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The Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, in a Legal Compilation

The Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, in a Legal Compilation

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1321

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Claudius D II

Item number: f.4r

Length: 33.5

Width: 21.4

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript

A large compilation of documents relating to English law, this manuscript is only part of the original book, with others now kept by the Corporation of London and Oriel College, Oxford. Compiled about 1321, it appears to have been connected with Andrew Horn, Bridge Street fishmonger and Chamberlain of the City of London who bequeathed the manuscript to the City upon his death in 1328. Written by several scribes, it was decorated by a team of artists, some of whom were working in a style seen in luxurious contemporary manuscripts from London, such as the 'Queen Mary Psalter' (now in the British Library). Its visual impressiveness and chronological ordering (not done since the 10th century) places its purpose beyond the utilitarian law book, perhaps as a history in times when the use and idea of law were changing.

The British Library's portion of the manuscript begins with a piece enumerating the ancient kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England and its various regions. The heraldry at the beginning of the page, for all its grand quarterings and convincing looks, is the fantasy of Robert Cotton, who acquired the manuscript in the late 16th century, on the arms of the Cotton and Bruce families. In the upper margin, he has inscribed his name.

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