Old English Literature

Many works listed in section M: English Literature/General are useful for research in Old English literature. In “Anglo-Saxon Studies: Present State and Future Prospects,” Mediaevalia 1.1 (1975): 62–77, Fred C. Robinson suggests a number of reference works still needed by Anglo-Saxonists.

Research Methods


O’Keeffe, Katherine O’Brien, ed. Reading Old English Texts. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. 231 pp. PR73.O38 829.

A collection of essays that outline approaches to reading Old English texts, including comparative approaches, source study, philology, historicist approaches, oral tradition, textual criticism, feminist criticism, poststructuralist criticism, and computer-assisted approaches. The essays typically outline and define the approach, provide examples of the approach (with attention to noteworthy applications), and suggest topics for further research. Indexed by persons, titles, and some subjects. An exemplary collection by a virtual who’s who of Old English studies, Reading Old English Texts is a model of the kind of work needed for every period of English and American literature.

See also

Powell, Medieval Studies (M1755).

Histories and Surveys

For an evaluative review of literary histories and surveys from the seventeenth century through 1977, see Daniel G. Calder, “Histories and Surveys of Old English Literature: A Chronological Review,” Anglo-Saxon England 10 (1982): 201–44. Particularly valuable are Calder’s analysis of trends in scholarship and trenchant evaluations of individual works.

Literary Histories and Surveys


Greenfield, Stanley B., and Daniel G. Calder. A New Critical History of Old English Literature. With a Survey of the Anglo-Latin Background by Michael Lapidge. New York: New York UP, 1986. 370 pp. PR173.G73 829′.09.

A critical history of Anglo-Saxon poetry and prose that incorporates important scholarship and criticism in its readings of texts. Chapters are devoted to the Anglo-Latin background; Alfredian translations and related prose; Ælfric, Wulfstan, and other late prose; the nature and quality of Old English poetry; secular heroic poetry; the Christian saint as hero; Christ as poetic hero; Old Testament narrative poetry; miscellaneous religious and secular poetry; lore and wisdom verse; and elegiac poetry. The extensive list of works cited also serves as the best selective bibliography of scholarship on Old English literature through the early 1980s. Indexed by literary authors and anonymous works (but unfortunately not by scholars). Like its predecessor—Greenfield, A Critical History of Old English Literature (New York: New York UP, 1965; 237 pp.)—this is an authoritative history that has had a profound impact on Old English scholarship. Review: E. G. Stanley, Comparative Literature 40.3 (1988): 286–89.

R. D. Fulk and Christopher M. Cain, A History of Old English Literature, Blackwell Histories of Literature (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003; 346 pp.) is an important complement because it emphasizes scholarship since the mid-1980s and offers a fuller treatment of prose.

See also

Sec. M: English Literature/General/Histories and Surveys.

Greenfield and Robinson, Bibliography of Publications on Old English Literature (M1670), lists histories and surveys (entries 530–611 in Greenfield).

Related Topics


Hill, David. An Atlas of Anglo-Saxon England. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1981. 180 pp. G1812.21.S2.H5 912′.42. (A second edition was announced for 2002 but was never published.)

A series of maps, tables, diagrams, chronologies, and graphs that organize information on topography, demography, physical geography, historical events and periods, political administration, the economy, and the church. Indexed by place. An essential complement to narrative histories. Reviews: Rebecca V. Colman, Canadian Journal of History 17.3 (1982): 515–16; Simon Keynes, Antiquity 57.219 (1983): 66–67.

Literary Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias


Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde. Ed. Heinrich Beck et al. 2nd ed. 37 vols. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1968–2008. DD51.R42.

Germanische Altertumskunde Online. De Gruyter. De Gruyter, n.d. 15 Mar. 2013. <http://www.degruyter.com/>.

