The Old English scribble in MS Lat.O.v.XVI.1 in the National Library of Russia (St Petersburg) and its manuscript context

Matti Kilpiö, Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English (VARIENG), University of Helsinki
Marina Tsvinaria, Department of English and Translation Studies, Saint Petersburg State University [1]

In this article, our main focus is on the Old English poetic scribble on f. 15r of MS Lat.O.v.XVI.1 kept in the National Library of Russia (St Petersburg). We discuss its linguistic and literary aspects, including a metrical analysis. Our secondary aim is to describe the Latin texts surrounding the scribble and to identify them as completely as possible.

MS Lat. O.v.XVI.1, a 10th century English manuscript, is one of the numerous manuscripts acquired in Paris by Pierre Dubrowsky in the late 18th century. The bulk of it is taken up by Priscian’s Institutio de nomine et pronomine et verbo. In addition to a number of scribbles and short fragments, the rest of the manuscript contains Latin liturgical texts. The final folios, ff. 17 and 18, bound with MS Lat. O.v.XIV.1, are Latin fragments from a later, possibly French, manuscript of the 12th century. The reason for their inclusion here must be that they contain fragments from another grammatical work by Priscian.

In addition to a detailed discussion of the Old English scribble, this article adds to our knowledge of MS Lat.O.V.XVI.1 by identifying a fragment of Passio Dionysii, Rustici et Eleutherii, by giving the text of a hagiographical fragment dealing with Gregory the Great for the first time and by identifying the grammatical texts on ff. 17 and 18 as disiecta membra of a manuscript of Priscian’s Institutiones grammaticae.

Древнеанглийская надпись в рукописи Lat.O.v.XVI.1 из собраний Российской Национальной Библиотеки Санкт-Петербурга и ее рукописный контекст

Матти Кильпио и Марина Цвинария

Данная статья посвящена древнеанглийской поэтической вставке на л. 15 лиц. рукописи Lat.O.v.XVI.1 в собрании Российской Национальной Библиотеки (РНБ) Санкт-Петербурга. В ней рассматриваются лингвистические и литературные аспекты вставки, включая ее метрический анализ, а также латинские тексты, входящие в ту же рукопись и составляющие ее ближайшее окружение.

Относящаяся к Х в. английская рукопись Lat.O.v.XVI.1, является одним из многочисленных приобретений П.П. Дубровского, сделанных им в Париже в конце XVIII в. Ее основную часть занимает Institutio de nomine et pronomine et verbo (Об имени, местоимении и глаголе) Присциана. Рукопись включает несколько вставок и фрагментов, а также латинские литургические тексты. Последние листы (17 и 18) в составе Lat.O.v.XVI.1 это латинские фрагменты более поздней, возможно французской, рукописи XII в. Очевидно, они были добавлены потому, что в них содержатся отрывки из других сочинений Присциана по грамматике.

Помимо подробного разбора древнеанглийской вставки наш вклад в описание Lat.O.v.XVI.1 состоит в идентификации одного из фрагментов как Passio Dionysii, Rustici et Eleutherii, а грамматических текстов на лл. 17 и 18 как disiecta membra копии Грамматических наставлений (Institutiones grammaticae) Присциана. В статье также впервые представлен агиографический фрагмент, посвященный Григорию Великому.

1. Aims of the article

In the present article we have two aims: (1) to give the complete text of the Old English scribble on f. 15r in MS Lat.O.v.XVI.1 in the National Library of Russia at St Petersburg and to discuss its linguistic and literary aspects; (2) to describe the Latin texts surrounding the scribble and to identify as many of them as possible. Both aims are justified as, so far, neither the scribble nor its Latin context has been exhaustively discussed in the literature. In addition, we shall give a brief description of the manuscript.

