chronicle extended to at least 890." Keynes and Lapidge suggest that "the return of the Vikings to England appears to have occasioned the 'publication', in late 892 or early 893, of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle." See Richard Abels. Alfred the Great: War, Kingship and Culture in Anglo-Saxon England. (Longman, 2005. ISBN 0582040477), 15; See also: Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge. 2004. Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and other contemporary sources. (New York: Penguin Classics. ISBN 0140444092), 41.
- ↑ Michael Swanton, translator. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. (New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415921295), xx-xxi.
- ↑ 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, xxi-xxviii.
- ↑ Keynes & Lapidge, Alfred the Great, 55
- ↑ See Patrick Wormald, "Alfredian Manuscripts," in James Campbell, Eric John, & Patrick Wormald. 1991. The Anglo-Saxons. (New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0140143955), 158.
- ↑ Peter Hunter Blair. (1966). Roman Britain and Early England: 55 B.C.E. - A.D. 871. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393003612), 12.
- ↑ For example, Asser omits Esla from Alfred's genealogy; A includes Esla, but D does not. See footnote 4 in Keynes & Lapidge, Alfred the Great, 228-229.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, xix-xx.
- ↑ Cotton Catalogue. access 11 April, 2007 See Caligula A.15, under "Provenance," which gives a description of the manuscript and some of its history.
- ↑ Stanley Brian Greenfield. A New Critical History of Old English Literature. (New York University Press, 1986. ISBN 0814730884), 60
- ↑ Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, xviii-xix.
- ↑ Stenton suggested that the Chronicle entry for 648 marked the beginning of a contemporary record of events.; Barbara Yorke. Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England. (London: Seaby, 1990. ISBN 1852640278)
- ↑ Michael Lapidge. 1999. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England. (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0631224920), 35.
- ↑ David Crystal. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995. ISBN 0521596556), 15
- ↑ Eilert Ekwall. 1947. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names. (Oxford: Clarendon Press. OCLC 3821873.)
- ↑ Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 16.
- ↑ Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, xiv-xvi.
- ↑ James Campbell. The Anglo-Saxon State. (London: Hambledon, 2000. ISBN 1852851767), 144
- ↑ For example, Keynes & Lapidge (Alfred the Great, 55) comment that we should "resist the temptation to regard it as a form of West Saxon dynastic propaganda."
- ↑ Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 60-61.
- ↑ Patrick Wormald, "The Ninth Century," 139, in Campbell, John & Wormald, The Anglo-Saxons.
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 Translations from Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 184-18.
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 Campbell, John & Wormald, The Anglo-Saxons, 222.
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 Peter Hunter Blair. (1960). An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England, 3rd ed., (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 2003. ISBN 0521830850), 355.
- ↑ Hunter Blair, Roman Britain, 11.
- ↑ Lapidge, Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England, 36.
- ↑ The title in full is Chronicon Saxonicum; Seu Annales Rerum in Anglia Praecipue Gestarum, a Christo Nato ad Annum Usque MCLIV. Deducti, ac Jam Demum Latinitate Donati. Cum Indice Rerum Chronologico; Accedunt Regulae ad Investigandas Nominum Locorum Origines; Et Nominum Locorum ac Vivorum in Chronico Memoratorum Explicatio. (Oxford: E Theatro Sheldoniano, 1692.) A detailed description of a first edition is listed at Law Books - October 2002 List. access 13 April, 2007
- Abels, Richard. Alfred the Great: War, Kingship and Culture in Anglo-Saxon England. Longman, 2005. ISBN 0582040477.
- Asser Bishop of Sherborne. The Life Of King Alfred. reprint ed. Kessinger Publishing, 2004. ISBN 141916970X
- Bately, Janet M. 1986. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition. Vol. 3: MS. A. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge: D.S. Brewer. ISBN 0859911039.
- Campbell, James. The Anglo-Saxon State. London: Hambledon, 2000. ISBN 1852851767.
- Campbell, James, Eric John, & Patrick Wormald. 1991. The Anglo-Saxons. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0140143955.
- Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. 1995. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521596556.
- Ekwall, Eilert. 1947. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Clarendon Press. OCLC 3821873.
- Greenfield, Stanley Brian. A New Critical History of Old English Literature. New York University Press, 1986. ISBN 0814730884.
- Hunter Blair, Peter (1960). An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England, 3rd ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2003 ed. ISBN 052183085-0
- Hunter Blair, Peter 1966. Roman Britain and Early England: 55 B.C.E. - A.D. 871. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393003612.
- Keynes, Simon, and Michael Lapidge 2004. Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and other contemporary sources. New York: Penguin Classics. ISBN 0140444092.
- Lapidge, Michael 1999. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0631224920.
- Savage, Anne 1997. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. Gadalming: CLB. ISBN 1858334780.
- Stevenson, William Henry. Asser's Life of King Alfred: Together With the Annals of Saint Neots Erroneously Ascribed to Asser. reprint ed. Kessinger Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1425491693.
- Swanton, Michael, translator. 1996. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415921295.
- Yorke, Barbara. Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England. London: Seaby, 1990. ISBN 1852640278.
All links retrieved March 21, 2016.
- The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle at Project Gutenberg translated by James Henry Ingram - Public domain copy.
- Tony Jebson website, Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Transcribed original texts "A" is complete. "B" is in progress.
- The Chronicle from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Volume I, 1907-21. bartleby.com.