An encyclopedia of pre-Christian Germanic culture, including Anglo-Saxon England. The signed entries—predominantly in German, but with some in English and a few lengthy ones in a mixture of the two languages—range from single paragraphs to extensive essays on persons, places, material culture, folklore, languages, archaeological discoveries, literary works, numismatics, religion, historical events, commerce, domestic matters, art works, and politics. The lengthy entries are helpfully subdivided and sometimes consist of separately authored divisions. All conclude with references to important scholarship. Generous cross-references guide users to appropriate headings. Germanische Altertumskunde Online (which includes new and revised entries) can be searched by full text, title, author, subject, region, period, language, figure (image), DOI, and academic discipline. Several essays in Altertumskunde—Altertumswissenschaft—Kulturwissenschaft: Erträge und Perspektiven nach 40 Jahren Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde, ed. Beck, Dieter Geuenich, and Heiko Steuer, Ergänzungsbände zum Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde 77 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2012; 787 pp.) offer overviews of topics and perpectives in the encyclopedia. The Reallexikon offers the fullest encyclopedic coverage of Anglo-Saxon culture. Lexikon des Mittelalters (M1800) and Dictionary of the Middle Ages (M1795) include some Anglo-Saxon topics.

More compact is Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England, ed. Michael Lapidge, John Blair, Simon Keynes, and Donald Scragg (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999; 537 pp.), which has signed entries that cover persons, places, objects, architecture, manuscripts, language, religion, literary works in both Old English and Latin, and subjects. The generous entries conclude with a list of related studies. Sporting many of the leading Anglo-Saxon scholars among its contributors, Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England offers a sure-handed, interdisciplinary introduction to Anglo-Saxon culture; unfortunately, it is marred by an inexcusable lack of discussion of scope and editorial procedures.

See also

Dictionary of the Middle Ages (M1795).

Lexikon des Mittelalters (M1800).

Bibliographies of Bibliographies


Rouse, Serial Bibliographies for Medieval Studies (M1805).

Guides to Primary Works


Ker, N. R. Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon. Oxford: Clarendon–Oxford UP, 1990. 579 pp. (A reissue of the 1957 edition with Ker’s “Supplement” [see below].) Z6605.A56 K4 015.4203.

A descriptive catalog of more than 400 manuscripts written before c. 1200 entirely or partly in Old English. Ker includes fragments, Latin–Old English glossaries, and Latin manuscripts that contain even a single gloss (other than a tag phrase) in Old English but excludes cartularies and charters. Entries are organized alphabetically by the city in which a collection is located or the surname of private owner, then by title of collection, then by shelf mark. Concludes with a section listing lost and untraced manuscripts and an appendix with brief descriptions of “manuscripts containing Anglo-Saxon written by foreign scribes.” Manuscripts entirely or substantially in Old English receive full descriptions, with references to significant scholarship and editions, and discussion of date, content, physical characteristics, script and decorations, and provenance. Ker’s ““Supplement to Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon ”,” Anglo-Saxon England 5 (1976): 121–31, is reprinted in the 1990 reissue (see above), but not Mary Blockley’s “Addenda and Corrigenda to N. R. Ker’s ‘A Supplement to Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon,’” Notes and Queries ns 29.1 (1982): 1–3, with corrections by the editors, 29.6 (1982): 533; Blockley subsequently expanded the “Addenda and Corrigenda” as “Further Addenda and Corrigenda to N. R. Ker’s Catalogue,” Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: Basic Readings, ed. Mary P. Richards (New York: Garland, 1994; Garland Reference Lib. of the Humanities 1434: Basic Readings in Anglo-Saxon England 2) 79–85.

The Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon is the essential source for information about the location, dating, localization, and paleographic details of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. Like Ker’s Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries (M1810), it is a magisterial achievement informed by an incomparable knowledge of early manuscripts. Reviews: Kenneth Sisam, Review of English Studies ns 10.1 (1959): 68–71; Rudolph Willard, JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 59.1 (1960): 129–37.