2. Description of the manuscript

2.1 Origin and date

The main sources describing MS Lat.O.v.XVI.1 are (1) Latinskiye rukopisi v-xii vekov Gosudarstvennoy publichnoy biblioteki im. M.E. Saltykova-Schedrina. Kratkoye opisanie dlya Svodnogo Kataloga rukopisei, khranyaschiyesya v SSSR. Chast I. Akademiya nauk SSSR, Leningrad 1983 [henceforth Latinskiye rukopisi (1983)], (2) Ker (1976), (3) Jeudy (1984) and, as the most detailed source, (4) Olga A. Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya's handwritten catalogue of early Western medieval manuscripts kept at the National Library. [2]

According to Latinskiye rukopisi (1983: 31-2), MS Lat.O.v.XVI.1 (ff. 1-16), which is item no. 83 in this catalogue, is of English origin and dates from the 10th century. [3] Originally it is said to have been part of the same larger manuscript as MS Lat.Q.v.XIV.1 also preserved at the Russian National Library. The latter manuscript, no. 82 in Latinskiye rukopisi, contains Frithegod's verse Life of St. Wilfrid. Both manuscripts are said to be likely to have originally formed part of MS Lat. 14088 in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris. [4] According to the original foliation, the order of the three manuscripts was as follows:

Order of the manuscripts according to the original foliation

Jeudy (1984:148) has argued, on the basis of the old foliation, that these three manuscripts were formerly part of a codex originating from Saint-Germain-des-Prés. [5] Bound with ff. 1-16 of MS Lat.O.v.XVI.1, but of a later date, are ff. 17-18, separately listed as item no. 219 in Latinskiye rukopisi (1983: 53). According to Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya's notes (see note 2 above) they are of uncertain provenance and date from the 12th century. [6] The same dating is given by Jeudy (1984: 148) and Latinskiye rukopisi, which also tentatively suggests that these two folios originate from France (1983: 53).

MS Lat.O.v.XVI.1 forms part of the collection of Pierre Dubrowsky and, according to Jeudy (1984: 148), was acquired by him in Paris after 1791. Dubrowsky (1754–1816) was a Russian aristocrat who during his thirty-year service at the Russian Embassy in Paris (from 1778) amassed a magnificent collection of books and manuscripts which he presented "for the benefit of the native land" to the Imperial Library in St Petersburg in 1805. The collection, as first described in the official documents of the middle of the 19th century, contained samples of all European schools of writing from the 4th century to the invention of the printing press, miniature paintings from the period of decline to Raphael, and a large number of memoirs and autographs. It became one of the most valuable acquisitions of the library. The catalogues published by the Department of Manuscripts of the National Library divide Dubrowsky's collection in two parts: (1) books and manuscripts from the 4th to the 18th century; (2) documentary materials from the 12th to the 18th century. [7]

2.2 Physical appearance and palaeography of the manuscript

Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya states that ff. 1 and 15 are marked with the "Ex Musæo Petri Dubrowsky" inscription in red Indian ink. The measures she gives, 24x16 cm and 17.5x11 cm, appear to refer to ff. 1-15, the former being the measures of the folios and the latter those of the writing itself. The number of lines is 24 on ff. 1-15, 18 on f. 16 and 34 on ff. 17 and 18.

The Latin fragment (ll. 19-29) following the Old English scribble on f. 15r is said by Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya to be in caroline minuscule and in brown, partly very faded ink. She characterizes the marginal note on f. 4r, to be discussed in Section 2.3 below, as a 'Gothic' scribble of the 12th century.

According to her, the initials in the manuscript have been designed in a simplified manner characteristic of the insular style.

She describes the manuscript as having been poorly preserved: the leaves are rusted, torn and soiled. According to her, the red morocco binding dates from the original Dubrowsky collection.

Ker (1976: 124, Item no. 415) describes the Latin handwriting of the grammatical treatise beginning on f. 1 and ending on f. 15r as Anglo-Saxon minuscule. Of the letter forms of the Old English scribble on f. 15r he says as follows: "a is a wide letter closed by a straight slightly upward sloping stroke; d and ð are the same size; y is rounded and without dot."

Jeudy (1984:147-8) states that ff. 1-15 are in Anglo-Saxon minuscule of the beginning of the 10th century [8], while the sequences (f. 16r/v) are later, the writing smaller and with continental letter-forms.

