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The Nerthus Project - Smashing Success or Haphazard Flop?

October 2013

Nerthus, an online lexical database of Old English, has been in the making since 2007 - time to look back and evaluate the state, progress and benefits of the project. Is Nerthus going to be an indispensable research tool for Anglo-Saxonists or an obscure grammar toy, quickly fading into oblivion?


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July 2011

Publishing Boom in Old English Text Editions: Reasons and Examples

Despite the fact that virtually all Old English mansucripts have already been edited, published and meticulously analysed during the 20th century, recent years have seen a resurgence in Anglo-Saxon publishing activities.
New Old English text editions:
Advances in Anglo-Saxon studies
Some new OE text editions


Old English studies achieved a major breakthrough in the 20th century: While earlier scholarship focussed exclusively on a small number of prominent texts and on lexicography (e.g. Bosworth’s 1889 An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary), the groundbreaking Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon published in 1957 by palaeographer Neil Ker led to the systematic classification and editing of every single known piece of Old English literature. By the 1980s, almost all Old English manuscripts had been printed. Finally, scholars could study and compare virtually all of the roughly 1.5 million Old English words that have come down to us. Anglo-Saxon is now one of the best-documented extinct languages in the world.

Anglo-Saxon learning in the 21st century, on the other hand, has been marked by the emergence of computer technology. It allowed, among other things, the digitalization of the available text editions, or the creation of electronic text corpora and online dictionaries. Does this mean that Old English palaeographic work has reached a natural endpoint and that new editions will not be produced anymore? On the contrary: There seems to be an outright publishing boom at the moment. Various texts have been re-edited in the past few years for reasons such as the more comprehensive inclusion of all available manuscripts, new scholarly insights, or the eradication of earlier mistakes.

Here are just a couple of examples:

The Old English Dialogues Of Solomon And Saturn, by editor Daniel Anlezark, published in 2009 by DS Brewer. This new edition is the first to appear in 150 years and includes the text and a translation in parallel, textual notes, a commentary and introduction that reviews the latest scholarly insights into the dialogues’ style and content.

Charters of Peterborough Abbey, by editor Susan Kelly, published in 2009 by Oxford University Press. While the Anglo-Saxon Charters have been published comprehensively before, this work is the first critical edition of the 31 Anglo-Saxon charters of the archive of the Benedictine monastery at Peterborough and 4 related documents. It includes for the first time a full commentary, translations of the Old English documents, and an introduction detailing the history of the monastery and its documents.

The Old English Heptateuch and Ælfric’s Libellus de veteri testamento et novo, edited by Richard Marsden in 2009 at the Oxford University Press. The Old English translation of the first seven books of the Old Testament has been edited before in 1922 by Samuel John Crawford. However, this new critical edition is based on a different manuscript (Bodleian Library MS Laud), collates manuscripts, adds readings not known to Crawford, includes a critical introduction and thus replaces Crawford as the standard edition.

The Old English Boethius: An Edition of the Old English Versions of Boethius's De Consolatione Philosophiae, edited by Malcolm Godden and Susan Irvine and published in 2010 at Oxford University Press. This text has been part of the standard reading since the beginning of Anglo-Saxon studies and numerous editions exist already. Nevertheless the new rendition adds new scholarly significance. It is the first to include both the prose and the verse version of Boethius’ (480-525) lamentation, as well as the Napier fragment, relevant passages from Ælfric, Modern English translations, textual notes, commentary and a complete glossary.

The Antwerp-London Glossaries: The Latin and Latin-Old English Vocabularies from Antwerp, Museum Plantin-Moretus 16.2 - London, British Library Additional 32246, edited by David Porter and published in 2011 for PIMS. The Antwerp-London Glossaries is perhaps the last long Old English text never to have been properly edited before. This new edition finally closes the gap and includes a critical textual appartus and complete English and Latin indexes.