Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 173

Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 173 preserves the earliest of the surviving descendants of the so-called ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, a term which brackets together eight annalistic chronicles written chiefly in Old English. These chronicles have a common ancestor which was probably compiled in the early 890s at the court of the West-Saxon king, Alfred the Great. The original seems to have been in circulation from 892 onwards, and copies were made at various ecclesiastical centres where they were independently continued, in the case of ‘MS E’ as far as 1154. As a result the nine chronicles’ coverage of events is largely the same as far as the 890s and diverges thereafter, but in complex ways, because copies continued to be circulated permitting the cross-fertilization of the various traditions.

Since it was maintained at the Old Minister, Winchester, the version of the Chronicle found in Corpus 173 is that which comes closes to being an ‘official text’. It was begun towards the end of Alfred’s reign, and the first scribe took the annals copied the ‘common stock’ as far as the year 891. Thereafter, several scribes made additions at intervals throughout the tenth century. As far as 975 it is similar to the other versions, but it lacks their ‘local’ additions, such as the so-called ‘Mercian Register’, a series of Mercian annals covering 902–24, which appear in MSS BCD. Its coverage of the reign of King Æthelred diverges significantly from the fuller coverage found in manuscripts C, D and E.

At some point in the early eleventh century work on the annals ceased. The book was then taken to Christ Church Cathedral, Canterbury, where a copy of the Laws of Alfred and Ine were inserted after the entry for 924. Then, at a moment some time after the Conquest, probably in the early twelfth century the annals were extended, rather thinly, down to 1070 and an attempt was made to give an account of the pontificate of Archbishop Lanfranc (1070-1089) in Old English. But this entry was left unfinished, and a second attempt was made, this time in Latin. This extended continuation, organised according to the years of Lanfranc’s pontificate, is known as the Acta Lanfranci.

The A-text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is also known as the ‘Parker Chronicle’, because it was owned by Matthew Parker, archbishop of Canterbury (1559–1575), who bequeathed the book to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Facsimiles: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 173 (online); R. Flower and H. Smith (eds), The Parker Chronicle and Laws (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS. 173): A Facsimile, Early English Text Society, o.s. 208 (London, 1941) [Journals 9Y6].

Alternative Versions. This may be compared with an image from the C-text: London, British Library, MS Cotton Tiberius B.I, fol. 128r. Covering the years 824 to 833, these annals belong to the ‘common stock’, but the manuscript was made at Abingdon in the middle of the the eleventh century.

Text: J. M. Bately (ed.), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, vol. 3, MS A (Cambridge, 1986); C. Plummer and J. Earle (ed.), Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel, with Supplementary Extracts from the Others, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1892–9) [YBN].

Translation: D. Whitelock, with D. C. Douglas and S. I. Tucker, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Revised Translation (London, 1961) [MVC]; the same translation appears in D. Whitelock (ed.), English Historical Documents, vol. 1, c. 500-1042 (2nd edn, London, 1979), and D. C. Douglas and G. W. Greenaway (ed.), English Historical Documents, vol. 2, 1042-1189 (2nd edn, London, 1981) [both MU3].

A sample of Corpus 173 (i.e. fols. 28r–29v, covering 955/6–83), and the relevant pages of Whitelocke's translation should be downloaded from the Moodle Site.

Commentary: Bately, MS A, is essential, above all for its analysis of the palaeography; M. B. Parkes, ‘The Palaeography of the Parker Manuscript of the Chronicle, Laws and Sedulius, and Historiography at Winchester in the Late Ninth and Tenth Centuries’, Anglo-Saxon England, 5 (1976), 149–71 [MVC]; D. N. Dumville, Wessex and England from Alfred to Edgar, Studies in Anglo-Saxon History 4 (Woodbridge, 1992) [MVCR]; P. A. Hayward, ‘Some Reflections on the Historical Value of the So-Called Acta Lanfranci’, Historical Research, 77 (2004), 141–60 [Journals L6; Ingenta Select]; T. Graham, ‘King Cnut’s Grant of Sandwich to Christ Church, Canterbury: A New Reading of a Damaged Annal in Two Copies of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, in M. C. Amodio and K. O’Brien O’Keefe (eds), Unlocking the Wordhord: Anglo-Saxon Studies in Memory of Edward B. Irving, Jr (Toronto, 2003), pp. 172–90 (Provides a new edition of the annal for 1031 which records King Cnut’s grant to Christ Church of rights over the port of Sandwich).

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