2.3 Contents of the manuscript

The bulk of the manuscript – ff. 1r-15r – is taken up by a Latin grammatical text, Priscian's Institutio de nomine et pronomine et verbo. Neither Dobiash-Rozhdestevenskaya's notes, Ker (1976) nor Latinskiye rukopisi (1983) yet contain an identification of the text: it is simply referred to as 'Grammaticalia'. According to Helmut Gneuss (p.c. 23 August 1999) the text was first identified by Mary Catherine Bodden. She, however, thought that the manuscript only contained an excerpt of Priscian's work (letter to Gneuss, 3 May 1982). Gneuss subsequently found out that the manuscript contained the whole text and reported, later in 1982, about his finding to Colette Jeudy, who was then able to include MS Lat.O.v.XVI.1 in her 1984 article in Scriptorium (see Jeudy 1984:174-8). MS Lat.O.v.XVI.1 was made use of by Marina Passalacqua in her edition of the text (Passalacqua 1992).

Priscian's treatise ends on f. 15r, line 9. The rest of f. 15r is taken up by

  • Line 10: A handwritten note 'Ex Musæo Petri Dubrowsky';
  • Lines 11-13: A fragment of Passio SS.MM. Dionysii Rustici et Eleutherii, ascribed in Patrologia Latina (henceforth, PL) 88 to Venantius Fortunatus [9]; this text was identified by Matti Kilpiö with the help of the electronic edition of PL. [10] The text begins S[an]c[tu]s Dionisius qui tradente beato clemente and ends cognouit erore[m] illuc. [11] (Cf. PL 88, col. 0580C: Sanctus igitur Dionysius, qui, tradente beato Clemente Petri apostoli successore verbi divini semina gentibus eroganda susceperat, quo amplius gentilitatis fervere cognovit errorem, illuc intrepidus et calore fidei inflammatus accessit, Parisios, Domino ducente, pervenit.... The sequence qui, tradente beato Clemente Petri apostoli successore is given in the edition as a variant reading, corresponding to qui, ut ferunt, a successoribus apostolorum in the body of the text.)
  • Lines 14-18: Old English and Latin scribbles. The latter, starting with abcdefgh and continuing with dominabit=r=u (for dominabitur 'will reign'?) does not make sense as a continuous sentence, although there are two words recognisable as Latin: amasius 'lover' and erat 'was'. Andy Orchard (p.c.) further suggests that =ui= mine could be a form of the noun uimen, uiminis 'twig, stick'.
  • Lines 19-29: A so far unidentified fragment (or fragments?) connected with Gregory the Great. This fragment is not mentioned by Jeudy. The writing is faint and at places illegible; accordingly, the transcript given below remains rather tentative. [12] The first part of the text Egregio beatitudinis tue preconio...omniu[m] salutem looks like the beginning of a letter addressed to a pope, while the rest of the text appears to be a hagiographical text dealing with the life of Gregory the Great, mentioning details like the names of his parents, his education and the story of Gregory hiding in the woods trying to evade election as Pope. The latter, hagiographical section, contains phrases and collocations which echo passages in Paul the Deacon's Sancti Gregorii Magni vita, PL 75. [13] Compare the boldface words and phrases from this work with lines 19-29 of f. 15r:
    • [Col. 41] Gregorius hac urbe Romana, patre Gordiano, matre vero Silvia editus, non solum de spectabili senatorum prosapia, verum etiam religiosa, originem duxit. Nam Felix, istius apostolicae sedis antistes, vir magnae virtutis, et Ecclesiae in Christo gloria, ejus atavus fuit. Sed tamen hanc Gregorius tantae nobilitatis lineam moribus extulit, probis actibus decoravit.
    • [Col. 42] Disciplinis vero liberalibus, hoc est grammatica, rhetorica, dialectica, ita a puero est institutus, ut quamvis eo tempore florerent adhuc Romae studia litterarum, tamen nulli in urbe ipsa secundus esse putaretur.
    • [Col. 48] Obtinet is a negotiatoribus ut in cratera occultatus educeretur ab Urbe, atque ita latebris triduo se occultavit, donec illum jejuniis et orationibus populus Romanus, columna lucis, tertia super eum nocte coelitus emissa, obtinuit.

