London, British Library, Royal 7. C. xii Canon Tables; Ælfric, "Catholic Homilies" I; "Gospel of Nicodemus" [Ker 257, Gneuss 471/472]

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Jonathan Wilcox


291. London, British Library, Royal 7. C. xii

Canon Tables; Ælfric, "Catholic Homilies" I;

"Gospel of Nicodemus"

[Ker 257, Gneuss 471/472]

HISTORY: This codex comprises three distinct manuscripts, described here as three parts. The second is an important early copy of Ælfric's first series of Catholic Homilies that includes corrections in Ælfric's own handwriting.

The three parts of this manuscript were probably first brought together in the 17c. Part 1 (ff. 2-3) comprises canon tables identified by Lowe (1935: 28, no. 217) as English of the 8c, probably from Northumbria. He associates this fragment with a dismembered manuscript that survives in two other codices: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 197B, pp. 245-316, and the now partly destroyed London, BL Cotton Otho C. v. Part 1 bears the mark of ownership of Cardinal Wolsey ( c. 14 73-1530) at the top off. 2r: 'T. Car<dina>lis ebor'.

The central manuscript, part 2, containing Ælfric's First Series of Catholic Homilies (ff. 4-218), was written in OE at Cerne Abbas, Dorset, and its production overseen by AElfric himself, whose hand is seen at ff. 64r, 76r, 105r, and elsewhere (see Sisam 1953: 173-75, Godden 2002, and under contents below). The script is dated by Ker to the end of the 10c (Cat., 324), and the content of the manuscript confirms that it was produced early in the last decade of the 10c. Clemoes dates the production to the first half of 990 and revision to the immediately succeeding months (Eliason and Clemoes 1966: 35). The glosses and annotations, described below, suggest that the manuscript continued in use through the 12c in a southwestern locality.

Part 3 (ff. 219-32), consisting mainly of the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, was written in Latin in the 12c. This is a later version of a text that circulated in A-S England and was translated into OE (see Cross 1996).

There are only equivocal hints as to when the three current parts of the codex came together. As Ker observes (Cat., 329), part 1 may have been used as binding leaves, but the pattern of wormholes on f. 3 is different from those on f. 4, suggesting that part 1 spent significant time apart from the rest of the manuscript. Part 3 was not contiguous with Part 2 in medieval times as the nail mark at the center outer edge of ff. 215-218 does not reappear on f. 219. There are distinct marks of ownership on the different parts. Traces of a name at the top of f. 4r have been read under ultraviolet light by Eliason and Clemoes as "Robert Beale;' whom they identify as a member of the Elizabethan Society for Antiquaries and a recognized collector of old manuscripts, living 1541-1601 (1966: 19, 36). That Beale's signature occurs only on f. 4r and that the ink foliation associated with this signature is confined to and extends through part 2 leads them to conclude that the Ælfric part of the codex was still distinct in the 16c at the time of Beale's ownership. Additional evidence for the independent circulation of the OE part lies in the soiled nature of f. 4r, suggesting that it once functioned as an outer leaf.

F. 1v bears the press-mark '[Scrin. XIV. l]'. This identifies the manuscript as the first item in the fourteenth scrinium (a book-cupboard of some kind) as recorded in the 1666 catalogue of St James's Palace, "Catalogus librorum MSS Bibliothecae Regiae;' B.L. MS Royal App. 71, f. 16v (Eliason and Clemoes 1966: 36). Since this catalogue identifies the contents of parts 2 and 3, those parts and the existing flyleaf must have been bound together by 1666. All three parts are described in Humphrey Wanley's catalogue account of 1705 (p. 174), by which time the manuscript was approximately as at present. Wanley describes the homilies in part 2 with reference to Beale's foliation. As Eliason and Clemoes observe (1966: 37), it seems most likely that part 1 became part of the codex in the 17 c binding, which occurred after Beale's foliation and before the 1666 catalogue entry. The complete manuscript passed in 1757 with the rest of the Royal collection identified in the 1666 catalogue into the British Museum and then the British Library. There are numerous marks of ownership by these institutions. The head off. 2r bears the current classmark and description in black ink '7. C. xii. p. 128; which is repeated in identical form at the head of f. 4r. The foot of 2r bears the 18c British Museum red ownership stamp: 'MVSEVM | BRITAN|NICVM', which is repeated at the end of the codex at the foot off. 23lvb and in mid-codex at the foot off. 109v. The smaller red 19c 'British Museum' stamp with a crown is at the foot of f. 219r and occurs repeatedly at the foot of versos throughout the whole manuscript ( e.g. ff. llv, 16v, 22v, etc.). Modern hands have recorded two missing leaves in pencil: 'A leaf wanting. W. W. is at the foot of f. 5v and 'A leaf wanting I F. ff at the foot of f. 117v.

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