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The Opening of King Alfred's Preface to the Old English Pastoral Care: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Hatton 20


Timothy Graham, University of New Mexico

[Online Note: the printed version of ths essay, which appeared in OEN 38.1, was accompanied by a reproduction of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Hatton 20, fol. 1r, which for reasons of copyright is not included here. OEN apologizes for the omission and hopes to make an image of the MS available online soon. -ed.]

Few texts are more familiar to students of Old English than the preface that King Alfred wrote for his vernacular translation of the Pastoral Care by Pope Gregory the Great. As Alfred explains in the preface, this translation, which he prepared with the help of four of his leading churchmen—Plegmund, archbishop of Canterbury, Asser, bishop of St. David's, and the priests Grimbald and John—was to be one element in the major program of educational reform that the king instituted to remedy the decline in the level of clerical learning that had beset England since the Vikings began their raids on the country. Alfred's program was to include translations of "certain books which are the most necessary for all men to know." Gregory's Pastoral Care, whose primary purpose was to offer advice to those who would be shepherds of souls but which also provided valuable guidance and insights for secular administrators, was almost certainly the first book to be translated under Alfred's program; the vernacular version can be dated to ca. 890.

Alfred remarks at the end of his preface that he is dispatching copies of the Old English Pastoral Care to every bishopric in his kingdom. Six manuscripts of the Pastoral Care survive today; of these, two date from Alfred's own time, and are in radically different states of preservation. London, British Library, MS Cotton Tiberius B. xi—apparently the master copy kept at Alfred's royal scriptorium to serve as the exemplar for making the copies sent out around the kingdom—suffered catastrophic damage, first in the Cotton Library fire of 1731, then in a fire at the British Museum bindery in 1864. It has been reduced to a fragment consisting of five badly burned leaves, while one complete, undamaged leaf that was removed from the manuscript before the Cotton fire is now in Kassel, Landesbibliothek, MS Anhang 19. The other ninth-century copy, now Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Hatton 20, is complete apart from the loss of one leaf; its first page is reproduced here. [1]

Hatton 20 is the copy that Alfred sent to Worcester. This is shown by the directive added in capitals at the top of the first page, "ÐEOS BOC SCEAL TO WIOGORA CEASTRE" (This book is to go to Worcester), as also by the naming of Werferth, bishop of Worcester ca. 872–915, in Alfred's greeting in the opening sentence of the preface: "Alfred kyning hateð gretan Wærferð biscep his wordum luflice 7 freondlice" (King Alfred sends words of greeting lovingly and amicably to Bishop Werferth). It is remarkable that one of the original copies of the Pastoral Care sent out to the bishops has survived virtually intact; none of the other texts translated under Alfred's program has come down to us in a copy from Alfred's own time. In the Hatton manuscript, Alfred's preface occupies a separate bifolium and is in a hand different from those of the two scribes who copied the translation of Gregory's text that occupies the main body of the manuscript. The hand responsible for the preface appears to be identical with that of the main text (but not the preface) of MS Tiberius B. xi; the resemblance was first noted by Humfrey Wanley (1672–1726), who saw the Cotton manuscript before it was damaged, and has been confirmed by modern scholars. [2] This scribe wrote a tall, relatively narrow form of Anglo-Saxon minuscule. His script includes not only the Anglo-Saxon letters æsc, wynn, and eth (the scribe avoids using thorn), but also characteristic Anglo-Saxon forms for several letters of the standard Roman alphabet: round-backed d, low-set f and s, flat-topped g, and r with the left stem extending below the baseline and the shoulder of the letter descending to the baseline. All these forms may be seen in lines 1–2 on this page. [3] Other characteristic features of his script include a closed at the top by a straight, nearly horizontal stroke; a high e with a broad upper compartment, used when e or aesc precedes g or t (see gretan, line 1; begietan, line 12; ðæt, line 2; ægðer, line 3); p with an open bow, ending with a flick to the right (see speow, line 8; anlepne, line 17); wedge-shaped serifs at the top of the left stems of f, h, i, l, m, n, p, r, s, and wynn; a dotted serif terminating the curve of final t (see ðæt, line 2; ut, line 7); an extended tongue/headstroke on final e and t (see ðe and swiðe, line 2; oftost and ðæt, line 21); and an extended end-stroke, rising toward the right, on final a and r (see gesæliglica tida, line 4; ægðer, line 6).

