Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals in Old English
chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The original manuscript
of the Chronicle was created late in the 9th century, probably in
Wessex, during the reign of
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great (r. 871–899). Multiple
copies were made of that one original and then distributed to
monasteries across England, where they were independently updated. In
one case, the Chronicle was still being actively updated in 1154.
Nine manuscripts survive in whole or in part, though not all are of
equal historical value and none of them is the original version. The
oldest seems to have been started towards the end of Alfred's reign,
while the most recent was written at Peterborough Abbey after a fire
at that monastery in 1116. Almost all of the material in the Chronicle
is in the form of annals, by year; the earliest are dated at 60 BC
(the annals' date for Caesar's invasions of Britain), and historical
material follows up to the year in which the chronicle was written, at
which point contemporary records begin. These manuscripts collectively
are known as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
The Chronicle is not unbiased: there are occasions when comparison
with other medieval sources makes it clear that the scribes who wrote
it omitted events or told one-sided versions of stories; there are
also places where the different versions contradict each other. Taken
as a whole, however, the Chronicle is the single most important
historical source for the period in England between the departure of
the Romans and the decades following the Norman conquest. Much of the
information given in the Chronicle is not recorded elsewhere. In
addition, the manuscripts are important sources for the history of the
English language; in particular, the later Peterborough text is one of
the earliest examples of
Middle English in existence.
Seven of the nine surviving manuscripts and fragments now reside in
the British Library. The remaining two are in the
Bodleian Library at
Oxford and the Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
2 Surviving manuscripts
3 Relationships between the manuscripts
4 History of the manuscripts
4.2 Abingdon Chronicle I
4.3 Abingdon Chronicle II
4.5 Peterborough Chronicle
Canterbury Bilingual Epitome
4.7 Copy of the
4.8 Cottonian Fragment
4.9 Easter Table Chronicle
4.10 Lost manuscripts
5 Sources, reliability and dating
6 Use by
Latin and Anglo-Norman historians
8 History of editions and availability
8.1 Editions of the individual manuscripts
12 External links
All of the surviving manuscripts are copies, so it is not known for
certain where or when the first version of the Chronicle was composed.
It is generally agreed that the original version – sometimes known
as the Early English Annals – was written in the late 9th century
by a scribe in Wessex.[notes 1]
Frank Stenton argued from
internal evidence that it was first compiled for a secular, but not
royal patron; and that “its origin is in one of the south-western
shires...at some point not far from the boundary between Somerset and
Dorset”. After the original Chronicle was compiled, copies were
made and distributed to various monasteries. Additional copies were
made, for further distribution or to replace lost manuscripts, and
some copies were updated independently of each other. Some of these
later copies are those that have survived.
The earliest extant manuscript, the
Winchester Chronicle, was written
by a single scribe up to the year 891. The scribe wrote the year
number, DCCCXCII, in the margin of the next line; subsequent material
was written by other scribes. This appears to place the composition
of the chronicle at no later than 892; further evidence is provided by
Bishop Asser's use of a version of the Chronicle in his work Life of
King Alfred, known to have been composed in 893. It is known that
Winchester manuscript is at least two removes from the original
Chronicle; as a result, there is no proof that the Chronicle was
compiled at Winchester. It is also difficult to fix the date of
composition, but it is generally thought that the chronicles were
composed during the reign of
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great (871–99), as Alfred
deliberately tried to revive learning and culture during his reign,
and encouraged the use of English as a written language. The
Chronicle, as well as the distribution of copies to other centres of
learning, may be a consequence of the changes Alfred introduced.
A page from the Winchester, or Parker, Chronicle, showing the
Of the nine surviving manuscripts, seven are written entirely in Old
English (also known as Anglo-Saxon). One, known as the Bilingual
Canterbury Epitome, is in
Old English with a translation of each annal
into Latin. Another, the Peterborough Chronicle, is in Old English
except for the last entry, which is in early Middle English. The
oldest (Corp. Chris. MS 173) is known as the
Winchester Chronicle or
the Parker Chronicle (after Matthew Parker, an Archbishop of
Canterbury, who once owned it). Six of the manuscripts were printed in
an 1861 edition for the
Rolls Series by
Benjamin Thorpe with the text
laid out in columns labelled A to F. He also included the few readable
remnants of a burned seventh manuscript, which he referred to as [G].
Following this convention, the two additional manuscripts are often
called [H] and [I]. The surviving manuscripts are listed below.
