The Northern Way

Introduction

Page 1

Originally compiled on the orders of King Alfred the Great, approximately A.D. 890, and subsequently maintained and added to by generations of anonymous scribes until the middle of the 12th Century. The original language is Anglo-Saxon (Old English), but later entries are essentially Middle English in tone.

Translation by Rev. James Ingram (London, 1823), with additional readings from the translation of Dr. J.A. Giles (London, 1847).

The text of this edition is based on that published as "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" (Everyman Press, London, 1912). This edition is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN in the United States.

This electronic edition was edited, proofed, and prepared by Douglas B. Killings (DeTroyes@AOL.COM), July 1996.


PREPARER'S NOTE:

At present there are nine known versions or fragments of the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" in existence, all of which vary (sometimes greatly) in content and quality. The translation that follows is not a translation of any one Chronicle; rather, it is a collation of readings from many different versions.

The nine known "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" MS. are the following:

A-Prime The Parker Chronicle (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS. 173)
A Cottonian Fragment (British Museum, Cotton MS. Otho B xi, 2)
B The Abingdon Chronicle I (British Museum, Cotton MS. Tiberius A vi.)
C The Abingdon Chronicle II (British Museum, Cotton MS. Tiberius B i.)
D The Worcester Chronicle (British Museum, Cotton MS.Tiberius B iv.)
E The Laud (or "Peterborough") Chronicle (Bodleian, MS.Laud 636)
F The Bilingual Canterbury Epitome (British Museum, Cotton MS. Domitian A viii.) NOTE: Entries in English and Latin.
H Cottonian Fragment (British Museum, Cotton MS. Domitian A ix.)
I An Easter Table Chronicle (British Museum, Cotton MS.Caligula A xv.)

This electronic edition contains primarily the translation of Rev. James Ingram, as published in the Everyman edition of this text. Excerpts from the translation of Dr. J.A. Giles were included as an appendix in the Everyman edition; the preparer of this edition has elected to collate these entries into the main text of the translation. Where these collations have occurred I have marked the entry with a double parenthesis (()).

WARNING:
While I have elected to include the footnotes of Rev. Ingram in this edition, please note that they should be used with extreme care. In many cases the views expressed by Rev. Ingram are severally out of date, having been superseded by almost 175 years of active scholarship. At best, these notes will provide a starting point for inquiry. They should not, however, be treated as absolute.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  • ORIGINAL TEXT --

    • Classen, E. and Harmer, F.E. (eds.): "An Anglo-Saxon Chronicle from British Museum, Cotton MS. Tiberius B iv." (Manchester, 1926)

    • Flower, Robin and Smith, Hugh (eds.): "The Peterborough Chronicle and Laws" (Early English Text Society, Original Series 208, Oxford, 1941).

    • Taylor, S. (ed.): "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: MS B" aka "The Abingdon Chronicle I" (Cambridge, 1983)


  • OTHER TRANSLATIONS --

    • Garmonsway, G.N.: "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" (Everyman Press, London, 1953, 1972). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Contains side-by-side translations of all nine known texts.


  • RECOMMENDED READING --

    • Bede: "A History of the English Church and People" aka "The Ecclesiastical History" , translated by Leo Sherley-Price (Penguin Classics, London, 1955, 1968).

    • Poole, A.L.: "Domesday Book to Magna Carta" (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1951, 1953)

    • Stenton, Sir Frank W.: "Anglo-Saxon England" (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1943, 1947, 1971)


Original Introduction to Ingram's Edition [1823]