For complementary lists, especially of Latin manuscripts, see Helmut Gneuss, Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: A List of Manuscripts and Manuscript Fragments Written or Owned in England up to 1100 (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2001; 188 pp.; Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies), ““Addenda and Corrigenda to the Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts ”,” Anglo-Saxon England 32 (2003): 293–305, “Second Addenda and Corrigenda to the Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts,” Anglo-Saxon England 40 (2011): 293–306, and “Liturgical Books in Anglo-Saxon England and Their Old English Terminology,” Learning and Literature in Anglo-Saxon England: Studies Presented to Peter Clemoes on the Occasion of His Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ed. Michael Lapidge and Gneuss (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985) 91–141. These works represent preliminary stages in the compilation of Sources of Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture, a summary of current scholarship on the sources, written and oral, of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Latin literary works. For a description of the project and sample entries, see Frederick M. Biggs, Thomas D. Hill, and Paul E. Szarmach, eds., Sources of Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture: A Trial Version (Binghamton: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, State U of New York, Binghamton, 1990; 256 pp.; Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 74) and the project’s Web site (http://saslc.nd.edu). Until completion of that project, J. D. A. Ogilvy, Books Known to the English, 597–1066 (Cambridge: Mediaeval Acad. of Amer., 1967; 300 pp.) and ““ Books Known to the English, A. D. 597–1066: Addenda et Corrigenda”,” Mediaevalia 7.1 (1981): 281–325 (rpt. in Old English Newsletter 11, subsidia [1985]), along with Fontes Anglo-Saxonici: A Register of Written Sources Used by Anglo-Saxon Authors (http://fontes.english.ox.ac.uk) offer the fullest record. For iconographic descriptions of illustrations, see Thomas H. Ohlgren, comp. and ed., Insular and Anglo-Saxon Illuminated Manuscripts: An Iconographic Catalogue, c. A.D. 625 to 1100 (New York: Garland, 1986; 400 pp.; Garland Reference Lib. of the Humanities 631), which is revised and expanded as Ohlgren, Corpus of Insular, Anglo-Saxon, and Early Anglo-Norman Manuscript Art: A Hypertext System, HyperShell vers. 1.0 (ScholarWare, 1994; CD-ROM); a supplement, Anglo-Saxon Textual Illustration: Photographs of Sixteen Manuscripts with Descriptions and Index (Kalamazoo: Medieval Inst., 1992; 576 pp.) is also available on CD-ROM as ASTI: A Hypertext System for Anglo-Saxon Textual Illustration: Descriptions and Index, HyperShell vers. 1.0 (ScholarWare, 1994). Other major catalogs of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts are listed in Greenfield, Bibliography of Publications on Old English Literature (M1670), entries 108–28.

See also

Cameron, “A List of Old English Texts” (M1705a).

Dictionary of Old English Web Corpus (M1705).

Roberts, Guide to Scripts Used in English Writings up to 1500 (M1770a).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Surveys of Research


““The Year’s Work in Old English Studies, [1967– ]”.” Old English Newsletter 2 (1968)– . PE101.O44 829′.09.

An evaluative survey of research based on the “Old English Bibliography” (M1665). The commentary by various scholars is currently arranged in nine classified divisions: general; memorials, tributes, and history of the discipline; language; literature; Anglo-Latin and ecclesiastical works; manuscripts, illumination, and charters; history and culture; onomastics; and archaeology and numismatics. Most sections conclude with a list of works not seen, which may be discussed in a following survey. Like the “Old English Bibliography” and the annual bibliography in Anglo-Saxon England (M1660), “The Year’s Work in Old English Studies” is an essential source for current scholarship and one that is more thorough and critical than the chapter on Old English literature in Year’s Work in English Studies (G330); unfortunately, coverage is now far in arrears. For a history and evaluation of this annual survey, see Twenty Years of the “Year’s Work in Old English Studies,” ed. Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe, Old English Newsletter 15, subsidia (1989): 57 pp.

