EARLY MEDIEVAL LITERATURE
Curated by Segolene Gence.
Welcome to our Early Medieval Literature page!
This page contains resources of various types for the study and teaching of the literature of the early medieval world (c.300 - c.1100). Although our page's current scope is mostly limited to the British Isles for the literature and Europe for digitised manuscripts, we hope to expand our library soon with other early medieval literary resources. If you would like to contribute to our online library for this section, contact us here.
Simply click on the name of a resource to be taken directly to its website.
This section has for purpose to offer you with a selection of primary and secondary textual resources, ranging from Latin Literature to Old English Literature for now, alongside some general resources on early medieval literature. Are you looking for Middle English literature? Visit our Middle English Literature page!
Starting with more general resources for early literature, the Global Medieval Sourcebook is a good start and spans one thousand years (600-1600) of literary production around the world. It contains short texts of broad interdisciplinary interest in a variety of genres, almost all of which have not previously been translated into English. Also noteworthy is RI-Opac, a bibliographic database covering medieval studies in all major European languages.
For an approach on the question of race in early medieval literature, Race 101 for Early Medieval Studies is an ongoing bibliography compiled by Dr. Erik Wade and Dr. M. Rambaran-Olm for the teaching and study of medieval perceptions and depictions of race, with a particular focus on early literature. The resource also contains a separate list of studies by foundational Critical Race scholars.
For texts produced in Britain, either in Old English or Latin, the following resources are available:
The Electronic Beowulf is free, online edition of the MS British Library, Cotton Vitellius A. xv, designed accessibly for readers, students and researchers of the text. If you would like more information on this classic work of medieval English literature, Beowulf Resources, as its name indicates, will be able to guide towards further online resources.
Other classic Old English works also have online editions. Peter S. Baker's online Old English Aerobics Anthology offers 33 Old English texts which are fully glossed, annotated and can be played aloud. An Old English glossary is also offered on the website. Those glossed editions of the Dream of the Rood, the Wanderer, and the Battle of Maldon provided by the University of Oxford are also available. The on-going Old English Poetry Project developed by Dr. Aaron K. Hostetter and Rutgers University offers translations for almost 79% of all extant Old English poetry.
The Manchester Eleventh-Century Spellings Project is a database developed by Professor Donald Scragg, and after a period of inactivity revived by Dr Mark Faulkner. The database comprises 1800 texts drawn from 249 sources produced in Britain (for identified locations) between 900 and 1100 AD. It contains transcriptions of multiple texts of the same work, for a total of 978 items. Faulkner has extracted the text of each of the 978 items from the database as .txt files, which may be downloaded for searching and analysis. See also TOXIIC for Old English texts from the 12th century.
Fontes Anglo-Saxonici is a database developed by the University of Saint-Andrew’s which covers about 1150 Early medieval texts from England (including by foreign authors) - over 500 texts in Old English and over 600 texts in Latin. Authors range from Abbo to Wulfstan. You can select an early medieval English (or ‘target’) text (whether Old English or Latin) and get a report of all the sources used for it, passage by passage, sometimes phrase by phrase, matched to a precise location in the source text. You can get a summary account of all the different source authors used by a particular early medieval English author, or of all the sources used for a particular Early English text and follow up those in which you are interested. It is also possible to pick a text used as a source and ask for a list of all the early medieval English texts that used that source and follow up the examples that interest you.
Teachers of Old English in Britain and Ireland (TOEBI) brings together a selection of language resources, manuscript collections, full texts and links to blogs and other media, curated for the teaching of Old English literature and language.
For literature outside Britain, but still related to the British Isles, there is Corpus of Electronic Texts (CELT) offers sources for medieval Irish literature and history.
Manuscript digitised collections and resources
As the above title suggests, this section focuses on the primary resources directly available to you online. Visit our section on Palaeography in our Manuscript Studies page for help with approaching medieval scripts, as it contains many useful guides and tools to help you decipher medieval texts such as DigiPal, a database resource for Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman palaeography in c.1000-1100.
The following projects should help you navigate some of early medieval English manuscripts.
The Production and Use of English Manuscripts, 1060-1220 (University of Leicester) A resource bringing together “all manuscripts containing English written in England between 1060 and 1220”, and combines extensive background materials with a catalogued list of manuscripts, searchable by period, language, place and origin. The resource contributes to an understanding of the interaction between English, French and Latin during this period.
Medieval Libraries of Great Britain is a searchable database adaptation of the Neil Ker's book series of the same name, Medieval Libraries of Great Britain and the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues. As the title indicates, it offers the reconstructions of medieval libraries, bringing together the evidence of surviving books and surviving medieval catalogues.
France et Angleterre: manuscrits médiévaux entre 700 et 1200 (Polonsky Foundation, British Library, Bibliothèque nationale de France) the second half of the Polonsky Foundation: Medieval England and France 700-1200's collaborative digitisation project. On this website, you can view manuscripts side by side, and find manuscripts by date, language, place of origin, author or subject. It allows side-by-side comparison of 400 manuscripts from each collection, selected for their beauty and interest. This new website allows users to search the manuscripts in English, French and Italian, and to annotate and download images.
The following list does not have the ambition to cover all the digitised resources available but offers you starting point of resarch. More digitised manuscript collections are listed on our website here.
Monastic Manuscript Project is specialised list of manuscripts relevant to the study of early monasticism. Click here to see the section dedicated to online catalogues from institutions and libraries.
British Library Digitised Manuscripts is a searchable digitised collection of the BL.
Gallica, the vast collection of digitised manuscripts and books from the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris.
DigiVatLib, the digitised manuscript archive of the Vatican Library.
e-codices holds digitised collections of Swiss archives, including the abbey of St Gall.
Bamberg Staatsbibliothek hold the digitised manuscripts from the Bamberg State Library.
Bayerische Landesbibliothek Online contains the digitised manuscripts from Bavarian archives and libraries.
Münchener DigitalisierungsZentrum (MDZ), the digitised manuscripts and books from the Bavarian State Library in Munich.
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Last updated by Segolene Gence - 01/02/2022