The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle - an Introduction
This document will describe what manuscripts survive, the history of these MSS, and how these
Manuscripts have been transmitted.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a complex set of interrelated manuscripts, of
which the earliest is known as the Parker Chronicle.
There are seven major manuscripts comprising what is generally termed
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:
- Parker MS; Corpus Christ College, Cambridge MS 173 ff. 1-32
- British Museum, Cotton Tiberius A VI
- British Museum, Cotton Tiberius B I
- British Museum, Cotton Tiberius B IV
- Laud MS; Bodlean MS, Laud 636
- British Museum, Cotton Domitian A VIII
- British Museum, Cotton Otho B XI
It is believed that the history of these documents is roughly as follows.
Sometime in the 9th century a chronicle was drawn up in Wessex. Some of the
sources used to compile this chronicle have been identified: Bede's Historia
Ecclesiastica, and its chronological summary; A continuation of this summary
down to Ecgbryht (Egbert); Northumbrian and Mercian genealogical lists; etc.
Other (non-extant) sources have been suggested for other material in the
chronicles, for example an earlier set of West Saxon annals down to 754 have
been postulated to account for the relative frequency of West Saxon references
to this point. There are very few (5) entries between 755 and 823 that refer
specifically to Wessex, and these are thought to come from an oral tradition.
After 823 the material is contemporary with the compilation. The date when this
original (non-extant) chronicle was compiled is uncertain, but it is thought
that there was a chronicle up to 855, as the genealogy for Æthelwulf in 855
look like a termination.
Copies of this chronicle were then copied to become the various extant
manuscripts roughly as follows.
The first part of the Parker MS (MS A) was probably written in 891 (where
the first hand finishes), this was then continued to 1093. MS G (almost
completely destroyed by fire in 1731) is an 11th century transcript of MS A
probably made at Winchester. Interestingly, all the evidence for the growth and
alteration of MS A has been ironed out in MS G so if only this had survived
we would have little idea of the underlying complexity of the transmission of
A lost chronicle similar to MS A, sent possibly to Abingdon was copied
- MS B; copied around 1000, and not continued
- MS C; copied in the mid 11th century and continued to 1066.
A copy of the original chronicle was sent to the North where it was
expanded with material from Bede and other northern sources and continued with
northern material. MS D is a mid-11th century copy of this which was then
continued to 1179.
A chronicle similar to the northern ancestor to MS D was compiled and sent
to Canterbury where it was kept until after 1066. MS E (the Laud manuscript)
was copied from this in 1122 and continued to 1154. MS F is another bilingual
(Latin and OE) copy of this Canterbury chronicle.
The transmission of these manuscripts will be discussed in more detail below.
The Transmission of the Chronicle
Post-Conquest History of the Manuscripts
There are a number of manuscripts, which though they are not part of the core
of the Chronicle, must be examined for a full understanding of the
- Asser's Life of Ælfred
This is in part derived from a Chronicle similar to MS A which terminates in
887--at least this is when Asser last utilises it in his "Life".
Copyright © 1994, Tony Jebson <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
all rights reserved. Last modified 21/12/94.