See also

YWES (G330) has a chapter on Old English literature.

Serial Bibliographies


““Bibliography for [1971– ]”.” Anglo-Saxon England 1 (1972)– . DA152.2.A75 942.01′05.

An international classified bibliography of books, articles, and significant reviews on all aspects of Anglo-Saxon studies. Entries are currently classified in 11 divisions: general; Old English language; Old English literature; Anglo-Latin, liturgy, and other ecclesiastical texts; paleography, diplomatics, and illumination; history; numismatics; onomastics; archaeology; inscriptions and runology; reviews. This bibliography, “Old English Bibliography” (M1665), and “The Year’s Work in Old English Studies” (M1655) are essential sources for identifying current scholarship.


““Old English Bibliography, [1969– ]”.” Old English Newsletter 3 (1970)– . PE101.O44 829′.09.

OEN Bibliography Database. Old English Newsletter. OEN, n.d. 21 Nov. 2012. <http://www.oenewsletter.org/OENDB/index.php>. Updated regularly.

An international bibliography of scholarship on England before 1066 in ten divisions: general; memorials, tributes, and history of the profession; language; literature; Anglo-Latin and ecclesiastical works; manuscripts, illumination, and charters; history and culture; names; archaeology and related subjects; and reviews. Many of the works are subsequently evaluated in “The Year’s Work in Old English Studies” (M1655). The bibliographies since the one for 1972 can be searched online in OEN Bibliography Database, which allows users to browse records by classified categories (chronological periods; people; places; objects; events; texts; language; religion and learning; government and economic life; history and culture; archaeology; and Anglo-Saxon studies) or to search by keyword, personal name, title, journal title, date, type of publication, and language. Each of these methods allows users to restrict searches by date and to sort results in ascending order by date, author, or title; users should note that reviews appear at the end of a list of results. Records can be marked for e-mailing or printing. Anglo-Saxon scholars are fortunate to have nearly all the installments of “Old English Bibliography” searchable through a well-designed interface. Like the annual bibliography in Anglo-Saxon England (M1660), this work is an essential source for current scholarship that offers fuller coverage than the serial bibliographies and indexes in section G. Unfortunately, coverage lags about six years.

See also

Sec. G: Serial Bibliographies, Indexes, and Abstracts.

ABELL (G340): English Literature/Old English section and, through the volume for 1933, English Literature/Old and Middle English: Subsidiary.

BREPOLiS Medieval Bibliographies: International Medieval Bibliography Online (M1835).

MLAIB (G335): English Language and Literature division in the volumes for 1921–25; English V in the volumes for 1926–56; English IV in the volumes for 1957–80; and the English Literature/400–1099: Old English section (as well as any larger chronological sections encompassing the period) in later volumes. Researchers must also check the headings beginning “Old English” and “Anglo-Saxon” in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

Other Bibliographies


Greenfield, Stanley B., and Fred C. Robinson. A Bibliography of Publications on Old English Literature to the End of 1972. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1980. 437 pp. Z2012.G83 [PR173] 016.829.

The closest we are likely to come to an exhaustive bibliography of books, editions, articles, notes, and reviews published from the fifteenth century through 1972 (with a few later publications) on Old English literature. Since the focus is literature in Old English, Greenfield and Robinson exclude discussions of Anglo-Latin literature as well as linguistic, historical, and archaeological studies that do not bear directly on an Old English literary text; they also exclude unpublished dissertations as well as general anthologies and surveys of English literature. Entries are listed chronologically in three variously classified divisions: general works, poetry, and prose. Many entries are accompanied by a brief annotation that clarifies the topic or place of a study in a scholarly controversy; entries for books list reviews. The liberal cross-references exclude works within the same section and standard texts in collections. Two indexes: authors and reviewers; subjects. A magisterial achievement whose accuracy and comprehensiveness fully deserve the praise accorded it by reviewers. Reviews: Carl T. Berkhout, Speculum 57.4 (1982): 897–99; Donald K. Fry, Analytical and Enumerative Bibliography 6.3 (1982): 183–86; Fry, English Language Notes 20.1 (1982): 11–20.

