Boethius in Old English


Shortly before he was executed for treason in the mid-520s, the Roman administrator Boethius wrote a dialogue in prose and poetry, called The Consolation of Philosophy (De consolatione philosophiae). The work was widely studied, and around 80 manuscripts survive from the period up to 1100, often heavily glossed and annotated in many languages, including Old English, Old High German, Old Irish and Old Cornish. The work was also translated into Old English.

The first translation into Old English prose (surviving in a much later copy) was made between about 880 and 950. A later version, preserved in this manuscript, loosely adapted the original’s Latin verses into Old English poetry. These are now called the ‘Metres of Boethius’. Both translations have prefaces claiming that King Alfred of Wessex (reigned 871–899) was himself the author, although the attribution has been doubted.

In the 17th century, this work was bound with a copy of the Life of King Edward the Confessor (reigned 1042–1066), written by Aelred (died 1167), abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx. Both of these items were damaged by fire in 1731.

Full title:
Old English prose and verse translation of Boethius's De consolatione philosophiae; Aelred of Rievaulx, Vita sancti Edwardi regis et confessoris
Mid-10th century–second half of 12th century
Latin / Old English
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Cotton MS Otho A VI

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