Marvels of the East


Written in Old English, The Marvels of the East is part travel guide, part quasi-zoological description, based on the Liber Monstrorum (Book of Monsters), a Latin text originally composed in the late 7th or early 8th century. It provides an illustrated account of some 32 creatures or ‘marvels’, including 150-foot long dragons; Lertices, small beasts with a donkey’s ears, sheep’s wool and the feet of a bird; and Blemmyae, beings eight feet tall and eight feet wide without heads, but with their eyes and mouths in their chests.

The Marvels of the East survives in three manuscripts made in Anglo-Saxon England (including this 11th-century miscellany). The version you can see here is found in a famous manuscript (Cotton MS Vitellius A XV) known as the Nowell Codex, which also contains the Old English epic poem, Beowulf. The manuscript is dated to the last quarter of the tenth century or first quarter of the 11th century. Alongside Beowulf, the manuscript includes texts about the life of St Christopher (d. c. 251) and the biblical Judith, as well as The Letter from Alexander to Aristotle, a prose account of the military campaigns of Alexander the Great (d. 323 BC), in which he meets many strange creatures, including snakes with two heads and flying mice.

Full title:
The 'Southwick Codex' (including Old English adaptations of Augustine of Hippo, Soliloquia, the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Prose Dialogues of Saturn and Solomon, homily on St Quintin); 'the Nowell Codex' (including a homily on St Christopher, Marvels of the East; Beowulf and Judith)
4th quarter of the 10th century or 1st quarter of the 11th century
Old English
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Cotton MS Vitellius A XV

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