A discursive examination of “the changing aims and achievements of [Anglo-Saxon] scholars” occasioned by the Greenfield and Robinson Bibliography, E. G. Stanley’s “The Scholarly Recovery of the Significance of Anglo-Saxon Records in Prose and Verse: A New Bibliography,” Anglo-Saxon England 9 (1981): 223–62, notes important sources for research in areas outside Greenfield and Robinson’s scope (as does New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature [M1675]). For supplementary coverage of prose (principally by King Alfred and his circle), see Carl T. Berkhout, “Research on Early Old English Literary Prose, 1973–1982,” Studies in Earlier Old English Prose, ed. Paul E. Szarmach (Albany: State U of New York P, 1986) 401–09, and Karen J. Quinn and Kenneth P. Quinn, A Manual of Old English Prose (New York: Garland, 1990; 439 pp.; Garland Reference Lib. of the Humanities 453), with coverage through 1982. For studies published after 1972, see the annual bibliographies in Anglo-Saxon England (M1660) and Old English Newsletter (M1655 and M1665). North American dissertations through 1986 are conveniently found in Phillip Pulsiano, An Annotated Bibliography of North American Doctoral Dissertations on Old English Language and Literature (East Lansing: Colleagues, 1988; 317 pp.; Medieval Texts and Studies 3).

For a description of a database that would incorporate and continue Greenfield and Robinson, see Berkhout, “The Bibliography of Old English: Back to the Future,” Old English Scholarship and Bibliography: Essays in Honor of Carl T. Berkhout, ed. Jonathan Wilcox, Old English Newsletter subsidia 32 ([Kalamazoo:] Medieval Inst., Western Michigan U, 2004) 107–14.

Areas not covered in existing or planned bibliographies constitute the principal subjects of Annotated Bibliographies of Old and Middle English Literature (Woodbridge: Brewer, 1992– ):

  • Vol. 1: Burnley, David, and Matsuji Tajima. The Language of Middle English Literature. 1994. 280 pp.

  • Vol. 2: Millett, Bella. Ancrene Wisse, the Katherine Group, and the Wooing Group. 1996. 260 pp.

  • Vol. 3: Easting, Robert. Visions of the Other World in Middle English. 1997. 119 pp.

  • Vol. 4: Hollis, Stephanie, and Michael Wright. Old English Prose of Secular Learning. 1992. 404 pp.

  • Vol. 5: Poole, Russell. Old English Wisdom Poetry. 1998. 418 pp.

  • Vol. 6: Waite, Greg. Old English Prose Translations of King Alfred’s Reign. 2000. 394 pp.

  • Vol. 7: Greentree, Rosemary. The Middle English Lyric and Short Poem. 2001. 570 pp.

  • Vol. 8: Scahill, John. Middle English Saints’ Legends. 2005. 209 pp.

The volumes typically include an evaluative overview of trends in scholarship along with extensively annotated entries (arranged by date of publication).


The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature (NCBEL). Vol. 1: 600–1660. Ed. George Watson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1974. 2,476 cols. Z2011.N45 [PR83] 016.82.

(For a full discussion of NCBEL, see entry M1385.) The part devoted to the Anglo-Saxon period (to 1100) has two major divisions: Old English Literature and Writings in Latin. The first includes sections for general works (subdivided by bibliographies, histories, anthologies, general studies, and ancillary studies), poetry (dictionaries, collections, manuscript studies, general criticism, and individual poems and authors), and prose (collections, general criticism, major translators of King Alfred’s reign, major writers of the later period, other religious prose, chronicles, laws and charters, and secular prose). Writings in Latin includes sections for general works, British Celtic writers, Irish writers, and Anglo-Saxon writers. The general introduction for the volume as a whole lists bibliographies, histories, anthologies, and works about prosody, prose rhythm, and language that include the Anglo-Saxon period. Vol. 1 of Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature (M1385a) is still occasionally useful for its coverage of the social and political background (which NCBEL drops).

