Manuscripts of AElfric's Catholic Homilies

Principle Investigator
Kathryn Lowe, University of Glasgow, UK

Project Advisors

  1. Elaine Treharne, Professor of Early English, Florida State University
  2. Orietta da Rold, Lecturer in Medieval Literature, University of Leicester
  3. Alison Wiggins, Senior Lecturer, Department of English Language, University of Glasgow


  1. TBA


The proposed project comprises an investigation of the language and script of four related manuscripts containing Ælfric’s Catholic Homilies dating from the beginning of the eleventh century to the middle of the twelfth. The linguistic analysis will be based on full transcriptions prepared by the project team of three homilies present in all the manuscripts under consideration. Similarities of script and layout will also be investigated. The work promises to deliver fresh insights both about the development of the language during the key period spanning the Conquest, and about the inter-relationships and broader textual affiliations of an interesting cluster of manuscripts.


The four manuscripts under consideration here form part of Ælfric’s first revision of his work, and all appear to have a south-eastern source. They are listed below, using conventional sigla:

  • Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 342 Ker 309 [D]
  • Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 162, Ker 38 [F]
  • Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 198, Ker 48 [E]
  • Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 303, Ker 57 [C]

The textual affiliations of these manuscripts are mixed, hence the requirement to select texts for analysis in a uninterrupted block. Valuable research has already been conducted on the layout and script of individual manuscripts within the group and on the linguistic context of the wider Ælfrician manuscript tradition, but to date no one has focused sustained attention explicitly on the cluster. Digitization of the Parker collection makes this approach for the first time feasible, and detailed comparison of manuscripts readily achievable.

We see the proposed digitization of Bodley 342 very much as the first stage in a process that will make this wider corpus available to scholars, and the project itself as advertising the potential of such an approach. The manuscripts will be analyzed on their own terms rather than considered as imperfect realisations of Ælfric’s own ur-text or idiolect: linguistic and broader textual work to date in this area has privileged the recovery of Ælfric’s own language, principles, and preoccupations to the exclusion of the identification and analysis of broader scribal systems and copying practices. Such research should yield much information about manuscript production and language change during the century and a half spanning the Norman Conquest, a period of considerable linguistic and cultural interest.