A further noticeable feature of the script is the use of an accent above the vowel of on (whether used as a preposition or a prefix; see ón gemynd, lines 2–3, and ónwald, line 5), ut (line 7), an (line 15), and of (line 15). Word separation is generally good, but with certain notable departures from modern practice. The elements of compound words are usually separated: see angel cynn, line 3; ærend wrecum, line 6; ðiowot domas, line 10; under stondan, line 14; ærend gewrit, line 15. Monosyllabic prepositions usually attach to the following word without separation: thus ongemynd for on gemynd, lines 2–3; onenglisc for on englisc, lines 14–15; torice for to rice, line 18. Similarly, the relative pronoun ðe is not separated from the following word: see ðeðone, line 5; ðehie, line 10. Prefixed ge- and be- are often separated from the rest of their word: see be hionan for behionan, line 14; be giondan for begiondan, line 16; ge ðencean for geðencean, line 18; ge æmetige for geæmetige, line 21. By contrast, ge as a separate lexeme, meaning "both/and," often attaches to the following word: thus gegodcundra, line 3; gemid wige. gemid wisdome, line 8. As is standard in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, there is no space between the Tironian abbreviation for and (which here has a notably upright form) and the following word.

The page carries a fascinating range of corrections and glosses; the corrections date from the Anglo-Saxon period while the glosses were added significantly later. Most of the corrections and all of the glosses were entered by individuals well known to students of Anglo-Saxon England and offer insights into how this page was studied over the centuries.

One correction was entered by the original scribe: the letter d entered in line 4 to complete the word woruld. To flag the insertion, the scribe here used a rather unusual form of caret mark consisting of three dots in triangular formation entered below the baseline. The scribe used the same mark for an insertion on the leaf formerly belonging to MS Tiberius B. xi and now in Kassel. [4]

The page includes several erasures that correct spellings by the original scribe. He twice wrote ðætte in preference for ðæt: in line 16, before noht, and in line 19, before we nu. In both cases, the letters te have been erased by scraping; the erasure explains what now appears as an unusually large gap between the remaining ðæt and the next word. This scribe preferred the form swæ to the more normal swa, and his uncorrected spelling can still be seen in line 21, in the phrase swæ ðu oftost mæge. In every other case, however, the æsc has been corrected to a by erasure of the right-hand portion of the letter. In several places the erasure is now almost undetectable, but it can be seen fairly clearly in line 20 (swa ic geliefe), where a fragment of the tongue of the right-hand portion of the æsc remains on the page. There are two places where the original scribe wrote ie and the letters have been erased and y substituted: in hyrsumedon (line 6) and hy (line 12). The straight diagonals of the corrector's y contrast with the more curving, tilted y used by the original scribe, visible in, for example, cynn and kyningas (both in line 5).