Figure 1. (A) MS Lat. O.v.XVI.1, f. 15r, bottom (= lines 19-29), and (B) a version with added contrast. We are indebted to Ilkka Kumpunen for the highlighted image. Reproduced with the kind permission of the Russian National Library.

Ff. 15v-16v contain Latin liturgical texts: [14]

  • F. 15v, lines 1-13: a hymn (Iubilemus d[e]o n[ostr]o fr[atr]es dilectissim[i]...)
  • F. 15v, lines 13-17: a prayer addressed to Mary (Gaude que genu=i=sti eterni luminis claritatem...);
  • F. 15v, lines 17-23: a prayer addressed to St. Stephen (Ecce ia[m] cora[m] te p[ro] thoro...); 
  • F. 16r, lines 1-13: sequence (Victime paschali laudes...);
  • F. 16r, lines 13-18: sequence (Mundi etate octaua florebunt...stolas binas quicumq~ prius merueri)
  • F. 16v, top of page: Marginal note: Al~l~a hec est...... a dm~[..];
  • F. 16v, lines 1-4: continuation of the sequence Mundi etate from f. 16r: (singulas; Omnes omnia scient ue=r=ba cessabunt...quam signa sequentia pura uoce canenda);
  • F. 16v, lines 4-15: sequence (Veni sp[iritu]s elector[um] alme...scandere ad etherea conuixa; [ ]lleluia)...h [or n?]
  • F. 16v, lower on this page: alicod [?]

Ff. 17r-18v contain two passages from Book 6 of Priscian's Institutiones grammaticae, identified by Matti Kilpiö by using Lomanto and Marinone (1990). The writing is at places faint to the point of being illegible. The two passages correspond to Hertz (1855) (= Hz below) as follows:

  • F. 17r, line 1 corresponds to Hz, p. 275, line 13 In 'ys' Graeca sunt tantummodo et tertiae declinationis. Line 35 (= the last line of f. 17r) corresponds to Hz, p. 278, lines 10-11 ...quoque regula sequuntur. apud illos enim si in x desinentia nomina habeant verba cum g, nominum... .
  • F. 17v, line 1 continues the sentence begun on f. 17r and corresponds to Hz, p. 278, lines 11-12 ...quoque genetivus per g declinatur,λέ//γω λέλεξ λέλεγος unde 'frux' etiam... . Line 35 (= the last line of f. 17v) corresponds to Hz, p. 280, lines 16-17 'bicipes' proferebant in nominativo, et sic secundum analogiam sequebatur genetives 'ancipes....
  • F. 18r, line 1 corresponds to Hz, p. 250, lines 11-12 ...ferro lapique _, 'hic sanguis huius sanguinis', quod veteres 'hoc sanguen' dixerunt... . Line 33 (= the last line of f. 18r) corresponds to Hz, p. 253 ...esse. o tamen in hoc solo corripitur. Seneca in Phaedra: Hippolyte, me nunc compotem voti facis.
  • F. 18v: the upper part of the page, roughly lines 1-17 is mostly illegible. It is probably a safe conjecture that the text on f. 18v continues with what corresponds to Hz, p. 253, line 11, as line 18, on which can be read e.g. RECA eiusde[m] t[er]minatio[n]is evidently corresponds to Hz, p. 254, line 16 Graeca eiusdem terminationis genetivum Graecum sequuntur. Line 30 (= the last line of f. 18v) corresponds to Hz, p. 255, line 14 In 'us' correptam desinentia masculina latina....
  • Ff. 17 and 18 appear to be disiecta membra from a manuscript containing the Institutiones. As can be seen above, the two passages from Book 6 are in a wrong order: the later one, Hz p. 275, line 13 - p. 280, line 17 covers f. 17 and the former one, Hz p. 250, line 11 - p. 255, line 14 covers f. 18.

F. 4r contains a note in the left margin, the 'Gothic' scribble mentioned in Section 2.2 above: Omnia bona uult thunch cetel 'Thunch wishes Cetel all good things.'