Users must familiarize themselves with the organization, remember that there is considerable unevenness of coverage in subdivisions, and consult the index volume (vol. 5) rather than the provisional index in vol. 1. Review: Fred C. Robinson, Anglia 97.2 (1979): 511–17.

Although Greenfield and Robinson, Bibliography of Publications on Old English Literature (M1670), is the source for research on Old English literature, NCBEL is still useful for studies outside the scope of the former.

Related Topics


Rosenthal, Joel T. Anglo-Saxon History: An Annotated Bibliography, 450–1066. New York: AMS, 1985. 177 pp. AMS Studies in the Middle Ages 7. Z2017.R67 [DA152] 016.94201.

A highly selective bibliography of primary and secondary sources for the study of Anglo-Saxon history. Confined largely to English-language works published through the early 1980s, Anglo-Saxon History excludes most Celtic and literary topics. Entries are organized alphabetically in 11 variously classified divisions: reference works and collections of essays; primary sources and scholarship on them (including chronicles, biography and hagiography, and constitutional and administrative history); general and political history (including secular biography and Vikings); constitutional and administrative history; ecclesiastical history; social and economic history; science, technology, and agriculture; place and personal names; numismatics; archaeology; and fine arts, arts, and crafts (including manuscripts). Rarely do annotations adequately describe a work (although some do offer evaluative comments). Indexed by person. Although highly selective, poorly organized in many divisions, and lacking an adequate statement of editorial policy, the work is the most current guide to scholarship on Anglo-Saxon history. For more thorough coverage of recent scholarship on some topics, see “Old English Bibliography” (M1665), “The Year’s Work in Old English Studies” (M1655), and the annual bibliography in Anglo-Saxon England (M1660). Older bibliographies still of value are the following:

  • Altschul, Michael. Anglo-Norman England, 1066–1154. Cambridge: Cambridge UP for the Conf. on British Studies, 1969. 83 pp. Conf. on British Studies Bibliog. Handbooks. Coverage extends through mid-1968.

  • Bonser, Wilfrid. An Anglo-Saxon and Celtic Bibliography (450–1087). 2 vols. Berkeley: U of California P, 1957. Coverage extends through 1953.

See also

Bibliography of British and Irish History (M1400).

Graves, Bibliography of English History to 1485 (M1845).


Guides to Scholarship


Cameron, Angus, Allison Kingsmill, and Ashley Crandell Amos. Old English Word Studies: A Preliminary Author and Word Index. Toronto: U of Toronto P–Centre for Medieval Studies, U of Toronto, 1983. 192 pp. and 5 microfiche. Toronto Old English Ser. 8. Z2015.S4 C35 [PE265] 016.429.

An interim bibliography of Old English vocabulary studies (published through 1980) compiled as part of the Dictionary of Old English project (M1690). Entries are listed by author in three sections: sixteenth- and seventeenth-century manuscript dictionaries; dictionaries, encyclopedias, concordances, and glossaries; and vocabulary studies. The third section is indexed (in the accompanying microfiche) by words discussed (see pp. xiv–xv for an explanation of the indexing of variant forms). Although not exhaustive, Old English Word Studies is an essential source for the study of Old English vocabulary. A revised edition is planned after publication of the Dictionary. Reviews: Susan Cooper, Medium Ævum 54.2 (1985): 290–91; Constance B. Hieatt, English Studies in Canada 11.2 (1985): 231–32; Ilkka Mönkkönen, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 86.4 (1985): 599–601.