Winchester (or Parker) Chronicle
Parker Library, Corpus Christi College
Abingdon Chronicle I
Cotton Tiberius A. vi
Abingdon Chronicle II
Cotton Tiberius B. i
Cotton Tiberius B. iv
Peterborough (or Laud) Chronicle
Laud misc. 636
Cotton Domitian A. viii
G or A2 or W
A copy of the
Cotton Otho B. xi + Otho B. x
Cotton Domitian A. ix
An Easter Table Chronicle
Cotton Caligula A. xv
Relationships between the manuscripts
The relationships between seven of the different manuscripts of the
Chronicle. The fragment [H] cannot be reliably positioned in the
chart. Other related texts are also shown. The diagram shows a
putative original, and also gives the relationships of the manuscripts
to a version produced in the north of England that did not survive but
which is thought to have existed.
The manuscripts are all thought to derive from a common original, but
the connections between the texts are more complex than simple
inheritance via copying. The diagram at right gives an overview of the
relationships between the manuscripts. The following is a summary of
the relationships that are known.
[A2] was a copy of [A], made in Winchester, probably between 1001 and
[B] was used in the compilation of [C] at Abingdon, in the mid-11th
century. However, the scribe for [C] also had access to another
version, which has not survived.
[D] includes material from Bede's Ecclesiastical History and from a
set of 8th-century Northumbrian annals and is thought to have been
copied from a northern version that has not survived.
[E] has material that appears to derive from the same sources as [D]
but does not include some additions that appear only in [D], such as
the Mercian Register. This manuscript was composed at the monastery in
Peterborough, some time after a fire there in 1116 that probably
destroyed their copy of the Chronicle; [E] appears to have been
created thereafter as a copy of a Kentish version, probably from
[F] appears to include material from the same
Canterbury version that
was used to create [E].
Asser's Life of King Alfred, which was written in 893, includes a
translation of the Chronicle's entries from 849 to 887. Only [A], of
surviving manuscripts, could have been in existence by 893, but there
are places where
Asser departs from the text in [A], so it is possible
Asser used a version that has not survived.[notes 2]
Æthelweard wrote a translation of the Chronicle into
Latin in the
late 10th century; the version he used probably came from the same
branch in the tree of relationships that [A] comes from.
Asser's text agrees with [A] and with Æthelweard's text in some
places against the combined testimony of [B], [C], [D] and [E],
implying that there is a common ancestor for the latter four
At Abingdon, some time between 1120 and 1140, an unknown author wrote
Latin chronicle known as the
Annals of St Neots. This work includes
material from a copy of the Chronicle, but it is very difficult to
tell which version because the annalist was selective about his use of
the material. It may have been a northern recension, or a Latin
derivative of that recension.
All the manuscripts described above share a chronological error
between the years 756 and 845, but it is apparent that the composer of
Annals of St Neots was using a copy that did not have this error
and which must have preceded them. Æthelweard's copy did have the
chronological error but it had not lost a whole sentence from annal
885; all the surviving manuscripts have lost this sentence. Hence the
error and the missing sentence must have been introduced in separate
copying steps, implying that none of the surviving manuscripts are
closer than two removes from the original version.
History of the manuscripts
A map showing the places where the various chronicles were written,
and where they are now kept.
Winchester (or Parker) Chronicle is the oldest manuscript of
the Chronicle that survives. It was begun at Old Minster, Winchester,
towards the end of Alfred's reign. The manuscript begins with a
genealogy of Alfred, and the first chronicle entry is for the year 60
BC. The section containing the Chronicle takes up folios
1–32. Unlike the other manuscripts, [A] is of early enough
composition to show entries dating back to the late 9th century in the
hands of different scribes as the entries were made. The first
scribe's hand is dateable to the late 9th or very early 10th century;
his entries cease in late 891, and the following entries were made at
intervals throughout the 10th century by several scribes. The eighth
scribe wrote the annals for the years 925–955, and was clearly at
Winchester when he wrote them since he adds some material related to
events there; he also uses ceaster, or "city", to mean Winchester.
The manuscript becomes independent of the other recensions after the
entry for 975. The book, which also had a copy of the Laws of Alfred
and Ine bound in after the entry for 924, was transferred to
Canterbury some time in the early 11th century, as evidenced by a
list of books that Archbishop Parker gave to Corpus Christi. While
at Canterbury, some interpolations were made; this required some
erasures in the manuscript. The additional entries appear to have been
taken from a version of the manuscript from which [E] descends.
The last entry in the vernacular is for 1070. After this comes the
Latin Acta Lanfranci, which covers church events from 1070–1093.