3. Transcript of f. 15r

corr[epta]. Est t[ame]n q[ua]n[do] participis fut[ur]i tempo[ris] // femininis in ura dissi[nentibus] similia s[un]t ut scrip // tura pict[ur]a amat[ur]a. INueniunt[ur] q[ua]n[d]o in um. / eti[am] dissinunt [uel] in or ut factum doctum // dictum labor amor. IN o. dissinentia // om[n]ia u[er]ba actiu[oru]m regula[m] seraant; // IN o. u[er]o passiu[oru]m de qu[oru]m specieb[u]s in tri // bus libris quos de u[er]bo scripsimus lati // us deserendum e[ss]e inuenies. //

Ex Musæo Petri Dubrowsky //

[SIGN] S[an]c[tu]s dionisius qui tradente beato clemente petri ap[osto]li // successore uerbi diuini semina gentibus eroganda sussceperat [SIGN] // [SIGN] Quo amplius gentilitatis feuore cognouit erore[m] illuc // a scæl gelæred smið swa hæ gelieost be bisne wyrcan buta [a only half visible] // a scæl gelæred smið swa he gelicost mæg be bisne wyrcan // butan he bet cunne ./ a scæl gelær abcdefgh // ær dominabit=r=u amasius qe at ma re erat =ui= mine // a scæl gelær //

[SIGN] Egregio beatitudinis tue preconio triu[m]fat uniuersalis ecle[si]a // p[er] te nobilit=e=r instituta tute papa insignissime romanoru[m] decus // angloru[m?] glories uero [=ru= ABOVE ro] letitia s[an]c[t]e gregori inuenit q[..]s uincis pro nos // stro omniu[m] salutem [SIGN] / sstest de primoribus teolois unus gregorius // papa inclitus romulea urbe editus cuius doctrina fulget eclesia // ut sol et luna gregorius papa inclitus patre gordiano matre ue // ro silvia romana urbe est editus. Dissciplinis uero liberali[...] a pu // eritia uideretur es[....]cundus / hac namque beatus gregorius t[...] // te nobilitatis linea actib[us] =et= p[ro]bis moribus decorauit [SIGN] // hac latebra triduo se occultabat donec ilu[m] populus romanus geiunis // [..] or[...]onib[us] tertia sup[er] eu[m] nocte colu[m]na lucis emisa ort[a est?]

4. The Old English scribble

4.1 The OE scribble with its repetitions

As appears from Figure 2 and the transcript in Section 3, f. 15r has the following Old English materials:

  • (Line 14) a scæl gelæred smið swa hæ gelieost be bisne wyrcan buta [a only half visible]
  • (Line 15) a scæl gelæred smið swa he gelicost mæg be bisne wyrcan
  • (Line 16) butan he bet cunne ./ a scæl gelær
  • (Line 17) ær
  • (Line 18) a scæl gelær

The only complete form of the scribble begins with line 15 and ends on line 16. The shortest OE fragment, ær (line 17) could be seen as a partial echo of the last syllable -lær of the previous OE sentence fragment. [15] In its complete form, the scribble could be translated 'A trained smith must always work, as closely as he can, according to a model unless he knows better.'

4.2 Language of the scribble

Syntactically, the scribble consists of one complex but clearly formulated and pithy sentence, with a main clause and two adverbial clauses, one of comparison (swa...) and one of concession (butan...). In each of these clauses, the finite verb is a preterite-present verb form, scæl, mæg and cunne, respectively. Although the infinitive wyrcan occurs only once in the surface structure [scæl...wyrcan], it is to be understood as having been ellipted in the verb phrases of the two adverbial clauses:

*A scæl gelæred smið [swa he gelicost mæg [Ø wyrcan]] be bisne wyrcan [butan he bet cunne [Ø wyrcan]].

