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New Readings in the Vercelli Book

New Readings in the Vercelli Book

Samantha Zacher
Andy Orchard
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    New Readings in the Vercelli Book
    Book Description:

    New Readings in the Vercelli Bookaddresses central questions concerning the manuscript's intended use, mode of compilation, and purpose, and offers a variety of approaches on such topics as orthography, style, genre, theme, and source-study.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5733-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-11)

    The Cathedral Library of Vercelli in Northern Italy contains a rather plain codex (Vercelli, Biblioteca Capitolare CXVII), of a size slightly narrower and longer than modern A4 paper, and which in its current state comprises only 135 folios of the original fine thin parchment. The so-called Vercelli Book, written in a bold, firm hand, apparently by a single Anglo-Saxon scribe at some time during the middle of the second half of the tenth century, is in a very good state of preservation, and seems to have been little read, at least in its current location; if a single scribble attests...

  5. The Vercelli Prose and Anglo-Saxon Literary History
    (pp. 12-40)

    However grudging the observation or uncomfortable for the scholar making it, no one has – for the last decade and more – disputed the importance of the Vercelli Book for the history of Anglo-Saxon literature. If anyone needs a quick refresher on the matter, Donald Scragg’s concise treatment for the celebratory occasion in Vercelli may serve to recall most of the major points.¹ The fundamental ground for the importance of the Vercelli Book is its relative chronological priority in the history of Old English prose, which if disputed as a likely and murky tie with the Blickling homilies – both manuscripts imply earlier...

  6. Studies in the Language of Copyists of the Vercelli Homilies
    (pp. 41-61)

    The introduction to my edition of the Vercelli homilies¹ contains a long section on the language of the prose items in the Vercelli Book which concludes (with certain abbreviations silently expanded):

    Two important linguistic conclusions can be drawn from the evidence. First, the language of [the Vercelli Book] is a valuable witness to the variety of linguistic forms that a late-tenth-century scribe was faced with, and to his tolerance of them. Second (and related to this) is the information [the Vercelli Book] offers for the spread of late West-Saxon in the tenth century. The terms early West-Saxon, late West-Saxon, Kentish...

  7. The Portents at Christ’s Birth in Vercelli Homilies V and VI: Some Analogues from Medieval Sermons and Biblical Commentaries
    (pp. 62-97)

    Vercelli homilies V and VI are two Christmas homilies in the Vercelli Book, the first an exegetical reading of the nativity story from Luke, the second a translation from the apocryphalGospel of Pseudo-Matthewprefaced by a short account of the marvels that took place in anticipation of Christ’s birth. These homilies are separated from one another in the manuscript by the Old English poemsAndreasandFates of the Apostles, and Donald Scragg has made the case that they must have come to the Vercelli compiler from different exemplars, both going back to the early tenth century but representing...

  8. The Source of Vercelli VII: An Address to Women
    (pp. 98-149)

    Without a doubt, Vercelli VII has been one of the least studied homilies in the Vercelli manuscript. Perhaps the main reason for this critical neglect has been an inability by earlier scholars to locate a source for the text, and so to provide Vercelli VII with a suitable literary context. But even assessing the style of the homily on its own terms, it can be seen that the composition stands out among those in the Vercelli Book for its seemingly acephalous beginning, its heavy reliance upon figurative conceits, and, most notably, its address to women. Such a claim to ‘difference’...

  9. Vercelli Homily XV and The Apocalypse of Thomas
    (pp. 150-184)

    The Apocalypse of Thomas, an apocryphal revelation of Christ concerning the travails that will usher in the last times and the cosmological signs that will occur on each of the seven days preceding the Day of Judgment, survives in three distinct Latin versions and four independent Old English translations, as well as a Middle Irish poetic version;¹ information about the Old English versions is set out in table 1. In a recent essay I printed in parallel-column format six previously unknown or neglected Latin texts ofThomas, discussed their relationship to the previously published versions, and drew attention to certain...