England may boast of two substantial monuments of its early history; to either of which it would not be easy to find a parallel in any nation, ancient or modern. These are, the Record of Doomsday (1) and the "Saxon Chronicle" (2). The former, which is little more than a statistical survey, but contains the most authentic information relative to the descent of property and the comparative importance of the different parts of the kingdom at a very interesting period, the wisdom and liberality of the British Parliament long since deemed worthy of being printed (3) among the Public Records, by Commissioners appointed for that purpose. The other work, though not treated with absolute neglect, has not received that degree of attention which every person who feels an interest in the events and transactions of former times would naturally expect. In the first place, it has never been printed entire, from a collation of all the MSS. But of the extent of the two former editions, compared with the present, the reader may form some idea, when he is told that Professor Wheloc's "Chronologia Anglo-Saxonica", which was the first attempt (4) of the kind, published at Cambridge in 1644, is comprised in less than 62 folio pages, exclusive of the Latin appendix. The improved edition by Edmund Gibson, afterwards Bishop of London, printed at Oxford in 1692, exhibits nearly four times the quantity of the former; but is very far from being the entire (5) chronicle, as the editor considered it. The text of the present edition, it was found, could not be compressed within a shorter compass than 374 pages, though the editor has suppressed many notes and illustrations, which may be thought necessary to the general reader. Some variations in the MSS. may also still remain unnoticed; partly because they were considered of little importance, and partly from an apprehension, lest the commentary, as it sometimes happens, should seem an unwieldy burthen, rather than a necessary appendage, to the text. Indeed, till the editor had made some progress in the work, he could not have imagined that so many original and authentic materials of our history still remained unpublished.

To those who are unacquainted with this monument of our national antiquities, two questions appear requisite to be answered: -- "What does it contain?" and, "By whom was it written?" The indulgence of the critical antiquary is solicited, whilst we endeavour to answer, in some degree, each of these questions.

To the first question we answer, that the "Saxon Chronicle" contains the original and authentic testimony of contemporary writers to the most important transactions of our forefathers, both by sea and land, from their first arrival in this country to the year 1154. Were we to descend to particulars, it would require a volume to discuss the great variety of subjects which it embraces. Suffice it to say, that every reader will here find many interesting facts relative to our architecture, our agriculture, our coinage, our commerce, our naval and military glory, our laws, our liberty, and our religion. In this edition, also, will be found numerous specimens of Saxon poetry, never before printed, which might form the ground-work of an introductory volume to Warton's elaborate annals of English Poetry. Philosophically considered, this ancient record is the second great phenomenon in the history of mankind. For, if we except the sacred annals of the Jews, contained in the several books of the Old Testament, there is no other work extant, ancient or modern, which exhibits at one view a regular and chronological panorama of a PEOPLE, described in rapid succession by different writers, through so many ages, in their own vernacular LANGUAGE. Hence it may safely be considered, nor only as the primaeval source from which all subsequent historians of English affairs have principally derived their materials, and consequently the criterion by which they are to be judged, but also as the faithful depository of our national idiom; affording, at the same time, to the scientific investigator of the human mind a very interesting and extraordinary example of the changes incident to a language, as well as to a nation, in its progress from rudeness to refinement.

ENDNOTES:

(1) Whatever was the origin of this title, by which it is now distinguished, in an appendix to the work itself it is called "Liber de Wintonia," or "The Winchester-Book," from its first place of custody. Back

(2) This title is retained, in compliance with custom, though it is a collection of chronicles, rather than one uniform work, as the received appellation seems to imply. Back

(3) In two volumes folio, with the following title: "Domesday- Book, seu Liber Censualis Willelmi Primi Regis Angliae, inter Archlyos Regni in Domo Capitulari Westmonasterii asservatus: jubente rege augustissimo Georgio Tertio praelo mandatus typis MDCCLXXXIII" Back

(4) Gerard Langbaine had projected such a work, and had made considerable progress in the collation of MSS., when he found himself anticipated by Wheloc. Back

(5) "Nunc primum integrum edidit" is Gibson's expression in the title-page. He considers Wheloc's MSS. as fragments, rather than entire chronicles: "quod integrum nacti jam discimus." These MSS., however, were of the first authority, and not less entire, as far as they went, than his own favourite "Laud". But the candid critic will make allowance for the zeal of a young Bachelor of Queen's, who, it must be remembered, had scarcely attained the age of twenty-three when this extraordinary work was produced. Back

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