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Sunday Observance and the Sunday Letter in Anglo-Saxon England

Sunday Observance and the Sunday Letter in Anglo-Saxon England

Edited with a translation by DOROTHY HAINES
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    Sunday Observance and the Sunday Letter in Anglo-Saxon England
    Book Description:

    Few issues have had as far-reaching consequences as the development of the Christian holy day, Sunday. Every seven days, from the early middle ages, the Christian world has engaged in some kind of change in behaviour, ranging from participation in a simple worship service to the cessation of every activity which could conceivably be construed as work. An important text associated with this process is the so-called Sunday Letter, fabricated as a letter from Christ which dropped out of heaven. In spite of its obviously spurious nature, it was widely read and copied, and translated into nearly every vernacular language. In particular, several, apparently independent, translations were made into Old English. Here, the six surviving Old English copies of the Sunday Letter are edited together for the first time. The Old English texts are accompanied by facing translations, with commentary and glossary, while the introduction examines the development of Sunday observance in the early middle ages and sets the texts in their historical, legal and theological contexts. The many Latin versions of the Sunday Letter are also delineated, including a newly discovered and edited source for two of the Old English texts. Dorothy Haines gained her PhD from the University of Toronto, where she is currently an instructor of Old English.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-814-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-xii)
  6. Introduction

    • 1 The Development of Sunday Observance in the Early Middle Ages
      (pp. 1-19)

      In order to understand the Sunday Letter and its roots in the culture of the early Middle Ages, it will be helpful to examine the history of Sunday observance, insofar as this is possible from the limited witnesses of legislative, homiletic and narrative records.¹ At first glance the language and the beliefs found in the Sunday Letter seem to be excessive; however, a careful study of the historical context will show that they would not necessarily have appeared so to a medieval audience. As the sanctity of the Lord’s day grew in significance, so did the need to employ unconventional...

    • 2 Sunday Observance in Anglo-Saxon England
      (pp. 19-35)

      The regulation of Sunday observance in Anglo-Saxon England offers a good example of how the legislative body of a particular people gradually developed a definition of what should be considered ‘illicit work’ on that day. The Anglo-Saxons initially drew on the so-called ‘Germanic’ law codes and later on Carolingian precedent, but there are also significant differences, which indicate that they were reluctant to adopt the detailed proscriptions sometimes seen in continental legislation. Even so, a trend of increasing prohibitions is evident throughout the period.

      The ordinances concerning Sunday activities in Anglo-Saxon England go back at least as far as the...

    • 3 The Latin Sunday Letter
      (pp. 36-62)

      As seen from the preceding brief look at Sunday observance in the early Middle Ages, the sixth century was fertile ground for the creation of a piece such as the Sunday Letter.¹ It was a time when there was a great need to convince the newly converted of the importance of setting aside time once a week for the rituals of the Church and basic instruction in its tenets. Although one might assume that compliance with this injunction was at best intermittent, it seems that a popular belief in taboo-like restrictions developed independently and was perhaps encouraged to ensure that...

    • 4 The Old English Sunday Letters
      (pp. 63-109)

      The Sunday Letter in its Anglo-Saxon context represents some of the earliest evidence for its widespread use in the West. Six copies survive, representing four distinct lines of transmission.¹ If it is remarkable that we encounter the letter so often in Old English, it is even more striking that it appears to have been acceptable in a variety of environments. The most learned minds of the age may have rejected it, but its placement in manuscripts compiled at respected centres and the evidence of active use suggest that it was found to be a suitable vehicle for instruction in certain...

    • Editorial Conventions
      (pp. 110-110)
  7. The Old English Sunday Letter:: Texts and Translations

  8. Commentary
    (pp. 177-198)
  9. Appendices

    • I. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, lat. 12,270 (31v–32v)
      (pp. 199-201)
    • IIa. Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 1355 (89r–90v)
      (pp. 201-203)
    • IIb. London, British Library, Add. 19,725 (87v–88r)
      (pp. 204-205)
    • IIc. Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, B VII 7 (1r)
      (pp. 206-207)
    • III. Vienna, Dominikanerkloster 133 (134vb–135vb), Kassel, Murhardsche Bibliothek der Stadt Kassel und Landesbibliothek, theol. 39 (158r)
      (pp. 207-211)
    • IV. Manuscripts Containing Latin Versions of the Sunday Letter
      (pp. 211-214)
  10. Glossary
    (pp. 215-240)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-250)
  12. Index
    (pp. 251-256)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-257)