Used with infinitives, sculan, magan and cunnan express different modalities. [16] In this context, scæl expresses obligation, possibly tinged with the idea of expected behaviour due to inherent properties: 'must, is expected to'. [17] The meaning of 'possibility' is apparent in mæg; 'is able to, it is possible for X to...', while cunne expresses knowledge or skill: 'X knows how to'. [18]

The morphology of the scribble does not seem to call for special comment but its phonology certainly does, particularly as the most striking phonological features could be assumed to throw light on the dating of the scribble. Therefore the remaining part of this section will concentrate on phonology and, in particular, on two <æ> spellings which are fairly rare in the whole of the extant Old English corpus, judging by their low numbers in The Complete Corpus of Old English in Machine Readable Form (the DOEC). The spellings in question are line 14 'he' and lines 14, 15, 16 and 18 scæl 'shall'.

The DOEC has eleven certain instances of 'he', in addition to the one discussed here. [19] There are sixteen instances of the spelling scæl in the same database, thirteen of them in texts other than the scribble. [20] All the spellings in the DOEC are late, and so are the scæl spellings, with the exception of the three instances from Orosius. These are found in the Lauderdale MS of Orosius, dated by Ker (1957: 164) to saec. x1, and described by Bately (1980: xxxix) as "one of the four manuscripts on which our idea of eWS is based". Thus at least the scæl spellings do not compel us to place the OE scribble in a period later than the date of the Latin writing of Priscian's treatise. The vowel /æ/ in the spelling is evidently a development of the vowel /e/ of the unaccented, short-vowel form of the pronoun he (see Campbell 1968: §125). Campbell (1968: §328) gives an analogical example from Ru1, the unaccented pronoun form þæc 'thee' for þec. Ru1 has been dated s. x by Ker (1957: 352). In view of the very sporadic nature of the /e/ > /æ/ change it is probably best not to try to give the spelling in the scribble a diagnostic value as far as the date of the language is concerned.

The spelling bisne (lines 14 and 15) shows that the unrounding of /y/ into /i/, a late West Saxon sound change (see Campbell 1968:132-3), had already been accomplished by the time the scribble was written. However, in the light of the discussion (Hogg 1992: §§5.170-5.174) of the intricate nature of the WS <i>/<y> variation it would seem that a spelling like bisne is not a very reliable indicator of date.

To sum up, the three spellings, , scæl and bisne, discussed above, probably provide no firm evidence for a dating for the OE scribble which would be considerably later than that of the Latin writing of Priscian's treatise. Thus Ker's statement that the OE scribbles and the Latin scribbles among which the OE scribbles are found are all from s.x1, while the script of Priscian's treatise is s. x in. apparently need not be revised in the light of the phonological evidence. Another matter is that Ker's dating of the script of Priscian's treatise, 's. x in.', may have to be reconsidered in the light of David Dumville's studies on the development of the English Square minuscule script (see Dumville 1987: 177).

4.3 Literary form

As pointed out by Blockley (1994: 83), the Old English scribble in MS Lat.O.v.XVI.1, f.15r is in verse. [21] This is apparent when the scribble is divided into poetic lines:

A scæl gelæred smið      swa he gelicost mæg
be bisne wyrcan      butan he bet cunne.

Ker (1976: 127) calls the scribble discussed here a maxim. This is appropriate as the contents and diction bear the hallmark of gnomic poetry. The key phrase pointing to gnomic poetry is A scæl...[wyrcan]. It contains the 'gnomic' sceal which occurs in gnomic poetry either with or without the adverb a 'ever'. Here are three examples from Maxims I and II:

Wif sceal wiþ wer wære gehealdan,... (Maxims I, 100)

Lida biþ longe on siþe; a mon sceal seþeah leofes wenan,... (Maxims I, 103)

A sceal snotor hycgean ymb þysse worulde gewinn,... (Maxims II, 54)

In his book on OE maxims, Paul Cavill (1999: 45) defines the use of gnomic bið and sceal as follows: "The essential distinction between bið and sceal is that bið relates to being, whether present or future, and sceal relates to doing, whether by choice, nature, habit, necessity or obligation, present or future." Cavill's definition of the gnomic use of sceal is certainly applicable to the maxim discussed here.

The collocation bet cunne, or with a superlative adverb, selost cunne, is met elsewhere in the Old English corpus. The DOEC has two examples of gif he bet cunne from the Canons of Edgar (Cambridge, Corpus Christi, 13 and Oxford, Bodleian Library, 10) and one example of swa he selost cunne (Prose Charms and Charm Headings, 56).

