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The Old English Version of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica

The Old English Version of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica

Sharon M. Rowley
Volume: 16
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 262
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  • Book Info
    The Old English Version of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica
    Book Description:

    The first full-length study of the Old English version of Bede's masterwork, dealing with one of the most important texts to survive from Anglo-Saxon England. The subjects treated range from a detailed analysis of the manuscriptsand the medieval use of th

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-848-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-x)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Bedeʹs Historia Ecclesiastica (731) is one of our primary sources of information about the settlement and conversion of Anglo-Saxon England.¹ Bede (673–735) was a monk of Wearmouth-Jarrow in Northumbria. According to the short account of his life that he includes at the end of the Historia Ecclesiastica, his kinsmen gave him into the care of the monastery at the age of seven.² He lived the life of a scholar monk, devoting himself to learning, teaching and writing. In addition to the Historia Ecclesiastica, which M. L. W. Laistner describes as ʹthe supreme example of Bedeʹs geniusʹ, Bede also wrote...

  7. 1 The Manuscripts and Editions of the OEHE
    (pp. 15-35)

    The OEHE survives in five manuscripts and three brief excerpts copied from the tenth to the late-eleventh centuries. These are, as Allen Frantzen puts it, ′eventful′ texts; that is, they are ′″sites″ of multiple and simultaneous conflicts′.² They reflect a tremendous amount of scribal activity and intervention, as well as the fragility of the material texts over time. Most editions of the text have sought to repair the losses and erase layers of scribal intervention, so as to present a version of the OEHE that is as close as possible to Bedeʹs Historia Ecclesiastica or a hypothetical reconstruction of the...

  8. 2 Backgrounds, Contexts and the History of Scholarship
    (pp. 36-56)

    Frank Stentonʹs summary assessment of Anglo-Saxon England and the OEHE, first published in 1943, reflects the scholarly consensus of the mid-twentieth century. In the intervening years, however, the grand narrative of migration and conversion that Bede presents in his Historia Ecclesiastica itself has come into question, as has the assumption of material and social continuity between earlier and later Anglo-Saxon England. Patrick Wormaldʹs introductory essay to The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature reflects this change in thought and provides one of the key reasons for it. According to Wormald,

    most textbooks on Anglo-Saxon England treat its long history, from...

  9. 3 Gentes Names and the Question of ʹNationalʹ Identity in the OEHE
    (pp. 57-70)

    The independence that I describe at the end of the last chapter can be succinctly demonstrated by looking at the many ways in which Bedeʹs translator chooses to render Bedeʹs term gens Anglorum. Approaching the OEHE from a comparative lexical perspective, this chapter examines differences between the OEHE and other vernacular texts, especially the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, regarding gentes names, the names of tribes or peoples that appear in the text. Focusing on the ways in which the OEHE translates gens Anglorum in relation to other gentes names, this chapter questions whether the OEHE plays a role in the tenth-century construction...

  10. 4 Rewriting Salvation History
    (pp. 71-97)

    The first four words of the main text of the OEHE begin by translating Bedeʹs famous line, ʹBrittania Oceani insulaʹ,² using the poetic and difficult word garsecg. The term appears about one hundred times in the Corpus of Old English, and while it clearly refers to the ocean, precisely how it came to bear that meaning has long been a subject of contention. The Dictionary of Old English Corpus indicates that ʹthe etymology of the word has been much disputed . . . the compound is probably to be translated as either ʺspear-warriorʺ (where personification is presumed) or ʺspear-oceanʹʺ.³ On...

  11. 5 Who Read Æthelbertʹs Letter? Translation, Mediation and Authority in the OEHE
    (pp. 98-113)

    In addition to his powerful articulation of salvation history, discussed in Chapter 4, Bedeʹs authoritative narrative and his explicitly Roman agenda have received much scholarly attention.¹ As scholars such as Janet Nelson, Nicholas Howe and Walter Goffart have established, Rome is the cultural center of Bedeʹs world.² In Bedeʹs account, it is Augustine of Canterburyʹs mission from Rome in 597 that introduces Christianity and literacy to Æthelbertʹs court in Kent. He includes a series of fifteen letters from Pope Gregory and his successors encouraging and admonishing kings, queens and bishops. Eight of these appear in Book I; they form one...