These substitutions, and the erasures, are perhaps attributable to the same individual as made five other corrections on the page. These five corrections are in the distinctive hand identified by N. R. Ker as that of the homilist Wulfstan, who was bishop of Worcester 1002–23. [5] In line 8, Wulfstan has squeezed in the prefix ge before rymdon; in line 10, he has added don, omitted by the original scribe between gode and scoldon, and has signaled the insertion by entering a comma-shaped caret mark below the baseline. Wulfstan's three other emendations are stylistic, adding a word or phrase to the original text to fill out the meaning: he inserts on ðam dagum before gode in line 5 (the exact place of the insertion being indicated by the caret mark below the baseline), wel before gehioldon in line 7, and ærest before to rice in line 18. These three emendations are not the result of comparison of this copy of King Alfred's preface with the version of another manuscript, for these readings are not found in any other manuscript. Rather, they are Wulfstan's own additions to Alfred's original text, and are rhetorical and clarificatory in character: "how the kings, who had authority over this people, in those days obeyed God and his messengers"; "they … well maintained their peace, morality, and authority at home"; "when I first succeeded to the kingdom." The emendations are similar to many others made by Wulfstan to his own and others' writings in nine other manuscripts, most notably London, British Library, MS Cotton Nero A. i, which has a wealth of Wulfstanian entries.

Several other corrections on the first page of Hatton 20, all making alterations to the punctuation, are likely to be by Wulfstan. The only form of punctuation used by the original scribe was a single punctus or dot placed somewhat above the baseline and used both within sentences and at sentence endings. Where the punctuation indicates a minor pause within a sentence, it has been left to stand. But in those places where it indicates a stronger pause, the punctuation has been altered to bring it into line with the forms of punctuation first developed at Charlemagne's court in the late eighth century and introduced to England with the monastic reform of the second half of the tenth century. These new punctuation marks included the punctus elevatus, consisting of a dot surmounted by an extended tick-like stroke, used to indicate a stronger pause within a sentence—the value of this mark being roughly equivalent to that of a modern semi-colon; and the punctus versus, of which the form resembles a modern semi-colon but which was used to mark the end of a sentence. On the first page of MS Hatton 20, there are some thirteen places where the original scribe's punctuation has been changed to a punctus elevatus by the addition of a stroke above the dot or to a punctus versus by the addition of a comma-shaped mark below the dot. These alterations can be detected from the lighter color of the ink of the added strokes. The clearest examples of the conversion of the original scribe's punctus to a punctus elevatus include the marks following wisdome at the end of line 8 and mæge in line 21; clear cases of amendment of the original punctuation to make a punctus versus occur after sceoldon in line 12 and lareowa in line 19. Repunctuation of earlier manuscripts was not uncommon in the late Anglo-Saxon period, and Wulfstan made corrections of this kind elsewhere. [6] One of the primary purposes of punctuation was to serve as a guide for oral delivery of a text, to indicate where the speaker should pause and what value each pause should have. The corrections to the punctuation and the rhetorical character of Wulfstan's textual emendations on this page and throughout the rest of Alfred's preface in Hatton 20 raise the tantalizing possibility that the great homilist was marking up the text with the aim of reading it aloud.

About half of the lexical glosses on the page—some twenty-two altogether, of which the first is sapientes above wiotan in line 3—are the work of the scribe known to scholars as the Tremulous Hand of Worcester, who during the first half of the thirteenth century glossed more than twenty manuscripts written in Old English. The scribe gets his name from the distinctively quivery character of his handwriting, thought to have been the result of a medical condition, perhaps congenital tremor. [7] His work as a glossator is of the greatest interest. It is clear that he labored on Anglo-Saxon manuscripts over a number of years; that one of his intentions was to teach himself Old English, the knowledge of which had evidently been largely lost by the time at which he lived; and that his expertise in the language did indeed improve as he immersed himself in the codices available in the library of Worcester Cathedral. Most of the manuscripts that he studied contained homiletic and penitential texts, and it seems likely that in examining them he was seeking to gather material that he could use for both teaching and preaching. [8] He did almost all of his glossing in Latin, entering Latin equivalents directly above the vernacular words to which they related. When he was studying an Old English text that had been translated from a Latin original, he would use that original as a "crib." This is exactly what he did when glossing the text of Alfred's translation of Gregory's Pastoral Care in Hatton 20: the great majority of his glosses provide the words to be found in Gregory's original text. For Alfred's preface, however, there existed no Latin original, and here he had to depend on his own resources to understand the Old English. His glosses to the preface are all entered in light brown ink, in a late form of his script in which there is a marked degree of tremulousness and individual letters are comparatively large, with a pronounced leftward lean; by contrast, his glosses to the main text are entered in a darker ink and in a smaller, more controlled, less wavering script. Evidently the Tremulous Hand first glossed the main text of the manuscript, depending heavily on a copy of Gregory's original, then returned later—probably some years later—to gloss the preface. One of his glosses on fol. 1r is in Middle English: spedde, entered above speow (succeeded) in line 8. The rest of his lexical glosses are in Latin and are of varying accuracy; for example, in glossing siodo (morality; line 7) with collaterales, he has entirely misunderstood the Old English word, apparently confusing it with side (side). Several of his glosses, such as officia over ðiowotdomas (line 10) and pauci over feawa (line 13), are now barely legible.