Using Bliss’s (1962: 14-21) terminology, the metre of the two lines could be analysed as follows:

1a A scæl gelæred smið (xx)x_x/_ Type 3B
1b swa he gelicost mæg (xx)x_x/_ Type 3B
2a be bisne wyrcan (x)_x/_x Type 2A1
2b butan he bet cunne (xx)x_/_x Type 2C1

Sievers’s system would produce the following analysis:

1a A scæl gelæred smið xx/x-/x- Type aB
1b swa he gelicost mæg xx/x-/x- Type aB
2a be bisne wyrcan x/-x/-x Type aA
2b butan he bet cunne xx/x-/-x Type aC

All four half-lines have an introductory beat, consisting of two unstressed syllables in 1a, 1b and 2b and of one unstressed syllable in 2a. The type seen in 2a is analysed by Eduard Sievers (1968: 273).

5. Summary

The Old English scribble of MS Lat. O.v.XVI.1, given here for the first time in its entirety and in its immediate manuscript context, is an addition – albeit a small one – to the corpus of Old English gnomic poetry. It would probably be rather futile to try to establish a definite thematic connection between the content of the scribble and its manuscript context. The little poem simply voices the sentiment – easily shared by a skilled scribe – that until a person masters a craft he must depend on models, a sentiment not entirely inappropriate coming as it does after a treatise dealing with the art and rules of grammar. It must be admitted, however, that the rather muddled way in which the Old English scribble and fragments of it have been scattered among bits of Latin and the alphabet removes quite a lot of the weight that this maxim in itself possesses. It may be safest to regard the scribble as a probatio pennae rather than a statement on what precedes in the manuscript.

As the bulk of the manuscript (ff. 1-16) is of English origin, the Latin texts contained in it are of interest as sources for Anglo-Saxon civilisation. Most of the texts have already been adequately described in the literature. The present article adds to our knowledge about this manuscript by identifying the fragment of Passio Dionysii, Rustici et Eleutherii, by giving the text of the Gregorian fragment for the first time and by identifying the grammatical texts on ff. 17 and 18 as disiecta membra of a manuscript of Priscian's Institutiones grammaticae. [22]


[1] Marina Tsvinaria is mainly responsible for sections 2.1, 2.2 and, jointly with Matti Kilpiö for sections 2.3 and 4.2, Matti Kilpiö for the rest of the article. The authors have jointly revised the whole article for publication.

[2] "Sobranie raznoyazychnyh rukopisei. Katalog zapadnyh srednevekovyh rukopisei" [Razn F.XVIII N 196]. – We express our gratitude and appreciation to Natalia A. Elagina, the present keeper of medieval Latin manuscripts at the Russian National Library in St Petersburg, for her kind and efficient assistance in going through the catalogue inventory cards and commenting on them.

[3] For a brief discussion of attempts at dating scripts on f. 1-15r, particularly the script of Priscian's treatise, more exactly, see Section 4.2 below.

[4] For a summary of the hypothesis, presented by A. Staerk, that MS Lat.O.v.XVI is not only connected with ff. 99-119 but also with ff. 1-98 of the same MS, see Jeudy (1984:148).

[5] See also Lapidge (1988: 53-55) for a discussion of this collection.

[6] It is not clear what Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaya means when she says that the manuscript contains eighteen parchment leaves, of which ff. 121-136 according to the old foliation have been detached from another manuscript, and three are separate leaves. There are, however, only two separate leaves, ff. 17 and 18, containing fragments of Priscian's Institutiones grammaticae.

[7] See Gosudarstvennaya Ordena Lenina; Ordena Trudovogo Krasnogo Znamehi Publichnaya Biblioteka im. Saltykova-Schedrina. Trudy Otdela Rukopisei. Katalog pisem i drugih materialov. Zapadno-europeiskiye uchonye i pisateli XVI-XVIII vv. Iz sobrania P.P. Dubrowskogo. Pod red. M.P. Alekseyeva. Leningrad 1963; and Gosudarstvennaya Trudovogo Krasnogo Znameni Publichnaya Biblioteka im. Saltykova-Schedrina. Sborniki dokumentov Kollektsii P.P. Dubrowskogo, Katalog. Leningrad 1979.

