The Vercelli Book

The Vercelli Book is one of a group of four major anthologies in Old EnglishClick for footnote. It is named after its location in Vercelli, Italy, where it seemingly arrived in the twelfth century. It was 'discovered in the nineteenth century when a German, Friedrich Blume, who was looking for legal manuscripts, came across it.'Click for footnote Its 135 leaves, written by a single scribe, contain next to a group of homilies 6 poetic texts, including The Dream of the Rood and two poems ascribed to Cynewulf, namely The Fates of the Apostles and Elene.

'The Vercelli Book appears ... to have been put together from a number of different exemplars with no apparent overall design in mind. The manner in which the scribe did the copying is relatively mechanical. In most cases, he copied the dialect and the manuscript puntuation that was found in the original texts, and these aspects therefore aid in reconstructing the variety of exemplars. The texts therefore range in date for although they were all copied in the later tenth century, they need not all have been written in this period.'Click for footnote

Elaine Treharne suggests from an inspection of the texts, that the 'compiler was someone "in a monastic setting" who wished "to illustrate his personal interest in penitential and eschatological themes and to glorify the ascetic way of life."'

Andreas Homily IX
The Fates of the Apostles Homily X
Soul and Body I Homily XI
Homiletic Fragment I Homily XII
The Dream of the Rood Homily XIII
Elene Homily XIV
Homily XV
Homily I Homily XVII
Homily II Homily XVIII
Homily III Homily XIX
Homily IV Homily XX
Homily V Homily XXI
Homily VI Homily XXII
Homily VII Homily XXIII
  The others are the Exeter Book, the Cotton Vitellius A XV Manuscript (containing Beowulf) and the Junius Manuscript. (Back)
Elaine Treharne, Old and Middle English - An Anthology, pg. 89 (Back)
Elaine Treharne, Old and Middle English - An Anthology, pg. 89 (Back)
Elaine Treharne, Old and Middle English - An Anthology, pg. 89 (Back)