This is followed by a list of popes and the Archbishops of Canterbury
to whom they sent the pallium. The manuscript was acquired by Matthew
Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury (1559–1575) and master of Corpus
Christi College, Cambridge, following the dissolution of the
monasteries, and bequeathed to the college on his death. It now forms
part of the Parker Library.
Abingdon Chronicle I
[B] The Abingdon Chronicle I was written by a single scribe in the
second half of the 10th century. The Chronicle takes up folios
1–34. It begins with an entry for 60 BC and ends with the entry
for 977. A manuscript that is now separate (
British Library MS. Cotton
Tiberius Aiii, f. 178) was originally the introduction to this
chronicle; it contains a genealogy, as does [A], but extends it to the
late 10th century. [B] was at Abingdon in the mid-11th century,
because it was used in the composition of [C]. Shortly after this it
went to Canterbury, where interpolations and corrections were made. As
with [A], it ends with a list of popes and the archbishops of
Canterbury to whom they sent the pallium.
Abingdon Chronicle II
A page from the [C] Abingdon II text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
This entry is for 871, a year of battles between
Wessex and the
[C] includes additional material from local annals at Abingdon, where
it was composed. The section containing the Chronicle (folios
115–64) is preceded by King Alfred's
Old English translation of
Orosius's world history, followed by a menologium and some gnomic
verses of the laws of the natural world and of humanity. Then
follows a copy of the chronicle, beginning with 60 BC; the first
scribe copied up to the entry for 490, and a second scribe took over
up to the entry for 1048. [B] and [C] are identical between 491 and
652, but differences thereafter make it clear that the second scribe
was also using another copy of the Chronicle. This scribe also
inserted, after the annal for 915, the Mercian Register, which covers
the years 902–924, and which focuses on Æthelflæd. The manuscript
continues to 1066 and stops in the middle of the description of the
Battle of Stamford Bridge. In the 12th century a few lines were added
to complete the account.
Worcester Chronicle appears to have been written in the middle
of the 11th century. After 1033 it includes some records from
Worcester, so it is generally thought to have been composed there.
Five different scribes can be identified for the entries up to 1054,
after which it appears to have been worked on at intervals. The text
includes material from Bede's Ecclesiastical History and from a set of
8th-century Northumbrian annals. It is thought that some of the
entries may have been composed by Archbishop Wulfstan. [D] contains
more information than other manuscripts on northern and Scottish
affairs, and it has been speculated that it was a copy intended for
the Anglicised Scottish court. From 972 to 1016, the sees of
Worcester were both held by the same person—Oswald from 972,
Ealdwulf from 992, and Wulfstan from 1003, and this may explain why a
northern recension was to be found at Worcester. By the 16th century,
parts of the manuscript were lost; eighteen pages were inserted
containing substitute entries from other sources, including [A],
[B], [C] and [E]. These pages were written by John Joscelyn, who was
secretary to Matthew Parker.
Main article: Peterborough Chronicle
[E] The Peterborough Chronicle: In 1116, a fire at the monastery at
Peterborough destroyed most of the buildings. The copy of the
Chronicle kept there may have been lost at that time or later, but in
either case shortly thereafter a fresh copy was made, apparently
copied from a Kentish version—most likely to have been from
Canterbury. The manuscript was written at one time and by a single
scribe, down to the annal for 1121. The scribe added material
relating to Peterborough Abbey which is not in other versions. The
Canterbury original which he copied was similar, but not identical, to
[D]: the Mercian Register does not appear, and a poem about the Battle
of Brunanburh in 937, which appears in most of the other surviving
copies of the Chronicle, is not recorded. The same scribe then
continued the annals through to 1131; these entries were made at
intervals, and thus are presumably contemporary records. Finally, a
second scribe, in 1154, wrote an account of the years 1132–1154; but
his dating is known to be unreliable. This last entry is in Middle
English, rather than Old English. [E] was once owned by William Laud,
Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury 1633–1654, so is also known as the Laud
Chronicle. The manuscript contains occasional glosses in Latin, and
is referred to (as "the Saxon storye of Peterborowe church") in an
antiquarian book from 1566. According to Joscelyn, Nowell had a
transcript of the manuscript. Previous owners include William
Camden and William L'Isle; the latter probably passed the
manuscript on to Laud.