The page includes several further marks by the Tremulous Hand. To disambiguate the Old English prefix -ge- from the lexeme ge, every time he encountered the prefix he entered above it the letter i, which was the Middle English equivalent for the prefix. The first examples of this occur above the g of ge/mynd at the end of line 2 and the g of gesæliglica in line 4; by contrast, in lines 3–4, he entered no mark above the g of the lexeme ge in the phrase ge godcundra hada ge woruldcundra. In line 8, he has entered a letter a over the i of him, thereby converting the word to its Middle English equivalent, ham, in order to show that it is here in its dative plural, not its dative singular form. In line 6, he entered a pair of horizontal strokes, one above the other, to bridge the gap between the first three letters of hyrsumedon and the rest of the word, the gap being the result of the extended final stroke of the original scribe's r. Immediately below this, in line 7, he used a similar mark within onweald to link the prefix to the rest of the word.

Hatton 20 was not the only copy of the Pastoral Care studied by the Tremulous Hand. He also knew Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 12, a magnificent, large-format copy made in the second half of the tenth century. He glossed CCCC 12 even more heavily than Hatton 20, and the varying states of his handwriting in the Cambridge manuscript indicate that he revisited it at several different stages of his work on Old English. These differing states of his hand are to be seen in the preface as well as the main text of CCCC 12. Within the preface, some of the same words were glossed by the Tremulous Hand in both CCCC 12 and Hatton 20. Interestingly, while several of his glosses are the same in both manuscripts—for example, sapientes glossing wiotan (Hatton 20, line 3; CCCC 12, line 5) and the erroneous collaterales glossing siodo (Hatton 20, line 7; CCCC 12, line 12)—others are different and show that by the time he glossed the preface of Hatton 20, his knowledge of Old English had improved. Thus wige, glossed victoria in CCCC 12, apparently as a result of confusion with sige, has been glossed more accurately as prelio (by combat) in Hatton 20, line 8. Again, geæmetige, glossed with the present indicative vacas in CCCC 12, is more correctly glossed with a subjunctive in Hatton 20 (line 21), although the Tremulous Hand here made the error of using the plural rather than the singular form (vacetis rather than vaces). His glossing activity offers an extraordinary insight into the major effort he made to learn the language of his forefathers in order to be able to draw fruit from their writings.

