Reference > Cambridge History > From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance > From Alfred to the Conquest > Lindisfarne, Rushworth, and West Saxon Glosses
  Byrhtferth Legends of the Holy Rood  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

VII. From Alfred to the Conquest.

§ 7. Lindisfarne, Rushworth, and West Saxon Glosses.


Besides these homilies and scientific treatises, there were composed, during the tenth century, three English versions of the Gospels, known as the Lindisfarne, Rushworth and West Saxon glosses. The Latin text of the Lindisfarne Gospels  35 , contained in a magnificent manuscript, adorned with beautiful illuminations, was written about the year 700; and it was not till at least two hundred and fifty years later, when it had been removed to Chester-le-Street, near Durham, for safety, that the interlinear North Northumbrian gloss was added by Aldred, a priest of that place. The gloss gives many variant English equivalents for the Latin words. Aldred himself, however, seems to have written only the latter part of the gloss, that beginning at St. John V, v, 10, in a new hand, though the earlier portion was, probably, made under his supervision. The gloss is of the greatest importance from a philological point of view, since it is our most valuable authority for the Northumbrian dialect of the middle of the tenth century.   64
  Equally interesting are the Rushworth Gospels.  36  The Latin text, which differs very slightly from that of the Lindisfarne MS., was, perhaps, written in the eighth century, while the gloss dates from the second half of the tenth. It falls into two distinct portions, the first of which, in the dialect of North Mercia, was written by Farman, a priest of Harewood, seven miles north-east of Leeds. This portion, which includes the gospel of St. Matthew and part of chapters i and ii of St. Mark, begins as a gloss, and, later, becomes again a gloss, but, in the main, it is a fairly free version of the Latin text. The second part, in a dialect which has been called South Northumbrian by Lindelöf, was written by Oweun, and shows, very strongly, the influence of the Lindisfarne glosses, which must have been before the writer as he worked, since he often goes astray from the Latin text to follow Aldred’s version. It seems probable that Farman, who was a good Latin scholar, had made his gloss as far as St. Mark ii, 15, when the Lindisfarne MS. came into his hands. He then entrusted the task to Owun, who was a less accomplished linguist, and who, whenever he was confronted by a difficulty, resorted to the Lindisfarne gloss for its solution. It may be that Farman chose Owun as one knowing a dialect closely akin to that of Lindisfarne.   65
  There also exists in six MSS. a West Saxon version of the Gospels, which, owing to a note in one MS.  37 —ego Aelfricus scripsi hunc librium in monasterio Ba[char]honio et dedi Brihtwoldo preposito—was formerly ascribed to Aelfric of Eynsham. If we suppose this Brihtwold to be the same as the bishop of that name, who held the see of Sherborne from 1006–1046, as he is here called prepositus, we may conclude that the Corpus MS. was written before 1006. It certainly belongs to the first quarter of the eleventh century and is not of Aelfric’s authorship, for it in no wise agrees with his description of his own work on the New Testament. He tells us that he had translated pieces from the New Testament; but this is a full version. The other MSS. are later, and one of them, in the Cambridge University Library, contains also the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, which provided legendary material for later medieval homilists and for the growth of the Arthurian legend in respect of Joseph of Arimathaea.   66

Note 35. Cott. Nero D. IV. [ back ]
Note 36. So called because the MS. in which they are contained was formerly owned by J. Rushworth, clerk of the House of Commons during the Long Parliament. [ back ]
Note 37. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, CXL. [ back ]

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  Byrhtferth Legends of the Holy Rood  
 
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