Canterbury Bilingual Epitome
Canterbury Bilingual Epitome: In about 1100, a copy of the
Chronicle was written at Christ Church, Canterbury, probably by
one of the scribes who made notes in [A]. This version is written in
Old English and Latin; each entry in
Old English was followed by
Latin version. The version the scribe copied (on folios
30–70) is similar to the version used by the scribe in
Peterborough who wrote [E], though it seems to have been abridged. It
includes the same introductory material as [D] and, along with [E], is
one of the two chronicles that does not include the "Battle of
Brunanburh" poem. The manuscript has many annotations and
interlineations, some made by the original scribe and some by later
scribes, including Robert Talbot.
Copy of the
[A2]/[G] Copy of the
Winchester Chronicle: [A2] was copied from [A] at
Winchester in the eleventh century and follows a 10th-century copy of
Old English translation of Bede's Ecclesiastical History. The
last annal copied was 1001, so the copy was made no earlier than that;
an episcopal list appended to [A2] suggests that the copy was made by
1013. This manuscript was almost completely destroyed in the 1731 fire
at Ashburnham House, where the
Cotton Library was housed. Of the
original 34 leaves, seven remain, ff. 39–47 in the manuscript.
However, a transcript had been made by Laurence Nowell, a 16th-century
antiquary, which was used by
Abraham Wheelocke in an edition of the
Chronicle printed in 1643. Because of this, it is also sometimes
known as [W], after Wheelocke. Nowell's transcript copied the
genealogical introduction detached from [B] (the page now British
Cotton Tiberius Aiii, f. 178), rather than that originally
part of this document. The original [A2] introduction would later be
removed prior to the fire and survives as
British Library Add MS
34652, f. 2. The appellations [A], [A2] and [G] derive from
Plummer, Smith and Thorpe, respectively.
The Cottonian Fragment [H] consists of a single leaf, containing
annals for 1113 and 1114. In the entry for 1113 it includes the phrase
"he came to Winchester"; hence it is thought likely that the
manuscript was written at Winchester. There is not enough of this
manuscript for reliable relationships to other manuscripts to be
established. Ker notes that the entries may have been written
Easter Table Chronicle
[I] Easter Table Chronicle: A list of Chronicle entries accompanies a
table of years, found on folios 133-37 in a badly burned manuscript
containing miscellaneous notes on charms, the calculation of dates for
church services, and annals pertaining to Christ Church,
Canterbury. Most of the Chronicle's entries pertain to Christ
Church, Canterbury. Until 1109 (the death of Anselm of Canterbury)
they are in English; all but one of the following entries are in
Latin. Part of [I] was written by a scribe soon after 1073, in
the same hand and ink as the rest of the Caligula MS. After 1085, the
annals are in various contemporary hands. The original annalist's
entry for the Norman conquest is limited to "Her forðferde eadward
kyng"; a later hand added the coming of William the Conqueror, "7 her
com willelm." At one point this manuscript was at St Augustine's
Two manuscripts are recorded in an old catalogue of the library of
Durham; they are described as cronica duo Anglica. In addition, Parker
included a manuscript called Hist. Angliae Saxonica in his gifts but
the manuscript that included this, now Cambridge University Library
MS. Hh.1.10, has lost 52 of its leaves, including all of this copy of
Sources, reliability and dating
The Chronicle incorporates material from multiple sources. The entry
for 755, describing how Cynewulf took the kingship of
Sigebehrt, is far longer than the surrounding entries, and includes
direct speech quotations from the participants in those events. It
seems likely that this was taken by the scribe from existing saga
material. Early entries, up to the year 110, probably came from
one of the small encyclopaedic volumes of world history in circulation
at the time the Chronicle was first written. The chronological summary
to Bede's Ecclesiastical History was used as a source. The Chronicle
gives dates and genealogies for Northumbrian and Mercian kings, and
provides a list of
Wessex bishops; these are likely to have had
separate sources. The entry for 661 records a battle fought by Cenwalh
that is said to have been fought "at Easter"; this precision implies a
contemporary record, which survived and was re-used by the Chronicle
Contemporary annals began to be kept in
Wessex during the 7th
century.[notes 3] The material compiled in Alfred's reign included
annals relating to Kentish, South Saxon, Mercian and, particularly,
West Saxon history, but, with the exception of the Cynewulf entry,
does not gather momentum until it comes to the Nordic invasions of the
late 8th century onwards. The Chronicle grew out of the tradition
of the Easter Tables, drawn up to help the clergy determine the dates
of feasts in future years: a page consisted of a sequence of
horizontal lines followed by astronomical data, with a space for short
notes of events to distinguish one year from another. As the Chronicle
developed, it lost its list-like appearance, and such notes took up
more space, becoming more like historical records. Many later entries,
especially those written by contemporaries, contained a great deal of
historical narrative under the year headings.
