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Select Bibliography: The Discovery and Invention of Old English Literature

Items thought to be of particular interest or importance are marked out thus: ►.

Persons who wish a more complete listing of scholarship in this area should consult the relevant parts of two on-line sources.  These are

(1) Simon Keynes, Anglo-Saxon History

and (2) Carl Berkhout’s personal web pages.


► Adams, Eleanor N.  Old English Scholarship in England from 1566-1800.  New Haven, 1917.  Rpt. 1970.  An exemplary monograph that, since its date of publication, has been supplemented by many items listed below, among other studies.

Baker, William, and Kenneth Womack, eds.  Pre-Nineteenth Century British Book Collectors and Bibliographers.  Dictionary of Literary Biography, 213.  Detroit: Gale, 1999.  Includes chapters on “Sir Robert Bruce Cotton” by Thomas N. Hall; “Matthew Parker” by Kimberley Van Kampen; and “Humfrey Wanley” by Clare A. Simmons

► Berkhout, Carl T., and Milton McC. Gatch, eds.  Anglo-Saxon Scholarship: The First Three Centuries.  Boston: G.K. Hall, 1982.  A landmark publication directing scholarly attention to the work of antiquarian scholars from the late 16th through the 18th century.

Bradley, S.A.J.  “’The First New-European Literature’: N.S.F. Grundvig’s Reception of Anglo-Saxon Literature.”  In Heritage and Prophecy: Grundvig and the English Speaking World, ed. A.M. Allchin et al.  Aarhus: Aarhus Univ. Press, 1993.  45-72. A balanced account of the man who was arguably, with John Kemble, one of the two greatest nineteenth-century scholars of Anglo-Saxon literature, as well as being an honored poet and a visionary thinker.

Bremmer, Rolf H., Jr., ed.  Franciscus Junius F.F. and His Circle.  Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998.  A study of the circle of scholars within which this outstanding Dutch-born Anglo-Saxonist of the age of Milton was operating.

Clement, Richard W.  “Richard Verstegan’s Reinvention of Anglo-Saxon England: A Contribution from the Continent.”  In Reinventing the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. William Gentrup.  Turnhout: Brepols, 1998.  28-46.  Discusses a German-born scholar whose interest in Anglo-Saxon England was intertwined with nationalist sentiments.

Collier, Wendy.   “A Thirteenth-Century User of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts.”  Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 79 (1997): 149-65.  An account of the aims of a cleric, known as the “Tremulous Hand,” who made copious annotations on Old English manuscripts during the period c. 1190-1240, working chiefly at Worcester, and who wished to put those manuscripts to use at a time when Latin and French were the “official” languages of the Church.

► Damico, Helen, ed.  Medieval Scholarship: Biographical Studies on the Formation of a Discipline.   Vol. 2: Literature and Philology.  New York: Garland, 1998.  Includes chapter-length portraits of Laurence Nowell, George Hickes, Humfrey Wanley, Elizabeth Elstob, Benjamin Thorpe, W.W. Skeat, Henry Sweet, and N.R. Ker, among others who have contributed to the development of Anglo-Saxon textual scholarship.  Also worth consulting is Vol. 1: History.

Dekker, Kees.  “Francis Junius (1591-1677): Copyist or Editor?”  Anglo-Saxon England 29 (2000): 279-95.   Sees Junius as “neither a copyist nor an editor in the modern sense of the word” but rather “a seventeenth-century philologist of the best kind.”

Dewa, Roberta J.  “Of Editors and the Old English Poetry of the Exeter Book: A Brief History of Progress.”  In ‘Lastworda Betst’: Essays in Memory of Christine E. Fell, ed. by Carole Hough and Kathryn A. Lowe.  Donington: Shaun Tyas, 2002.  18-40.  Analyzes the history of publication of this crucial poetic MS in the context of changing concepts of the role of the editor.

Douglas, David C.  English Scholars 1660-1730.  2nd edition.  London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1951.  Note particularly ch. 3: “The Saxon Past”; ch. 4: “George Hickes”; and ch. 5: “Humfrey Wanley.”

Frank, Roberta.  “The Search for the Anglo-Saxon Oral Poet.”  Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 75 (1993): 11-36.  Examines aspects of the 18th- and 19th-century reception of Old English literature, in particular the veneration for the figure of the bard that is characteristic of that era.

► Frantzen, Allen J.  Desire for Origins: New Language, Old English, and Teaching the Tradition.  New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1990.  A seminal study of the ideological and political motives that have shaped the field of Anglo-Saxon studies since the mid 16th century.