  12. 6 Queen Takes Bishop: Marriage, Conversion and Papal Authority in the OEHE
    (pp. 114-133)

    The scenes of conversion shift geographically in Book II of the Historia Ecclesiastica and OEHE, first moving north to the court of Edwin, king of Northumbria (616–33) then to Mercia and Wessex. Notably, Edwin marries Æthelburh, the daughter of Æthelbert and Bertha. Like her mother, Æthelburh travels to the court of a pagan king as a bride. Also like her mother, Æthelburh receives a letter from the pope that Bedeʹs main Old English translator omits. Reading the stories of Bertha, Æthelburh and several other women between the lines of the OEHE reveals a pattern of presence and absence operating...

  13. 7 Visions of the Otherworld: Endings, Emplacement and Mutability in History
    (pp. 134-155)

    The final words of T break off mid-sentence at the bottom of folio 139v, as Bedeʹs translator invokes ʹþæt sume men wuniað cweðanʹ (ʹwhat some men are wont to sayʹ) to warn his audience about the price of refusing to lead a good Christian life. This episode, the story of a drunken brother in Bedeʹs community, is both intensely personal – beginning with ʹIc seolfa cuðe sumne broðarʹ (ʹI myself knew a brotherʹ) – and eschatologically universal. It is the third of three chapters in a row in Book V that recount otherworldly visions.² The first is that of Dryhthelm,...

  14. 8 Anglo-Saxon Signs of Use in Manuscripts O, C and B
    (pp. 156-173)

    At least since Fred Robinsonʹs 1980 analysis of the metrical envoi in B, scholars of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts have gone ʹbackʹ to the manuscripts to examine whether the layout of the page – the use of capitals, display script, rubrication and spacing – can provide more information about texts, scribes and the uses of manuscripts than is provided by modern editions.² While Paul Saengerʹs Silent Reading traces the complex relationship between silent reading and oral performance via word spacing and punctuation, Katherine OʹBrien OʹKeeffeʹs Visible Song demonstrates the ways in which differences between punctuation practices in Latin and vernacular texts reflect...

  15. 9 Later-Medieval Signs of Use in Manuscripts Ca and T
    (pp. 174-194)

    Although Neil Ker reported that ʹmanuscripts in Old English were considered to be practically without value in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuriesʹ, scholarly attitudes about that assessment are changing.¹ Multi-lingual activity, including the use and copying of Old English manuscripts, continued in libraries and monastic centers after the Norman Conquest: Patrick Wormald has shown that Old English laws were compiled and translated into Latin and Richard Gameson has demonstrated that libraries in England were built up with texts current on the Continent.² Benjamin Withers has recently pointed out that the illustrated Old English Heptateuch (British Library, Cotton Claudius B.iv) was...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 195-198)

    The driving principle behind this book is that the differences between the OEHE and its source are revealing and important. An anonymously translated vernacular history that circulated in England from the earliest phases of Old English prose to the Norman Conquest and beyond, the OEHE engages and deploys Bedeʹs voice and authority, but presents a shorter version of Bedeʹs great work with different emphases. Readers who believe that the chief duty of a translation is to transmit the content of its source text with absolute fidelity (whether word by word or sense by sense) may disagree with some of the...

  17. Appendix I. Summary of the Chapters and Chapter-Breaks in Bedeʹs Historia Ecclesiastica v. Chapters and Chapter-Breaks in the OEHE
    (pp. 199-205)
  18. Appendix II. Forms of ʹOngolþeodeʹ and ʹAngelcynʹ in the OEHE
    (pp. 206-214)
  19. Appendix III. Glosses in T
    (pp. 215-223)
  20. Appendix IV. Table of Glosses in T
    (pp. 224-228)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-250)
  22. Index
    (pp. 251-257)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 258-259)