As with any historical source, the Chronicle has to be treated with
some caution. For example, between 514 and 544 the Chronicle makes
reference to Wihtgar, who is supposedly buried on the
Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight at
"Wihtgar's stronghold" (which is "Wihtgaræsbyrg" in the original) and
purportedly gave his name to the island. However, the name of the
"Isle of Wight" derives from the
Latin "Vectis", not from Wihtgar. The
actual name of the fortress was probably "Wihtwarabyrg", "the
stronghold of the inhabitants of Wight", and either the chronicler or
an earlier source misinterpreted this as referring to Wihtgar.
The dating of the events recorded also requires care. In addition to
dates that are simply inaccurate, scribes occasionally made mistakes
that caused further errors. For example, in the [D] manuscript, the
scribe omits the year 1044 from the list on the left hand side. The
annals copied down are therefore incorrect from 1045 to 1052, which
has two entries. A more difficult problem is the question of the date
at which a new year began, since the modern custom of starting the
year on 1 January was not universal at that time. The entry for 1091
in [E] begins at
Christmas and continues throughout the year; it is
clear that this entry follows the old custom of starting the year at
Christmas. Some other entries appear to begin the year on 25 March,
such as the year 1044 in the [C] manuscript, which ends with Edward
the Confessor's marriage on 23 January, while the entry for 22 April
is recorded under 1045. There are also years which appear to start in
The manuscripts were produced in different places, and each manuscript
reflects the biases of its scribes. It has been argued that the
Chronicle should be regarded as propaganda, produced by Alfred's court
and written with the intent of glorifying Alfred and creating
loyalty. This is not universally accepted,[notes 4] but the
origins of the manuscripts clearly colour both the description of
Wessex and other kingdoms, and the descriptions
of the Vikings' depredations. An example can be seen in the entry for
829, which describes Egbert's invasion of Northumbria. According to
the Chronicle, after Egbert conquered
Mercia and Essex, he became a
"bretwalda", implying overlordship of all of England. Then when he
marched into Northumbria, the Northumbrians offered him "submission
and peace". The Northumbrian chronicles incorporated into Roger of
Wendover's 13th-century history give a different picture: "When Egbert
had obtained all the southern kingdoms, he led a large army into
Northumbria, and laid waste that province with severe pillaging, and
made King Eanred pay tribute."
Occasionally the scribes' biases can be seen by comparing different
versions of the manuscript they created. For example, Ælfgar, earl of
East Anglia, and son of Leofric, the earl of Mercia, was exiled
briefly in 1055. The [C], [D] and [E] manuscripts say the
[C]: "Earl Ælfgar, son of Earl Leofric, was outlawed without any
[D]: "Earl Ælfgar, son of Earl Leofric, was outlawed well-nigh
without fault ..."
[E]: "Earl Ælfgar was outlawed because it was thrown at him that he
was traitor to the king and all the people of the land. And he
admitted this before all the men who were gathered there, although the
words shot out against his will."
Another example that mentions Ælfgar shows a different kind of
unreliability in the Chronicle: that of omission. Ælfgar was Earl of
Mercia by 1058, and in that year was exiled again. This time only [D]
has anything to say: "Here Earl Ælfgar was expelled, but he soon came
back again, with violence, through the help of Gruffydd. And here came
a raiding ship-army from Norway; it is tedious to tell how it all
happened." In this case other sources exist to clarify the
picture: a major Norwegian attempt was made on England, but [E] says
nothing at all, and [D] scarcely mentions it. It has sometimes been
argued that when the Chronicle is silent, other sources that report
major events must be mistaken, but this example demonstrates that the
Chronicle does omit important events.
Latin and Anglo-Norman historians
The three main Anglo-Norman historians, John of Worcester, William of
Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon, each had a copy of the Chronicle,
which they adapted for their own purposes.
Symeon of Durham also
had a copy of the Chronicle. Some later medieval historians also
used the Chronicle, and others took their material from those who had
used it, and so the Chronicle became "central to the mainstream of
English historical tradition".
Henry of Huntingdon used a copy of the Chronicle that was very similar
to [E]. There is no evidence in his work of any of the entries in [E]
after 1121, so although his manuscript may actually have been [E], it
may also have been a copy—either one taken of [E] prior to the
entries he makes no use of, or a manuscript from which [E] was copied,
with the copying taking place prior to the date of the last annal he
uses. Henry also made use of the [C] manuscript.
