Article

The Junius Manuscript

Leslie Lockett

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online July 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0145
The Junius Manuscript

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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“Junius 11” is the nickname of a manuscript of Old English biblical poetry, whose formal shelf mark is Oxford, Bodleian Library, Junius 11. It contains the sole surviving copies of four long Old English poems, which modern editors have titled Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, and Christ and Satan. As these titles suggest, the first three are poetic renderings of Old Testament narratives; the fourth recounts several New Testament and apocryphal episodes in which Christ triumphed over Satan. Scholars have proposed dates for the manuscript ranging from c. 950 to c. 1050, making it roughly contemporary with the other major Old English poetic codices (the Exeter Book, the Vercelli Book, and the Nowell Codex, which contains Beowulf). Within this group Junius 11 stands out by virtue of the dozens of spaces set aside for illustrations throughout the book, although only a portion of the illustrations for Genesis were ever completed. In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Bede reports that the first author of Old English biblical poetry was a cowherd named Cædmon, who in middle age became suddenly and miraculously gifted with the ability to orally compose alliterative verse based on biblical topics, including the events of Genesis and Exodus, the life of Christ, and the Last Judgment. Because the contents of Junius 11 parallel Cædmon’s oeuvre, early scholars of Old English believed that Junius 11 preserved Cædmon’s own compositions and labeled it the “Cædmon Manuscript.” However, since the four poems differ markedly from one another in poetic style and in their methods of rendering biblical material into verse, they are now believed to represent the work of at least five poets who belonged to different centuries and regions of Anglo-Saxon England. This article opens with introductory works that will acquaint the reader with the manuscript as an artifact and with the poems contained in it. Subsequent sections present bibliographies for further reading, studies of the manuscript from codicological and art-historical perspectives, and the editions, translations, and studies of each of the Junius 11 poems. The two final sections cover studies of the genre of biblical verse and of the rationale behind the compilation of the Junius 11 poems into a single volume.

Article.  22379 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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