Tajima, Matsuji, comp. Old and Middle English Language Studies: A Classified Bibliography, 1923–1985. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1988. 391 pp. Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and Hist. of Linguistic Science, Ser. 5: Lib. and Information Sources in Linguistics 13. Z2015.A1 T3 [PE123] 016.429.

A bibliography of studies, including dissertations and book reviews but excluding works in Slavic languages and most Japanese studies, published between 1923 and 1985 about Old and Middle English language. The approximately 3,900 entries are organized in 14 divisions (each with sections for general or historical studies, Old English, and Middle English): bibliographies; dictionaries, concordances, and glossaries; histories of the English language; grammars; general works; studies of the language of individual authors or works (however, numerous author studies appear without cross-references in other sections); orthography and punctuation; phonology and phonetics; morphology; syntax; lexicology, lexicography, and word formation; onomastics; dialectology; and stylistics. A few entries include a brief note on content or a list of later editions and reprints. Indexed by scholars. The lack of a subject index and cross-references means that users searching for studies of an author, an anonymous work, or a topic will find themselves skimming all entries. Although it is less accessible than it should be (with some entries not seen by the compiler) and although it excludes important studies published within critical editions, Tajima provides the fullest list of twentieth-century scholarship on Old and Middle English language. Review: George Jack, Diachronica 6.1 (1989): 151–54.

See also

ABELL (G340): Old English heading in the subdivisions of the English Language section in the volumes for 1934–84; in earlier and later volumes, studies treating Old English appear throughout the English Language division.

Mitchell, Critical Bibliography of Old English Syntax (M1710a).

MLAIB (G335): English Language and Literature division in the volumes for 1922–25; Old English headings in English I/Linguistics section in the volumes for 1926–66; Indo-European C/Germanic Linguistics IV/English/Old English section in the volumes for 1967–80; and the Indo-European Languages/Germanic Languages/West Germanic Languages/English Language/English Language (Old) section in pt. 3 of the later volumes. Researchers should also check the “English Language (Old)” and “Anglo-Saxon language” headings in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

YWES (G330): The chapter on English language covers Old English.



Dictionary of Old English A–G (DOE). Ed. Angus Cameron, Ashley Crandell Amos, and Antonette diPaolo Healey. Vers. 1.0. University of Toronto Libraries. Pontifical Inst. of Mediaeval Studies for Dictionary of Old English Project, 2007. 25 Apr. 2012. <http://tapor.library.utoronto.ca/doe/dict/index.html>.

Dictionary of Old English: A–G on CD-ROM. Vers. 2.0. U of Toronto, 2008. Also published on microfiche; the early entries are revised in the electronic versions. (Publication began in 1986 with fascicle D; when complete, DOE will be issued in hard copy.)