Annals made use of a manuscript that was similar to [E],
though it appears that it did not contain the entries focused on
Peterborough. The manuscript of the chronicle translated by Geoffrey
Gaimar cannot be identified accurately, though according to historian
Dorothy Whitelock it was "a rather better text than 'E' or 'F'".
Gaimar implies that there was a copy at
Winchester in his day (the
middle of the 12th century); Whitelock suggests that there is evidence
that a manuscript that has not survived to the present day was at
Winchester in the mid-tenth century. If it survived to Gaimar's time
that would explain why [A] was not kept up to date, and why [A] could
be given to the monastery at Canterbury.
John of Worcester's Chronicon ex chronicis appears to have had a
manuscript that was either [A] or similar to it; he makes use of
annals that do not appear in other versions, such as entries
concerning Edward the Elder's campaigns and information about
Winchester towards the end of the chronicle. His account is often
similar to that of [D], though there is less attention paid to
Margaret of Scotland, an identifying characteristic of [D]. He had the
Mercian register, which appears only in [C] and [D]; and he includes
material from annals 979–982 which only appears in [C]. It is
possible he had a manuscript that was an ancestor of [D]. He also had
sources which have not been identified, and some of his statements
have no earlier surviving source.
A manuscript similar to [E] was available to William of Malmesbury,
though it is unlikely to have been [E] as that manuscript is known to
have still been in Peterborough after the time William was working,
and he does not make use of any of the entries in [E] that are
specifically related to Peterborough. It is likely he had either the
original from which [E] was copied, or a copy of that original. He
mentions that the chronicles do not give any information on the murder
of Alfred Aetheling, but since this is covered in both [C] and [D] it
is apparent he had no access to those manuscripts. On occasion he
appears to show some knowledge of [D], but it is possible that his
information was taken from John of Worcester's account. He also omits
any reference to a battle fought by
Cenwealh in 652; this battle is
mentioned in [A], [B] and [C], but not in [E]. He does mention a
battle fought by
Cenwealh at Wirtgernesburg, which is not in any of
the extant manuscripts, so it is possible he had a copy now lost.
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is the single most important source for the
history of England in Anglo-Saxon times. Without the Chronicle and
Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (the Ecclesiastical
History of the English People), it would be impossible to write the
history of the English from the Romans to the Norman conquest;
Nicholas Howe called them "the two great Anglo-Saxon works of
history". It is clear that records and annals of some kind began
to be kept in England at the time of the earliest spread of
Christianity, but no such records survive in their original form.
Instead they were incorporated in later works, and it is thought
likely that the Chronicle contains many of these. The history it tells
is not only that witnessed by its compilers, but also that recorded by
earlier annalists, whose work is in many cases preserved nowhere
Its importance is not limited to the historical information it
provides, however. It is just as important a source for the early
development of English. The
Peterborough Chronicle changes from
Old English literary language to early Middle English
after 1131, providing some of the earliest
Middle English text
known. Howe notes, in "Rome: Capitol of Anglo-Saxon England", that
many of the entries indicate that Rome was considered a spiritual home
for the Anglo-Saxons, Rome and Roman history being of paramount
importance in many of the entries; he cites the one for AD 1, for
instance, which lists the reign of Octavian
Augustus before it
mentions the birth of Christ.
The Chronicle is not without literary interest. Inserted at various
points since the 10th century are
Old English poems in celebration of
royal figures and their achievements: "The Battle of Brunanburh"
(937), on King Æthelstan's victory over the combined forces of
Vikings, Scots and the Strathclyde Britons, and five shorter poems,
"Capture of the Five Boroughs" (942), "The Coronation of King Edgar"
(973), "The Death of King Edgar" (975), "The Death of Prince Alfred"
(1036), and "The Death of King Edward the Confessor" (1065).
History of editions and availability
An important early printed edition of the Chronicle appeared in 1692,
by Edmund Gibson, an English jurist and divine who became Bishop of
Lincoln in that year. Titled Chronicon Saxonicum, it printed
Old English versions of the text in parallel columns and became the
standard edition until the 19th century. It was superseded in 1861
by Benjamin Thorpe's Rolls edition, which printed six versions in
columns, labelled A to F, thus giving the manuscripts the letters
which are now used to refer to them.
John Earle wrote Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel (1865).