More than three hundred years after the Tremulous Hand carried out his work, another scholar who set himself the task of learning Old English was to study both Hatton 20 and CCCC 12, and it is his hand that is to be seen in the remainder of the lexical glosses on fol. 1r of the Hatton manuscript. John Joscelyn (1529–1603) served in the household of Matthew Parker virtually throughout Parker's term as archbishop of Canterbury (1559–75). [9] He participated in Parker's efforts to rescue English medieval manuscripts from the threat of loss or destruction that had hung over them following Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries and he became Parker's expert on the Old English language. In the course of his work for Parker, Joscelyn is known to have traveled to several of England's cathedral libraries, including Worcester, and it was presumably at Worcester itself that he placed Hatton 20 and CCCC 12 side by side; although CCCC 12 was to enter Parker's collection at some point, there is no evidence that Hatton 20 left Worcester before the seventeenth century. Joscelyn has entered twenty-three glosses between the lines of the first page of Hatton 20, using the small, somewhat cramped, easily recognizable italic hand that is to be seen in many other Anglo-Saxon manuscripts that he studied. Not one of these glosses, however, represents Joscelyn's own unaided effort to understand the text of the preface. He has simply copied into Hatton 20 glosses that the Tremulous Hand entered in CCCC 12. In one case, Joscelyn has made a small adjustment to the gloss: where the Tremulous Hand's gloss to on gemynd in CCCC 12 is in memoria, Joscelyn has changed this to in mente (see Hatton 20, lines 2–3). In another place, Joscelyn apparently had difficulty reading the Tremulous Hand's gloss in CCCC 12. At the beginning of line 4 of Hatton 20, Joscelyn has entered two glosses: persona. ordine. Of these, ordine corresponds with the gloss that the Tremulous Hand entered above hada in CCCC 12; persona is Joscelyn's partial misreading of the now abraded gloss—either persone domini or persone diui[ne]—that the Tremulous Hand wrote in the outer margin of CCCC 12. All the other glosses that Joscelyn entered on the first page of Hatton 20 are copied exactly from the Tremulous Hand's glosses in CCCC 12. They include the gloss to oðfeallenu (declined), vsque tunc oblita (forgotten until then), entered in the outer margin next to line 13. The Tremulous Hand had similarly entered the gloss in the margin in CCCC 12, and Joscelyn may not have been sure which word the gloss related to; it is hardly accurate, and it perhaps resulted from the Tremulous Hand misidentifying the prefix oð- as the lexeme meaning "until." The incipient stage of Joscelyn's knowledge of Old English at the time he copied these glosses is suggested by his writing the erroneous gloss victoria, which he found in CCCC 12, alongside the Tremulous Hand's more accurate gloss prelio above wige in line 8 of Hatton 20.

Joscelyn applied himself with some dedication to the study of the preface in Hatton 20, for he copied its complete text into his notebook, now MS Cotton Vitellius D. vii—in which he compiled many Anglo-Saxon texts that interested him—and accompanied his transcript with a translation of Alfred's text. He also drew upon the Hatton copy of the preface when compiling a series of Old English wordlists in another of his notebooks, now Lambeth Palace Library, MS 692; [10] these wordlists in turn provided the basis for the Old English dictionary on which he later worked with Matthew Parker's son John (MSS Cotton Titus A. xv and A. xvi). In compiling his list of words from the Pastoral Care preface, he provided each selected word with a Latin definition, and for these definitions he simply copied the Tremulous Hand's glosses (both accurate and inaccurate) that he found in Hatton 20 and CCCC 12. These were, in fact, not the only two copies of the Old English Pastoral Care with which Joscelyn became familiar, and his note in the outer margin of fol. 1r of Hatton 20, alongside lines 1–2, attests to his acquaintance with one of the other manuscripts. Noting the occurrence of Werferth's name in the greeting of Hatton 20, Joscelyn underlined it and added the observation, "in alio libro legitur pro Wærferð Herstan" (in another book one reads Herstan in place of Wærferð). Joscelyn must therefore have seen the manuscript that is now MS Cotton Otho B. ii, a copy made ca. 1000 of the text of the Pastoral Care originally sent to Heahstan, bishop of London, and including Heahstan's name in Alfred's opening greeting. At the time Joscelyn entered this note, he was probably not yet familiar with Cambridge University Library MS Ii.2.4, which names Wulfsige, bishop of Sherborne, in its greeting; this manuscript was given to Parker perhaps ca. 1566. [11] Yet another copy of the Pastoral Care was to come into the hands of the Parker circle in 1569, when Bishop John Jewell found in his cathedral library at Salisbury, and dispatched to Parker, the manuscript that is now Cambridge, Trinity College, MS R.5.22, fols. 72–157. It is perhaps not surprising that Joscelyn and his master Parker laid their hands on more copies of the Pastoral Care than almost any other single Anglo-Saxon text. [12] Alfred's reference to the lamentable state of learning in England when he took the throne would have had special resonance for Parker, whose survey of the clergy in his archdiocese, conducted in 1560–61, had revealed that many were mediocriter docti, indocti, or even omnino indocti. [13] Again, Alfred's justification of the practice of translating influential books into English, which he accompanied with his observation of how the Bible had been translated from its original language into Greek, Latin, and finally the vernaculars, offered an important precedent for Parker, who in 1568 was to publish an English translation of the Bible on which he and several of his bishops had worked.

