The Elizabethan Invention of Anglo-Saxon England

The Elizabethan Invention of Anglo-Saxon England: Laurence Nowell, William Lambarde, and the Study of Old English

Rebecca Brackmann
Volume: 30
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81rzq
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  • Book Info
    The Elizabethan Invention of Anglo-Saxon England
    Book Description:

    "Full of fresh and illuminating insights into a way of looking at the English past in the sixteenth century... a book with the potential to deepen and transform our understanding of Tudor attitudes to ethnic identity and the national past." - Philip Schwyzer, University of Exeter. Laurence Nowell (1530-c.1570), author of the first dictionary of Old English, and William Lambarde (1536-1601), Nowell's protégé and eventually the first editor of the Old English Laws, are key figures in Elizabethan historical discourses and in its political and literary society; through their work the period between the Germanic migrations and the Norman Conquest came to be regarded as a foundational time for Elizabethan England, overlapping with and contributing to contemporary debates on the shape of Elizabethan English language. Their studies took different strategies in demonstrating the role of early medieval history in Elizabethan national - even imperial - identity, while in Lambarde's legal writings Old English law codes become identical with the "ancient laws" that underpinned contemporary common law. Their efforts contradict the assumption that Anglo-Saxon studies did not effectively participate in Tudor nationalism outside of Protestant polemic; instead, it was a vital part of making history "English." Their work furthers our understanding of both the history of medieval studies and the importance of early Anglo-Saxon studies to Tudor nationalism. Rebecca Brackmann is Assistant Professor of English, Lincoln Memorial University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-958-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Chapter 1 THE ANGLO-SAXONISTS AND THEIR BOOKS: PRINT, MANUSCRIPT, AND THE CIRCULATION OF SCHOLARSHIP
    (pp. 1-26)

    So David Matthews and Gordon McMullan, in the introduction to their Reading the Medieval in Early Modern England, set forth what has become a key issue in discussions of early modern historical writing and antiquarianism in England—the degree to which medieval studies exists as a product of early modern ideological and, particularly, nationalistic goals. The very act of separating ‘medieval’ and ‘early modern’ (or, especially, ‘Renaissance’) is agreeing to the terms of use laid down by sixteenth-century scholars, as James Simpson argues in the same volume: ‘when we draw lines sharply between periods whole unto themselves, wherever we draw...

  6. PART I: ANGLO-SAXON TEXTS AND SIXTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLISH
    • Chapter 2 THE ABCEDARIUM GLOSSARY: SOURCES AND METHODS OF NOWELL’S OLD ENGLISH LEXICOGRAPHY
      (pp. 29-54)

      Undoubtedly, one of the greatest obstacles that early Anglo-Saxonists faced was the lack of dictionaries: their initial challenge, to begin sorting out Old English vocabulary in the manuscripts that interested them. The first person to do so with any real success, Laurence Nowell, became known as a preeminent (perhaps the preeminent) Tudor Anglo-Saxonist mainly because of his lexical work. Correspondingly, of the projects Nowell undertook in the Abcedarium, present-day Anglo-Saxonists have paid the most attention to the collection of lexical glosses written into the margin of the book’s printed dictionary. James Rosier’s article, the only previous study of Nowell’s Abcedarium,...

    • Chapter 3 INKHORNS, ORTHOGRAPHERS, AND ANTIQUARIES: STANDARDIZED ENGLISH AND THE DAWN OF ANGLO-SAXON STUDIES
      (pp. 55-84)

      Nowell’s use of medieval manuscripts and the form of his Old English lexicographic works show his desire to establish a complete, regular, and stable canon of Old English words, juxtaposed with the modern language that had descended from it. His interest in English vocabulary past and present dovetails with the so-called ‘inkhorn controversy,’ a debate among Tudor thinkers and writers over the vocabulary of Early Modern English, and a critical issue for the writers and translators whom he knew.¹ Many of these writers were closely associated with Nowell’s employer, William Cecil: Roger Ascham and Sir Thomas Smith had known him...

  7. PART II: CHOROGRAPHIES AND THE PAST OF ENGLAND
    • Chapter 4 SOMEWHERE IN TIME: THE ABCEDARIUM PLACE-NAME INDEX
      (pp. 87-119)

      Archbishop matthew parker, in the preface to his 1574 edition of Asser’s Life of Alfred, explains that he has chosen to set the (Latin) text in an ‘Anglo-Saxon’ typeface imitating insular minuscule script to help his reader begin to learn Old English. One of the reasons that knowing Old English is beneficial, he argues, is that it will help with local etymology:

      quanta huius linguae studioso voluptas erit (& vt periucunda, ita non multi sane laboris) scire, omnium ciuitatum, vrbium, montium, syluarum, fluminum, & viarum nomina, & haec vniuersa vnde deriuentur, & quo quidque quasi e fonte profluxerit intelligere.¹

      [what...

    • Chapter 5 PUTTING THE PAST IN PLACE: LAMBARDE’S ALPHABETICAL DESCRIPTION AND PERAMBULATION OF KENT
      (pp. 120-147)

      Writing about places in early modern England was more than just a fad. Maps, perambulations, county and city histories, and poetic or prosaic depictions of various locales came steadily from the presses and circulated in manuscript; not everyone had the linguistic or cartographic training to produce these chorographic words, but they were consumed eagerly by wide numbers. Several early modern hands other than Nowell’s and Lambarde’s can be found in some of Nowell’s manuscripts, noting place names in the margins. This fascination with place had been recognized by scholars (if not by the editors of student anthologies, which almost never...

    • Chapter 6 IMAGES AND IMAGININGS OF ENGLAND
      (pp. 148-186)

      Nowell’s maps offer us a chance to see, quite literally, his idea of England and his associated desires for his Anglo-Saxon research. Even though some of his maps do not directly participate in his Anglo-Saxon studies, they were probably related, as F.J. Levy argues:

      Nowell, for all that he knew Parker and Joscelyn, was working along the lines laid down by Leland rather than those of the archbishop. The restoration of Old English was intended to aid in producing a historical topography of the country: Nowell’s activities in mapping England presumably supplied the necessary geographical information.¹

      Viewing Nowell’s maps as...

  8. PART III: OLD ENGLISH AND THE COMMON LAW
    • Chapter 7 ‘THE SAXONS, OUR ANCESTORS’: ANCIENT LAW AND OLD ENGLISH LAWS
      (pp. 189-223)

      The study of law has always been, to some extent, the study of the past, as the philosophy of legal precedent makes clear: any case or decision can be ‘an example or authority for an identical or similar case afterwards arising for a similar question of law.’¹ Any legal action could affect later actions, and early modern lawyers and judges needed to know the previous decisions to understand the legal processes of their own day. They also needed to know exactly what the law said; as John Considine observes in his study of dictionaries, legal needs drove much of early...

  9. Conclusion: THE INVENTION OF ANGLO-SAXON ENGLAND
    (pp. 224-227)

    The snapshots of early Anglo-Saxon studies presented in this book allow specialists in both medieval and early modern England to see what can be gained from examining Nowell’s and Lambarde’s research in the context of their social and professional circumstances. For medievalists, their work shows that Anglo-Saxon studies could speak to issues of language, topography, and the legal system, and were not limited to Anglican polemic; for early modernists, it demonstrates that early nationalistic historical explorations investigated Anglo-Saxon as well as Romano-Celtic history. Laurence Nowell and William Lambarde sought England’s heritage in the period of history between the Germanic migrations...

  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 228-238)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 239-244)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-247)