[8] But note that Jeudy does not discuss the Latin of ll. 19-29 at all.

[9] The attribution to Venantius is wrong, see The Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. St. Denis. According to the author of the entry, Jos. Stiglmayr, the work dates from the end of the sixth or the beginning of the seventh century.

[10] Our thanks are due to Olli Hallamaa for helping Matti Kilpiö to use the CD-ROM version of Patrologia Latina, to Matti Myllykoski for his kind help with the CD-ROM version of the CETEDOC database, to Ilkka Kumpunen for providing a computerised analysis of f. 15r of the MS and to Antero Talassalmi for lending us his photocopy of MS Lat.O.v.XVI and for giving valuable bibliographical help.

[11] The following symbols have been used in the transcripts of this article: //: change of line; = =: superscript characters; ~: abbreviation of any kind; Italics: Old English. Word division has been normalised; e.g. two or more words written as one have been separated. Abbreviations have normally been expanded and this is indicated by the use of square brackets. Dots within square brackets indicate illegible passages.

[12] Our thanks are due to Professor George H. Brown for helping us to recognise some of the signs used as signes de renvoi.

[13] We are grateful to Professor Paul Meyvaert for helping us see more clearly the connection between the Gregorian fragment and the life by Paul the Deacon, a text we had independently noted. He also suggested some of the verbal parallels.

[14] For the identification of the three sequences on f. 16 and for references to literature pertaining to them, see Jeudy (1984: 147).

[15] There are two omissions in the DOEC: it, understandably, omits line 17 ær; and, judging by the fact that it reports the sequence a scæl gelær only once, it omits the latter of the two instances of this sequence (line 18).

[16] Calling these verbs 'modal auxiliaries' within the framework of Old English is problematic, see Mitchell (1985: §§ 990-2). Using the term 'modal verb' (Ogawa 1989) is one way of getting round this terminological problem.

[17] Cf. also Onions (1959: 222) with reference to Maxims II: "The general notion of sceal in these verses is 'is bound by nature, custom, or law' (to…); hence it is often virtually equivalent to 'must'."

[18] Wülfing (1901: 34) draws the line between the semantics of magan and cunnan as follows: "Als Hülfzeitwort bezeichnet magan eine körperliche oder eine geistige Möglichkeit. Während durch cunnan mehr die körperliche oder geistige Fähigkeit etwas zu thun ausgedrückt wird, bezeichnet magan mehr die Erlaubnis, die Möglichkeit, die Wahrscheinlichkeit." (‘As an auxiliary, magan denotes possibility on the physical or mental level. Whereas cunnan rather expresses physical or mental ability to do something, magan more typically signifies permission, possibility or probability.’)

[19] The instances outside the scribble are found in the following texts: Hom S 11.1 (Belf 5); Hom U 2 (Irv 6); Ch 1403 (Rob 107); Ch 1428 (Harm 113); Ch 1476 (Rob 114); Ch 1484 (Whitelock 8); Ch 1485 (Whitelock 9) [three instances]; Ch 1513 (Rob 17); ChHead 1204 (Birch 519).

[20] The instances outside the scribble are found in the following texts: HomM 5 (Willard) [two instances]; Or 2; Or 3; Or 5; BenRW; Can (Brussels); LawIICn; Ch 327 (Birch 502); Rec 16.1 (Rob 52); LchII (Fragment) [two instances]; MtMarg (Li).

[21] We are also grateful to Fred C. Robinson for his personal communication of 5 January 1996 concerning the poetic form of the scribble.

[22] The present article forms part of the Early English Text and Corpus Studies (EETACS) Project shared by the Department of English and Translation at the State University of St .Petersburg, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg. In addition to the scholars mentioned elsewhere in this article, we are particularly grateful to Olga Bleskina, Ludmila Chakhoyan (†), David N. Dumville, Matti Rissanen and Yuri Tretyakov for the kind help they have given us.


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