Charles Plummer edited this book, producing a Revised Text with notes,
appendices, and glossary in two volumes in 1892 and 1899. This
edition of the A and E texts, with material from other versions, was
widely used; it was reprinted in 1952.
Editions of the individual manuscripts
Beginning in the 1980s, a new set of scholarly editions have been
printed under the series title "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A
Collaborative Edition". Some volumes are still projected, such as a
volume focusing on the northern recension, but existing volumes such
as Janet Bately's edition of [A] are now standard references. A
recent translation of the Chronicle is Michael Swanton's The
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which presents translations of [A] and [E] on
opposite pages, with interspersed material from the other manuscripts
where they differ.
A facsimile edition of [A], The Parker Chronicle and Laws, appeared in
1941 from the Oxford University Press, edited by Robin Flower and Hugh
Smith. A recent scholarly edition of the [B] text is The
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, 4, MS B by S. Taylor
(Cambridge, 1983). The [C] manuscript was edited by H.A. Rositzke;
The C-Text of the
Old English Chronicles, in Beitrage z. engl. Phil.,
XXXIV, Bochum-Langendreer, 1940; and the [D] manuscript in An
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle from British Museum Cotton MS., Tiberius B. iv,
edited by E. Classen and F.E. Harmer, Manchester, 1926. Rositzke also
published a translation of the [E] text in The Peterborough Chronicle
(New York, 1951). The [F] text was printed in F.P. Magoun, Jr.,
Annales Domitiani Latini: an Edition in "Mediaeval Studies of the
Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies", IX, 1947,
pp. 235–295. The first edition of [G] was Abraham Whelock's
1644 Venerabilis Bedae Historia Ecclesiastica, printed in
Cambridge; there is also an edition by Angelica Lutz, Die Version
G der angelsächsischen Chronik: Rekonstruktion und Edition (Munich,
Anglo-Saxon England portal
^ For example, Richard Abels says that "historians are in basic
agreement that the original Chronicle extended to at least 890."
Keynes and Lapidge suggest that "the return of the Vikings to England
appears to have occasioned the 'publication', in late 892 or early
893, of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle".
^ For example,
Asser omits Esla from Alfred's genealogy; [A] includes
Esla but [D] does not.
^ The Chronicle entry for 648 may mark the point after which entries
that were written as a contemporary record begin to appear.
^ For example, Keynes and Lapidge comment that we should "resist the
temptation to regard it as a form of West Saxon dynastic
^ Bosworth, The Elements of Anglo-Saxon Grammar, p. 277.
^ G. O Sayles, The Medieval Foundations of England (London 1966) p. 7
^ a b Abels, Alfred the Great, p. 15.
^ a b Keynes and Lapidge, Alfred the Great, p. 41.
^ F. M. Stenton, 'The South-Western Element in the Old English
Chronicle', in A. G. Little ed, Essays in Medieval History presented
to T. F. Tout (Manchester 1925) p. 22
^ Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, pp. xx–xxi.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle, pp. xxi–xxviii.
^ Keynes and Lapidge, Alfred the Great, p. 55.
^ Wormald, "Alfredian Manuscripts", p. 158, in Campbell et al., The
^ Hunter Blair, Roman Britain, p. 12.
^ Keynes and Lapidge, Alfred the Great, pp. 228–229, n. 4.
^ a b Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, pp. xix–xx.
^ a b c d e f g h Whitelock, English Historical Documents,
^ a b c Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts, p. 57.
^ a b Whitelock, English Historical Documents, pp. 109–112.
^ Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts, p. 249.
^ Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts, pp. 251–52.
^ Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts, 254.
^ a b Ker 424-26.
^ Harrison, "
William Camden and the F-Text," p. 222.
^ Howorth, "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," p. 155.
^ Gneuss, Handlist, p. 63.
^ a b Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts, p. 187.
^ a b Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts, p. 231.
^ Raymond J. S. Grant (1996), Laurence Nowell, William Lambarde, and
the Laws of the Anglo-Saxons, Atlanta, Ga.: Rodopi, p. 25
^ Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts, p. 188.
^ Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts, p. 174.
^ a b Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts, p. 175.
^ "Cotton Catalogue". Archived from the original on 23 April 2007.
Retrieved 11 April 2007. See Caligula A.15, under "Provenance",
which gives a description of the manuscript and some of its history.
^ "Cambridge, University Library, Hh. 1. 10 – The Production and Use
of English Manuscripts:1060 to 1220". Retrieved 23 July 2011.
^ Greenfield, A New Critical History, p. 60.
^ Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, pp. xviii–xix.
