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Detailed record for Harley 55

Part 1 ff. 1-4v 
Title Medical recipes (ff. 1-3); Laws of King Edgar (ff. 3v-4v); Statement by Oswald, archbishop of York concerning land (f. 4v), with a pen trial of Anglo-Saxon neums
Origin England, N. (?York)
Date between 972 and 1023
Language English
Script Anglo-Saxon minuscule, by two or more scribes
Scribe Written by two or more scribes, including Wulfstan, archbishop of York 1003-1023
Decoration Large initials in brown ink.
Dimensions in mm 290 x 190 (250 x 145)
Part 2 ff. 5-13v 
Title Laws of Cnut
Origin England
Date 2nd or 3rd quarter of the 12th century
Language English
Script Protogothic
Decoration 3 large initials in red, two with penwork decoration (ff. 5, 13). Small initials in brown. Highlighting of initials in red.
Dimensions in mm 270 x 190 (205 x 150) in two columns
Official foliation ff. 13 ( + numerous unfoliated modern paper flyleaves)
Form Parchment codex
Binding BM/BL in-house.
Provenance ? York: evidence of the text, which includes a statement by Oswald, archbishop of York (972-992) concerning land (f. 4v); some words in the hand of Wulfstan, archbishop of York (1003-1023) [Part I].
? The Benedictine priory of St Mary, Worcester: 13th-century glosses (ff. 3v-4); see Ker 1964 [Part I].
John Selden (b. 1584, d. 1654), lawyer and historical and linguistic scholar: see Ker 1957; Watson 1979.
Sir Simonds d'Ewes (b.1602, d. 1650), 1st baronet, diarist, antiquary, and friend of Sir Robert Cotton (see Wright 1972): number M71 in his catalogue (see Watson 1966).
Sir Simonds D’Ewes (d. 1722), 3rd baronet and grandson of the former: inherited and later sold the D’Ewes library to Robert Harley on 4 October 1705 for £450 (see Watson 1966).
The Harley Collection, formed by Robert Harley (b. 1661, d. 1724), 1st earl of Oxford and Mortimer, politician, and Edward Harley (b. 1689, d. 1741), 2nd earl of Oxford and Mortimer, book collector and patron of the arts.
Edward Harley bequeathed the library to his widow, Henrietta Cavendish, née Holles (b. 1694, d. 1755) during her lifetime and thereafter to their daughter, Margaret Cavendish Bentinck (b. 1715, d.1785), duchess of Portland; the manuscripts were sold by the Countess and the Duchess in 1753 to the nation for £10,000 (a fraction of their contemporary value) under the Act of Parliament that also established the British Museum; the Harley manuscripts form one of the foundation collections of the British Library.
Notes Musical notation: Anglo-Saxon neumes, England, 11th century (f. 4v)
Select bibliography A Catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts in the British Museum, 4 vols (London: Eyre and Strahan, 1808-12), I, no. 55.

N. R. Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957), nos. 225-226.

Medieval Libraries of Great Britain: A List of Surviving Books, ed. by N. R. Ker, 2nd edn, Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks, 3 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1964), p. 207.

Andrew G. Watson, The Library of Sir Simonds D'Ewes (London: British Museum, 1966), no. M71, p. 10, p. 58 n. 286.

A Wulfstan manuscript, containing institutes, laws and homilies. British Museum Cotton Nero A.1, ed. by Henry R. Loyn, Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile, 17 (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger, 1971), p. xvii.

Andrew G. Watson, Catalogue of Dated and Datable Manuscripts c. 700-1600 in The Department of Manuscripts: The British Library, 2 vols (London: British Library, 1979), no. 629 [with additional bibliography].

N. R. Ker, 'The Handwriting of Archbishop Wulfstan in His Books', in Books, Collectors and Libraries: Studies in the Medieval Heritage, N. R. Ker, ed. by Andrew G. Watson (London: Hambledon Press, 1985), 9-26 (p. 21).

Richard Gameson, ‘Book Production and Decoration at Worcester in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries’, in St Oswald of Worcester: Life and Influence, ed. by Nicholas Brooks and Catherine Cubitt, Studies in the Early History of Britain, The Makers of England, 2 (London: Leicester University Press, 1996), pp. 194-243 (pp. 197, 239). [for ff. 1-4].

Helmut Gneuss, Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: A List of Manuscripts and Manuscript Fragments Written or Owned in England up to 1100, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 241 (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2001), no. 412 (ff. 1-4).

Stephen Morrison, 'Continuité et innovation littéraire en Angleterre au XIIe siècle: la prédication de la militia Christi', Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, 44 (2001), 139-57 (p. 144).

K. D. Hartzell, Catalogue of Manuscripts Written or Owned in England up to 1200 containing Music (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2006), no. 152.

Asa Simon Mittman, Maps and Monsters in Medieval England (New York: Routledge, 2006), fig. 6.1 [identified as Harley 5].

Catalogued for the Harley Medical Manuscripts Project [], accessed 29 May 2008.


Part  1   ff. 1-4v
Medical recipes (ff. 1-3); Laws of King Edgar (ff. 3v-4v); Statement by Oswald, archbishop of York concerning land (f. 4v), with a pen trial of Anglo-Saxon neums
* * *
Text page

f. 1
Text page
Decorated initials

f. 3v
Decorated initials

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