London, British Library, Cotton Vitellius C. v Homilies by Ælfric

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Jonathan Wilcox


254. London, British Library, Cotton Vitellius C. v

Homilies by Ælfric

[Ker 220, Gneuss 403]

HISTORY: A compilation of JElfrician homilies dating to the turn of the millennium with 11c additions. This manuscript suffered badly in the 1731 fire at Ashburnham House. Recovered leaves are now mounted individually and have suffered substantial damage with loss of text and of codicological evidence. The undamaged manuscript was described by Wanley ( 1705: 208-12). The underlying collection is a sequence of Ælfric's Catholic Homilies written by a single scribe at the end of the 10c or beginning of the 11c (this part is called Ha by Clemoes 1997: 19-21). This was augmented by a nearly contemporary hand with further homilies by Ælfric (items 58-61, Clemoes Hb). Further substantial additions were intercalated, at times through erasure and insertion, at times through interleaving, in the first half of the 11 c (Clemoes He). This interpolated series adds further homilies by Ælfric in the order of the church year using homilies that reflect a late stage of Ælfric's writing (described by Pope 1967-68: 26-33). There are various contemporary or near-contemporary OE corrections and insertions throughout the text. Subsequent signs of use include two annotations written in a gothic hand identified by Ker as 14c (Cat., 286): 'In Ebdomada ... | ad Collac<i>o<n>em' at f. 102r/16 beside the title for item 24, and 'In ebdomada s<anc>te trinitatis ad collac<i>o<n>em: at f. 107r/4 above the title of item 25, ÆCHom I, 20. Further alterations and additions are identified by Ker ( Cat., 286) as probably belonging to the 16c, including the insertion of the copy of item 1 as item 1 b on ff. 2r-3r and the substitution of vowels, frequently the alteration of're' to 'e', at ff. 177v, 18lr, and 234v. Other alterations, such as a slightly decorative blocked 'T' inserted mid-line at f. 43r/19, are hard to date. There are now no marks of medieval or early modern ownership, presumably due to the loss of endleaves and loss of margins. Wanley speculates that this is the companion piece of MS Cambridge, University Library, Ii. 4. found at Tavistock Abbey in 1566 (Wanley 1705: 208). This speculation sees some confirmation in the gloss 'etes' added to ÆCHom II, 8, lines 109 in a 14c hand, which Godden suggests " looks as if it could have been taken from [Ii. 4. 6]'s text" (Godden 1979: 353-54). If the speculation is right, this would be "An old booke in parchment in Saxon tonge fo. black leather clasped" in the inventory of books of the 2nd Duke of Bedford from 1584 (see Ker, Cat., 291). Following substantial damage in the fire of 1731 and its aftermath, the leaves are now bound mounted on paper, to which they are affixed by sticky tape in what is probably a restoration of 1844 and 1845 (Madden, BL Add. 62576, f. 42; see Butcher 2003: 13). The whole volume is contained in a substantial 19c binding with Robert Cotton's coat of arms embossed on front and back and 'ANGLO-SAXON | HOMILIES | BRIT. MUS. | COTTON | MS. | VITELLIUS C. V. embossed on the spine. Many leaves are stamped on the foot of the recto with the 'British Museum' small red stamp ( e.g. ff. 2r, 3r, etc). The spine bears the sticker identifications '760' and 'b'. which is also recorded in pencil on the inside front board, along with a struckthrough '27 C: Rear end leaves record the state of the manuscript in the 19c with the pencilled notes: '254 ff. 8th Jan. 1871. | Ex<amine>d F.W. July 1884'. while the rear end board bears the stamp '21 JUN 1962:

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