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  • Anglo-Saxon Books and Their Readers: Essays in Celebration of Helmut Gneuss’s Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts
  • Teresa Webber
Anglo-Saxon Books and Their Readers: Essays in Celebration of Helmut Gneuss’s Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts. Edited by Thomas N. Hall and Donald Scragg. Publications of the Richard Rawlinson Center. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2008. Pp. xvi + 183. $45 (cloth); $25 (paper).

This collection of seven essays, inspired by the publication in 2001 of the much expanded and revised version of Helmut Gneuss’s Handlist of Manuscripts Written or Owned in England before 1100, is less a reflection of the impact and significance of the Handlist itself than of the ways in which a close engagement with both manuscript and early printed sources has contributed to Anglo-Saxon studies not only in recent decades but from the beginnings of such scholarship in the sixteenth century. It might also be viewed as complementing the two Festschriften for Professor Gneuss published in 1992 and 2003, edited respectively by Michael Korhammer and by Lucia Kornexl and Ursula Lenker. Whereas only two of the contributions to these volumes had focused upon the use of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts in the early modern period, four do so here (albeit in part indirectly, via sixteenth- and seventeenth-century printed books and manuscript annotations), reflecting the burgeoning of interest over the past few decades in the beginnings of Old English scholarship in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in the wake of the publication in 1982 of Carl T. Berkhout and Milton McC. Gatch’s edited volume, Anglo-Saxon Scholarship: The First Three Centuries.

Two of the contributions examine the lexical study of Old English in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Rebecca Brackmann’s analysis of the copious annotations made by Laurence Nowell to a copy of Richard Howlet’s Abcedarium Anglico-Latinum sheds further light on the intellectual context for Nowell’s interest in Old English. She suggests that the arrangement of entries and the form in which verbs and nouns are recorded argue against Nowell’s activity here being related to the compilation of his Old English wordlist, the unpublished but influential glossary the Vocabularium Saxonicum, but that they belong instead within the context of mid-sixteenth-century debates about the ideal lexical content of “modern” English.

Interest in the history of the Germanic languages fuelled further lexical study in the seventeenth century. Rolf H. Bremmer Jr. reassesses favorably the endeavors of the Dutch merchant-scholar Johannes de Laet by contrast with those of his English contemporary Sir Simonds d’Ewes, drawing upon the evidence of the postmortem auction catalogue of de Laet’s library (which included almost all the then published sources containing Old English) and the manuscripts consulted by de Laet during a five-month visit to England in 1638, among them the medical compilation that is now London, British Library MS Royal 12. D. xvii, a source hitherto neglected by early modern English lexicographers.

The contrast between the religious and scholarly concerns underlying Old English scholarship in the 1560s and 1660s is illustrated by the contributions of Aaron Kleist and Kees Dekkers. The former makes a fresh case for Matthew Parker’s authorship of A Defence of Priestes Mariages, published by Parker in 1566 or 1567, and republished by him in a revised and expanded version in 1567. Peter J. Lucas and R. I. Page had already argued that Parker was responsible for the revisions and additions, but Kleist goes further to argue for his authorship of the text itself, adducing the evidence of a Latin work in favor of clerical marriage in Trinity College, Dublin, MS 248, written in Parker’s hand, which displays close textual [End Page 235] correspondence not only to the original Defence but also to the expanded version and to passages marked out for special note by Parker in several of his printed and manuscript books. Kleist scrupulously acknowledges that the case cannot be proven but is able to conclude with some confidence that Parker’s concern for priestly marriage played a significant role in his interest in Anglo-Saxon books.

By the seventeenth century, doctrinal differences were no longer stimulating such interest. Kees...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-662X
Print ISSN
0363-6941
Pages
pp. 235-237
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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