Layers of reading in the Old English Bede

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The Old English translation of Bede&#8217;s <i>Ecclesiastical History</i> (the &#8220;Old English <i>Bede</i>&#8221;) has been studied for what it can tell us about translation practices and the state of learning in Anglo-Saxon England. However, although some Old English <i>Bede</i> manuscripts have been comparatively well-studied, very little attention has been paid to Oxford, Corpus Christi College, MS. 279B. This article examines the different layers of scribal activity discernible in that manuscript, reviewing in turn the performances of the main scribe, the corrector, the scribe responsible for chapter initials, and a later writer who provided &#8220;scratched glosses&#8221; (glosses incised in vellum with a pointed instrument, rather than ink) to parts of the text. It demonstrates that in each layer of production, the scribes were hampered by a difficulty in accessing some aspects of the language of the text they were interacting with, and shows the different strategies employed to overcome these difficulties.


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