restricted access D: An Undervalued Manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
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D: An Undervalued Manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle As every Anglo-Saxnnist knows, there are seven manuscripts (and a fragment of an eighth) containing the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a document which has been described as "the most important source for the political history of the period", and which is also a basic text for the origins of Old English prose, since it is mostly independent composition rather than translation from Latin, and its style changes over the centuries. Up until at least 890, all manuscript versions go back to a common original which is usually 2 called by the Old English letter ae, and which had already been transcribed more than once, so that two major errors (which I am not here concerned with), are found running through all the Old English texts. After the early 890s the Old English manuscript versions vary a great deal, so that argument has arisen among scholars as to whether they can indeed be considered one Chronicle or (at least from the late tenth century onwards) four distinct Chronicles. This paper is concerned with the interrelationships of the various versions, and indulges in some speculation (as a means of understanding the processes involved) about where the continuations were originally composed. An attempt is made to evaluate the various manuscript versions, and this results in a greater appreciation of the worth of the D manuscript than it has usually been afforded. The manuscripts are conventionally numbered by the first eight letters of the alphabet, which correspond roughly to the dates at which they were written, and to their relative importance. A (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge 173; Ker 39) is the oldest, being in one hand until the intended end of the annal for 891 and the year number for 892, and then continued in a variety of hands, the second either to 912 or 924 (palaeographers differ about this; if there were two they were very similar ); the next covers the years 925-955, the next 958-67, and the one after 973-1001. All these scribes wrote at a stretch; that is, they entered their annals in a block, some time after the end of the period they covered. It is important to remember that not even the A manuscript was normally kept up year by year; and indeed, when all the evidence from all the manuscripts is taken together, it seems that the breaks in the handwriting do not always coincide with breaks in the sequence. However, palaeographers are agreed that at least from the second scribe onwards the continuations in A were added probably not very long after the date of their last annals. Moreover, and likewise certainly from the second scribe onwards (probably from the beginning), the A manuscript was written at Winchester until 1001; after that it was neglected until it went to Christchurch, Canterbury where it received a few independent additions, taking it up to 1070. Because it was kept up at intervals after 891, and was usually written up closer in time to the events it relates than any other manuscript, it is considered the most important of them all. One set of annals in A (for 915-20, s.a. 918-23), 14 Audrey Meaney written by the same scribe as those for 913 and 914 (s.a. 916, 917) is found only in this manuscript, and gives a very full and valuable account of the later wars of Edward the Elder. The misdating by as much as three years must indicate that the unique annals were written into the manuscript some years after the events; but they have no obvious copying errors (except in a few lines by an inferior scribe), and may be virtually autographic. Otherwise , until 975, most of the material in A is duplicated in B and C, except for a few brief Winchester additions and a few "fuller and less local annals" in the early 960s, which are all unique to A. However, though usually providing the earliest transcription, A is not the archetype of any of the other manuscripts, for it has some errors and omissions where they are correct. After 975, the A manuscript continues with a few quite...