^ a b Yorke, Kings and Kingdoms, p. 128.
^ Lapidge, Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 35.
^ Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia, 15.
^ Ekwall, Dictionary of English Place-Names.
^ Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, p. 16.
^ Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, pp. xiv–xvi.
^ Campbell,The Anglo-Saxon State, p. 144.
^ Keynes and Lapidge, Alfred the Great, p. 55.
^ Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, pp. 60–61.
^ P. Wormald, "The Ninth Century", p. 139, in Campbell et al., The
^ a b Translations from Swanton, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, pp.
^ a b Campbell et al., The Anglo-Saxons, p. 222.
^ a b Lapidge, Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 36.
^ a b Hunter Blair, An Introduction, p. 355.
^ a b Howe, Nicholas (2004). "Rome: Capital of Anglo-Saxon England".
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. 34 (1): 147–72.
^ Hunter Blair, Roman Britain, p. 11.
^ The title in full is Chronicon Saxonicum; seu Annales Rerum in
Anglia Praecipue Gestarum, a Christo nato ad Annum Usque MCLIV.
deducti, ac jam demum Latinitate donati. Cum Indice Rerum
Chronologico. Accedunt Regulae ad Investigandas Nominum Locorum
Origines. Et Nominum Locorum ac Virorum in Chronico Memoratorum
Explicatio. A detailed description of a first edition is listed at
"Law Books – October 2002 List". Archived from the original on 28
November 2007. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
^ John Earle (1865). Two of the Saxon chronicles parallel: with
supplementary extracts from the others. Clarendon Press.
^ John Earle;
Charles Plummer (1892). Two of the Saxon Chronicles
Parallel: Text, appendices and glossary. Clarendon Press.
^ a b c d e Whitelock, English Historical Documents, p. 129.
Abels, Richard (2005). Alfred the Great: War, Kingship and Culture in
Anglo-Saxon England. Longman. p. 15.
Bately, Janet M. (1986). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative
Edition. Vol. 3: MS. A. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer.
Bosworth, Joseph (1823). The Elements of Anglo-Saxon Grammar. London:
Harding, Mavor and Lepard.
Campbell, James; John, Eric; Wormald, Patrick (1991). The
Anglo-Saxons. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-014395-5.
Campbell, James (2000). The Anglo-Saxon State. Hambledon and London.
Crystal, David (1995). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English
Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ekwall, Eilert (1947). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English
Place-Names. Oxford: Clarendon Press. OCLC 3821873.
Gneuss, Helmut (2001). Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: A List of
Manuscripts and Manuscript Fragments Written or Owned in England up to
1100. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies. 241. Tempe: Arizona
Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
Greenfield, Stanley Brian (1986). A New Critical History of Old
English Literature. New York: New
York University Press. p. 60.
Harrison, Julian (2007). "
William Camden and the F-Text of the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle". Notes and Queries. 54 (3): 222–24.
Howorth, Henry H. (1908). "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Its Origin and
History". The Archaeological Journal. 65: 141–204.
Hunter Blair, Peter (1960). An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England
(3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (2003 edition:
Hunter Blair, Peter (1966). Roman Britain and Early England: 55 B.C.
– A.D. 871. New York: Norton. ISBN 0-393-00361-2.
Ker, Neil Ripley (1957). Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing
Anglo-Saxon. Oxford: At the Clarendon.
Keynes, Simon; Michael Lapidge (2004). Alfred the Great: Asser's Life
of King Alfred and other contemporary sources. New York: Penguin
Classics. ISBN 0-14-044409-2.
Lapidge, Michael (1999). The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon
England. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-22492-0.
Plummer, Charles (1885). Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel.
Savage, Anne (1997). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. Gadalming: CLB.
Smith, Albert Hugh (1935). The Parker Chronicle (832–900). Methuen's
Old English Library, Prose Selections. 1. London: Methuen.
Swanton, Michael (1996). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. New York:
Routledge. ISBN 0-415-92129-5.
Thorpe, Benjamin (1861). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Rolls Series. 23.
Whitelock, Dorothy (1968). English Historical Documents v. 1 c.
500–1042. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.
Wormald, Patrick (1991). "The Ninth Century." In Campbell et al., The
Yorke, Barbara (1990). Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon
England. London: Seaby. ISBN 1-85264-027-8.
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Digital images of
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle A
Digital images of
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle B, C, D & F
Digital images of
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle E
Published Wheelocke transcript of mostly-lost
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle G
Scans of introduction detached from
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle G
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle H
Scans of Easter Table Chronicle (
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle I,