Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 343 (2406) Ælfric, "Catholic Homilies;' other Homilies

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Jonathan Wilcox


359. Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 343 (2406)

Ælfric, "Catholic Homilies;' other Homilies

[Ker 310, Gneuss-]

HISTORY: The manuscript was written by two scribes of the second half of the 12c. It primarily contains an extensive collection of OE homilies, mostly by Ælfric, all derived from OE material despite the late date of copying. The collection of the two main scribes was augmented in any remaining blank space by additions in a later hand, dated by Ker to the turn of the 12c (Cat., p. 375). Irvine suggests a West Midlands origin, perhaps in the vicinity of Worcester, perhaps even with access to the Worcester library, though not Worcester itself (Irvine 1993: xlviii, 1-liv). Kitson (1992: 34) suggests origin at or in the vicinity of Hereford based on close attention to the dialect evidence.

A West Midland provenance is indicated by evidence on the flyleaves. The parchment flyleaves, ff. iii and 173, were once pastedowns in an earlier binding, perhaps replaced already by sometime in the 13c if the drawing on f. 173r dates from then and was not intended to be covered over. F. iii, which was once the parchment endleaf pasted into an earlier binding and which has now been bound rotated and reversed, contains upside down at the foot of the verso, written in a 13c hand (item a), a rhymed antiphon to St. Wulfhad, who was martyred at Stone in Staffordshire and who had a limited cult (see Gerould 1917). The matching endleaf, f. 173, would once have been the opening pastedown in a binding. The pattern of stain and glue shows that the recto would once have been the pasted side and so invisible to view. On this side is a drawing of a bishop with an inscription probably referring to St. Wulfstan, the long-serving llc bishop of Worcester, who was celebrated soon after his death in 1095 and canonized in 1203. The inscription is in a hand imitating insular minuscule; Ker suggests a date of the 13c (Cat. p. 374).

[Note: Ramsay (2002) has suggested that some of the additions are in the 'Tremulous Hand' of Worcester, but this identification is doubted by Franzen (2006).]

All parts of the manuscript received the attention of a late medieval glossator who repeatedly pointed to passages with the annotation in bluish ink 'nota bene' or an abbreviation such as 'no' b' or 'no'' in the margin. Both this annotator and an early modern hand note the breakdown in the text at the end off. vii verso. Possibly the same annotator with his bluish ink provides a missing phrase (?) at the start off. viii recto. Perhaps the same hand in the same blue ink linguistically updates 'god' to 'good' nine times on f. viii recto, once on f. viii verso, and once on f. ix recto and corrects a mistaken 'god' to 'gold' on f. viii recto/5 and 'godnys' to 'goodnyse' on f. viii verso/28. The same or another annotator has indicated occasional word divisions with a pair of strokes and picked out is with an added stroke in items 1-3 on ff. vi recto-ix verso.

A corrector at f. x recto/7 has scratched out the text and written 'þurh soðe det bote: in an imitative but clearly distinct script which is very hard to date. A different corrector with bluish ink provides a correction in the margin at f. xii recto a/ 11. There are other occasional corrections of omission or insertions in faded ink throughout this section, as at f. xviii verso a/31. There is also the occasional additional cross in the margin discreetly calling attention to some passages, as at f. xviii verso a/21. A 15c glossator heavily annotated item 70 on ff. 14lv-143v with ME glosses (see Cameron 1974). Hard to date is the attention of a drypoint sketch artist, who drew in the margins of ff. 88v-93r (in section 5).

A table of contents on ff. iv recto-v recto is in an early modern hand and tabulates only those items in the main manuscript, from ff. 1-149, using the ink foliation which was written by the same hand. An early modern annotator records the breakdown of the text at the end of f. vii verso and f. ix verso. The manuscript was donated to the Bodleian by Sir Robert Cotton in 1601 (Ker, Cat., p. 375).

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