The opening page of Hatton 20 holds unusual interest for the student of Old English and Anglo-Saxon England. Offering the only intact copy of the beginning of Alfred's preface in a manuscript made in the king's time and at his command, it also shows how Alfred's text was received, studied, and utilized by a major Anglo-Saxon author and by two of the key figures in the history of Anglo-Saxon studies. It is a literary, historical, and cultural document of singular importance.



[1] The manuscript was originally designated as no. 88 among the books belonging to Christopher, Lord Hatton, that were acquired by the Bodleian Library in 1671. This explains the entry "Hatton. 88." in the lower margin of the first page, below which is the faint pencil note "olim" (formerly).

[2] See Kenneth Sisam, "The Publication of Alfred's Pastoral Care," in his Studies in the History of Old English Literature (Oxford, 1953), 140–7, at 143; and N. R. Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, 1957), 386 and 259. The evidence of the undamaged leaf in Kassel is crucial for establishing the scribal identity.

[3] In this and all subsequent line references, I begin the numbering with the line carrying the opening of the preface proper, not with the added line carrying the directive ordering that the book is to be sent to Worcester.

[4] See the reproduction of the verso of the Kassel leaf at the end of N. R. Ker, ed., The Pastoral Care: King Alfred's Translation of St. Gregory's Regula Pastoralis (MS. Hatton 20 in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, MS. Cotton Tiberius B. XI in the British Museum, MS. Anhang 19 in the Landesbibliothek at Kassel), Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile 6 (Copenhagen, 1956).

[5] See Ker, Pastoral Care, 24-5; and Neil Ker, "The Handwriting of Archbishop Wulfstan," in England before the Conquest: Studies in Primary Sources Presented to Dorothy Whitelock, ed. Peter Clemoes and Kathleen Hughes (Cambridge, 1971), 315–31.

[6] Wulfstan's proclivity for amending punctuation is mentioned by M. B. Parkes, Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West (Aldershot, 1992), 38.

[7] See Christine Franzen, The Tremulous Hand of Worcester: A Study of Old English in the Thirteenth Century (Oxford, 1991), appendix 2.

[8] See Franzen, Tremulous Hand, 189–93.

[9] Joscelyn joined Parker's household some time before November 1560.

[10] See Timothy Graham, "John Joscelyn, Pioneer of Old English Lexicography," in The Recovery of Old English: Anglo-Saxon Studies in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, ed. Timothy Graham, 83–140, at 118-20.

[11] See Timothy Graham, "Matthew Parker and the Conservation of Manuscripts: The Case of CUL MS Ii.2.4," Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 10/5 (1995), 630–41, at 640.

[12] Joscelyn knew six copies of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (MSS A, B, C, D, E, and G). Only one of these was actually owned by Parker (MS A), but marks by Parker in MS E indicate that it passed through his hands, if only briefly.

[13] See R. I. Page, Matthew Parker and His Books (Kalamazoo, 1993), 102. See also Page's discussion of the Parker circle's work on the Pastoral Care preface in "The Sixteenth-Century Reception of Alfred the Great's Letter to His Bishops," Anglia 110 (1992): 36–64.