  10. The ‘Homiletics’ of the Vercelli Book Poems: The Case of Homiletic Fragment I
    (pp. 185-224)

    Of the six poetic texts in the Vercelli Book, none has been so neglected by modern scholars asHomiletic Fragment I. Perhaps because of its fragmentary nature or its pious tone, only three extended analyses of the poem have been produced in the past fifty years.¹ As the modern title implies, however, the poem sits squarely within the homiletic context of the Vercelli Book as a whole.² Its theme, namely, the deceitfulness of men in the present age, is a relatively commonplace homiletic motif; and the quotation in the poem of a biblical text subsequently explicated has parallels in the...

  11. The Dream of the Rood: Cross-References
    (pp. 225-253)

    Even now, when arguments continue about its age and integrity,The Dream of the Roodis for most modern readers one of the most central and celebrated examples of Old English verse extant, and there is growing evidence that its considerable poetic power was also appreciated in Anglo-Saxon England itself. The 156-line poem that survives entire (though not quite intact) in a single copy in the Vercelli Book (from line 6 of folio 104v through to the bottom of folio 106r) appears to have at least two epigraphical reflexes in stone and silver, in that it has been argued that...

  12. Vercelli Homilies XIX–XXI, the Ascension Day Homily in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 162, and the Catechetical Tradition from Augustine to Wulfstan
    (pp. 254-279)

    The anonymous homilies known as Vercelli XIX–XXI and the Ascension Day homily in CCCC 162 (Tristram III) are the work of a single author.¹ That author, in providing homilies for Rogationtide and Ascension Day, attempts to interweave themes and hortatory messages appropriate to the season with basic Christian instruction. In other words, the author’s aim is at once to convince listeners and readers² of the spiritual importance of the season and to rehearse as many of the most significant events of Christian history and foundations of the faith as possible. In the latter aim, the author was influenced by...

  13. The Reburial of the Cross the Old English Elene
    (pp. 280-297)

    The central theme ofEleneis conversion – through the cross and, by extension, through Christ. By means of a series of encounters with the ultimate icon of Christianity, first Constantine and Elene, then Judas, then all the Jews accede to the spiritual truth that the cross signifies. The attainment of this spiritual truth is represented throughout the text by the metaphorics of movement. Robert Stepsis and Richard Rand, for instance, have argued that the theme of the poem is ‘a simple yet fundamental one concerning the power of the cross, and through the cross, of Christ, to effect the reconciliation...

  14. The Journey Motif in the Poems of the Vercelli Book
    (pp. 298-317)

    All of the poetry in the Vercelli Book is concerned with the quest for Heaven, as Christ’s disciples make literal and figurative journeys (the terms used include sið [‘journey’] andlifes weg[‘the path of life’]) that test the limits of their faith. The language associated with journeying in the manuscript is a recurring series of words that highlights progressive stages of the road to salvation. In particular, terms such as sið (‘journey’),geomor(‘sad’ or ‘troubled’),frofor(‘solace’),hyht(‘hope’), anddream(‘joy’) define moments of joyful expectation or miserable uncertainty as individuals struggle to find their way. Each...

  15. The Vercelli Book and Its Texts: A Guide to Scholarship
    (pp. 318-416)

    The following bibliography, extracted from a lengthy work in progress and revised for the present collection, contains eight sections: Vercelli Book (pp. 319–28);Andreas(pp. 328–46);The Fates of the Apostles(pp. 346–51);Soul and Body I(pp. 351–6);Homiletic Fragment I(pp. 356–7);The Dream of the Rood(pp. 357–78);Elene(pp. 378–92); andVercelli Homilies(pp. 392–415). The new work just mentioned is a revised edition ofA Bibliography of Publications on Old English Literature to the End of 1972, by Stanley B. Greenfield and Fred C. Robinson (Toronto: UTP,...

  16. Index of Manuscripts
    (pp. 417-418)
  17. General Index
    (pp. 419-426)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 427-427)