► Frantzen, Allen J., and John D. Niles, eds.  Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity.  Gainesville, FL: Univ. of Florida Press, 1997.  Includes nine essays divided into two sections: I, Medieval and Renaissance Anglo-Saxonism and II, Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Anglo-Saxonism.  Frantzen’s contribution to the volume includes interesting details relating to the 16th-century antiquarian John Bale and his reception of Bede’s story of the English slaves in the marketplace.  Another essay, by Suzanne Hagedorn, traces the reception history of King Alfred’s preface to his translation of Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Care over four centuries.  Includes valuable essays on 19th-century American Anglo-Saxonism.

Gneuss, Helmut.  English Language Scholarship: A Survey and Bibliography from the Beginnings to the End of the Nineteenth Century.  Binghamton, NY: MRTS, 1996.

Goffart, Water.  “The First Venture into ‘Medieval Geography’: Lambarde’s Map of the Saxon Heptarchy.”  In Alfred the Wise: Studies in Honour of Janet Bately, ed. by Jane Roberts and Janet L. Nelson.  Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1997.  53-60.

► Graham, Timothy, ed.  The Recovery of Old English: Anglo-Saxon Studies in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.  Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000.  A collection of eight essays addressing such topics as early editions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the OE laws; 16th- to18th-century OE lexicography, and early editions of OE poetry.  The antiquaries John Joscelyn, Richard Verstegen, William L’Isle, William Somner, and Franciscus Junius receive special attention.  The “List of Works Cited” at the back of this edition comes close to being a complete bibliography of studies relating to early Anglo-Saxon scholarship.

Graham, Timothy, and Andrew G. Watson, eds.  The Recovery of the Past in Early Elizabethan England: Documents by John Bale and John Joscelyn.  Cambridge, 1998.

Grant, Raymond J.S.  Laurence Nowell, William Lambarde, and the Laws of the Anglo-Saxons. Amsterdam: Rodolpi, 1996.   Compares 16th- and 17th-century transcriptions and editions of four important Anglo-Saxon law codes.

Greenfield, Stanley B., and Fred C. Robinson, eds.  A Bibliography of Publications on Old English Literature to the End of 1972.  Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1980.  Attempts comprehensive coverage of all early editions and studies of Old English literature (broadly defined), as well as more recent literary criticism.

► Gretsch, Mechthild.  “Elizabeth Elstob: A Scholar’s Fight for Anglo-Saxon Studies.”  Anglia 117 (1999): 163-200 and 481-524.  Offers far more than is promised by this title.  Gretsch not only offers a precise analysis of Elstob’s life and scholarly publications; she also surveys Elstob’s place in the overall development of Anglo-Saxon studies, with close attention to the late seventeenth-century milieu in which the young Elstob was educated.

Hagedorn, Suzanne.  “Matthew Parker and Asser’s Ælfredi Regis Res Gestae.”  Princeton University Library Chronicle 51 (1989): 74-90.  Analyzes Parker’s aims in his efforts to publish texts relating to Anglo-Saxon England, in particular his portrayal of Alfred as the “type” of an ideal monarch through his 1574 edition of Asser’s Life of King Alfred.

► Hall, J.R.  “Old English Literature.”  In Scholarly Editing: A Guide to Research, ed. D.C. Greetham.  New York: MLA, 1995.  149-83.  A masterful survey and evaluation of the editorial practices that have been observed in the publishing of Old English texts from 1566 to the present day; some attention to current theoretical disputes.

Stanley R. Hauer.  “Thomas Jefferson and the Anglo-Saxon Language.”  PMLA 98 (1983): 879-98.  An admirable account of Jefferson’s intellectual interest in Old English studies and his attempt to make them the basis of a liberal education at the University of Virginia, the first state university in North America.

► Ker, N.R.  Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon.  Oxford: Clarendon, 1957, rpt. with a supplement, 1990.  Indispensable guide to the extant manuscript records of Old English, with a substantial introduction discussing palaeography, codicology, and the post-Conquest history of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts.

► Keynes, Simon.  “The Cult of King Alfred the Great.”  Anglo-Saxon England 28 (191999): 225-356.   An exceptionally thorough and well-informed account of the manifold uses to which the figure of King Alfred has been put in the eleven hundred years since his death.

Keynes, Simon, and Michael Lapidge.  Alfred the Great: Asser’s Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources.  Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983).  Includes modern English translations of virtually all the documentary sources relating to King Alfred and his reign, together with an informed commentary including remarks on the post-Conquest cult of Alfred.

