The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals (historical stories) in Old English. It’s about the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The annals were created in the 9th century, probably in Wessex. Wessex was one of the seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, during the 6th century until the 10th. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms are the ancestor of the English United Kingdom.
Nine manuscripts of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle survived in whole or in part, though none of them is the original version. Almost all of the material in the chronicle is in the form of annals, that means by year; the earliest are dated at 60 Before Christ, and historical material follows up to the year in which the chronicle was written. These manuscripts collectively are known as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
The Chronicle is the most important historical source for the period in England between the departure of the Romans and the decades following the Norman Conquest (decennia na de Nomandische verovering). 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.
Seven of the nine surviving manuscripts are now in the British Library in London. The remaining two are in the Bodleian Library at Oxford and the Parker Library at Cambridge.
However all of the surviving manuscripts are copies, it is generally agreed the original version was written in the 9th century in Wessex. After the original Chronicle was composed, copies were made and distributed to various monasteries. Extra copies were made, for further distribution or to replace lost manuscripts, and some copies were updated independently of each other. Because of that there came difference between some of the copies.
The Surviving Manuscripts
Of the nine surviving manuscripts, seven are written in Old English (also known as Anglo-Saxon). One is in Old English with a translation into Latin. Two others are written in Middle Engish.
|A||The Parker Chronicle or The Winchester Chronicle||Parker Library, Corpus Christi College||MS. 173|
|B||The Abingdon Chronicle I||British Library||Cotton MS.
Tiberius A vi.
|C||The Abingdon Chronicle II||British Library||Cotton MS. Tiberius B i.|
|D||The Worcester Chronicle||British Library||Cotton MS. Tiberius B iv.|
|E||The Laud Chronicle or The Peterborough Chronicle||Bodleain Library||MS Laud 636|
|F||The Bilingual Canterbury Epitome||British Library||Cotton MS. Domitian A viii.|
|G||A copy of The Winchester Chronicle||British Library||Cotton MS. Otho B xi., 2|
|H||Cottonian Fragment||British Library||Cotton MS. Domitian A ix.|
|I||An Easter Table Chronicle||British Library||Cotton MS. Caligula A xv.|
[A]: The Winchester Chronicle
The Winchester Chronicle is the oldest of the Chronicle that still survives. They begun written it at the end of King Alfred’s reign. So that was at the end of the 9th century. The manuscript begins with a family tree of Alfred and has also a copy of the Laws of Alfred. It’s now in the Parker Library, which is in Cambridge.
[B] The Abingdon Chronicle I
The second manuscript was written at the end of the 10th century. It begins with an entry for 60 BC and ends with the entry for 977. The [B] manuscript was in the 11th century in Abingdon and shortly after this it went to Canterbury, where they made corrections. Like seven others it is now in the British Library in London.
[C] The Abingdon Chronicle II
The Abingdon Chronicle Two was written while battles between kingdom Wessex and the Vikings (in 871). This manuscript includes material from local annals, an translation of Orosius’s world history and some verses of laws of humanity and the natural world. It is now in the British Library.
[D] The Worcester Chronicle
The forth manuscript has been written in the 11th century. It is generally thought it has been composed in Worcestor, because it includes some records (notulen) from that town. The text includes material from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History and Northumbrian annals from the 8th century. D contains a lot of information about Scottish affairs. This manuscript is also in the British Library.
[E] The Peterborough Chronicle
After a fire at the monastery at Peterborough in the 12th century, it was thought that the Chronicle had been lost. But shortly after that they found copies, so the Peterborough Chronicle still exist. The copy of this one is not similar to the original version, because the Mercian Register and a poem about the Battle of Brunanburh in 937 doesn’t appear in the copies. It starts with annals/chronicles from 1121 till 1131. In 1554 a second scribe wrote annals of the years 1132 till 1154. The last entry is written in Middle English, rather than Old English. E is also known as Laud Chronicle, because William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 till 1654, owned it. It is now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.
[F] The Canterbury Bilingual Epitome
At 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 both Old English and Latin; each entry in Old English was followed by the Latin version. The version the scribe copied 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.
[G] or [A2] Copy of the Winchester Chronicle
[G] is also known is [A2] because it is a copy of [A]. and an episcopal (bisschoppelijke) list added to [A2] suggests that the copy was made by 1013. A fire at Ashburnham House in 1731 destroyed [A2] almost completely. This manuscript is sometimes knows as [W], because Abraham Wheloc used the manuscript in an edition of the Chronicle printed in 1643. It is now in the British Library.
[H] Cottonian Fragment
The Cottonian Fragment contains annals for 1113 and 1114. It is thought that [H] was written at Winchester, because it includes the phrase “he came to Winchester”. It’s now in the British Library.
[I] Easter Table Chronicle
Part of [I] was written by a scribe soon after 1073. After 1085, the annals are in various hands and it is thought that it have been written at Christ Church, Canterbury. At one point this manuscript was at St. Agustine’s Abbey, Canterbury.
- Jeroen van Poppel