Krapp, George Philip, and E.V.K. Dobbie, eds.  The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records.  6 volumes.  New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1931-42.  The standard modern English edition of the poetry.

Lutz, Angelika.  “Zur Entstehungsgeschichte von William Somners Dictionarium Saxonio-Latino-Anglicum,” Anglia 106 (1988): 1-25.

Murphy, Michael.  “Abraham Wheloc’s Edition of Bede’s History in Old English,” Studia Neophilologica 39 (1967): 46-59.

Murphy, Michael.  “Antiquary to Academic: The Progress of Anglo-Saxon Scholarship.”  In Berkhout and Gatch (1982), 1-17.  Gives a clear overview of scholarship to the end of the 18th century.

Page, R.I.  Matthew Parker and His Books.  Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1993.  An informative account of the collecting activity of Queen Elizabeth I’s trusted advisor, Archbishop Parker, whose collection of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts is still the pride of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, a college of which Parker served as Master.  With many facsimile pages of OE manuscripts and early modern printed editions.

Parry, G.  The Trophies of Time: English Antiquarians of the Seventeenth Century.  Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1995.  Includes chapters on William Camden, Richard Verstegan, Sir Robert Cotton, and Sir Henry Spelman / William Somner, among others.

Reynolds, Susan.  “What Do We Mean by ‘Anglo-Saxon’ and ‘Anglo-Saxons’?”  Journal of British Studies 24 (1985): 395-414.  Points out that modern thinking about Anglo-Saxon England has been shaped by racialist and essentialist doctrines.  Stresses that “the early medieval English did not call themselves Anglo-Saxons.  If we want to call them that, we ought to think hard about what we mean, and what others may think we mean, by the name that we have chosen to use” (p. 414).

Robinson, Fred C.  “’The Might of the North’: Pound’s Anglo-Saxon Studies and The Seafarer.  Yale Review 71 (1982): 199-224.  Examines aspects of Ezra Pound’s arresting translation of this poem into modern English alliterative verse, set into the context of the state of OE scholarship at the start of the 20th century.

Scragg, D.G., and Paul E. Szarmach, eds.  The Editing of Old English.  Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1994.  Includes several valuable studies of early editions of Old English texts; note especially Kathryn Sutherland, “Editing for a New Century: Elizabeth Elstob’s Anglo-Saxon Manifesto and Ælfric’s St. Gregory Homily” (pp. 213-38); J.R. Hall, “The First Two Editions of Beowulf:  Thorkelin’s (1815) and Kemble’s (1833)” (pp. 239-50; and Richard Dammery, “Editing the Anglo-Saxon Laws: Felix Liebermann and Beyond” (pp. 251-60).

Stanley, E.G.  “The Glorification of Alfred King of Wessex.”  In his A Collection of Papers with Emphasis on Old English Literature.  Toronto: Pontifical Institute, 1987.  410-41. First published in 1981.  Covers the period 1678 – 1851,

Stanley, E.G.  The Search for Anglo-Saxon Paganism.  Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1990.  Exposes the untenable Romantic biases that underlie many late nineteenth-century accounts of Old English literature, especially among German-language scholars and persons under their influence.

Tuve, Rosemund.  “Ancients, Moderns, and Saxons.”  ELH 6 (1939): 165-90.  Describes the early proponents of the study of Old English as contributors, on the “modern” side, to the debate between those intellectuals who favored classical Greek and Latin models in education versus those who favored more recent vernacular sources.  Shows how this scholarly movement helped prepare the ground for nineteenth-century nostalgic admiration for a more “primitive” medieval era.

Wiley, Raymond A.  “Anglo-Saxon Kemble: The Life and Works of John Mitchell Kemble 1807-1857, Philologist, Historian, Archaeologist.”  Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 1 (1979): 165-273.  The best current biographical portrait of the person who, more than anyone else of English birth, put the study of Old English language and literature and Anglo-Saxon archaeology on a sound scientific footing.

Wright, C.E.  “The Dispersal of the Monastic Libraries and the Beginnings of Anglo-Saxon Studies: Matthew Parker and His Circle: A Preliminary Study.”  Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 1 (1951): 208-37.  Includes very precise detail regarding the fates of books containing Old English after the dissolution of the monasteries, though much remains unknown on that topic.

Wright, C.E.  “Humfrey Wanley: Saxonist and Library-Keeper.”  Proceedings of the British Academy 46 (1960): 99-129.

Wright, Christopher, ed.  Sir Robert Cotton as Collector.  London: The British Library, 1997.







Updated: 10-Nov-2004