A dictionary of Old English (600–1150) that excludes only place and personal names. There are three types of entries: common words receive full entries; rarer words, exhaustive ones; and grammar words, special entries. A full entry consists of headword (usually in late West-Saxon spelling), grammatical details, variant spellings, occurrence and usage information, definitions, illustrative citations (with hyperlinks to the full bibliographical information on texts and editions used; citations in the microfiches are keyed to the accompanying List of Texts and Index of Editions and to Pauline A. Thompson, Abbreviations for Latin Sources and Bibliography of Editions [1992; 50 pp.]), Latin equivalents in the same manuscript, typical collocations, and references to the Middle English Dictionary (M1860), English Dialect Dictionary (M1415), Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (O3090a), and Oxford English Dictionary (M1410; the electronic versions are linked to the OED Online). The DOE Online and the CD-ROM, which include revisions to the A–E microfiche, offer simple and Boolean searches of entry fields and allow users to browse by headword. Users must read the Search Tips screen (under Help) before initiating a pattern search. Editorial practices are outlined in the Preface (1987; 14 pp.), in prefaces to the individual microfiche fascicles, and in the electronic versions (under Entry Format). Progress reports appear regularly in Old English Newsletter; a discussion of the research for and possible uses of the Dictionary may be found in A. C. Amos, “The Dictionary of Old English,” Sources of Anglo-Saxon Culture, ed. Paul E. Szarmach (Kalamazoo: Medieval Inst., Western Michigan U, 1986; Studies in Medieval Culture 20) 407–13, and in two essays by Healey: “The Search for Meaning,” The Editing of Old English: Papers from the 1990 Manchester Conference, ed. D. G. Scrazz and Paul E. Szarmach (Woodbridge: Brewer, 1994) 85–96, and ““Reasonable Doubt, Reasoned Choice: The Letter A in the Dictionary of Old English ”,” Studies in English Language and Literature: “Doubt Wisely”: Papers in Honour of E. G. Stanley, ed. M. J. Toswell and E. M. Tyler (London: Routledge, 1996) 71–84. For the importance of the DOE to the study of Old English syntax, see William F. Koopman, ““The Study of Old English Syntax and the Toronto Dictionary of Old English ”,” Neophilologus 76.4 (1992): 605–15. Although DOE omits etymologies, it is an invaluable resource for linguists and literary scholars that will, when complete, supersede the Bosworth-Toller Dictionary (M1695). Reviews: Janet Bately, Notes and Queries 40.4 (1993): 510–12; Daniel Donoghue, Speculum 64.1 (1989): 155–57; R. D. Fulk, JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 90.1 (1991): 125–28; Mark Griffith, Medium Ævum 59.1 (1990): 148–52, and 63.1 (1994): 121–23; Joy Jenkyns, Review of English Studies ns 42.167 (1991): 380–416; Lucia Kornexl, Anglia 112.2 (1994): 421–53; Hans Sauer, Mitteilungen des Verbandes deutscher Anglisten 3.2 (1992): 41–53; Jonathan Wilcox, Philological Quarterly 71.1 (1992): 127–30.

The DOE project has been the source of other important reference works: Dictionary of Old English Web Corpus (M1705); Cameron, “A List of Old English Texts” (M1705a); and Cameron, Kingsmill, and Amos, Old English Word Studies (M1685).


Bosworth, Joseph. An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Ed. and enl. by T. Northcote Toller. 4 pts. Oxford: Clarendon–Oxford UP, 1882–98. Rpt. in 1 vol., 1898. 1,302 pp. Toller. Supplement. 3 pts. 1908–21. Rpt. in 1 vol., 1921. 768 pp. Both the Dictionary and Supplement are online at http://bosworth.ff.cuni.cz. Alistair Campbell. Enlarged Addenda and Corrigenda to the Supplement. 1972. 68 pp. PE279.B5 429.3.

The most complete Anglo-Saxon dictionary currently available. A typical entry includes part of speech, definition, Latin equivalents, illustrative passages (with modern English translation), etymology, and cross-references to variant and related forms. Campbell’s Enlarged Addenda incorporates Toller’s additions published in Modern Language Review 17 (1922): 165–66; 19 (1924): 200–04. Inconsistencies and unevenness in treatment occur, since editorial practices changed during the course of publication (e.g., in the Dictionary different forms are listed separately in the earlier part of the alphabet but grouped under a single form in the latter part); there are errors and omissions; and definitions of rare or difficult words are not always accurate. But until Dictionary of Old English (M1690) is complete, Bosworth-Toller remains the most authoritative dictionary. Reviews: Edward M. Brown, Journal of Germanic Philology 3.4 (1901): 505–09; Otto B. Schlutter, JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 18.1 (1919): 137–43.

The best concise dictionary is John R. Clark Hall, A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, 4th ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1960; 432 pp.), which includes a supplement by Herbert D. Meritt.

The best source for etymology is F. Holthausen, Altenglisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch (Heidelberg: Winter, 1934; 428 pp.; Germanische Bibliothek, Reihe 4: Wörterbücher 7), with additions and corrections in Alfred Bammesberger, Beiträge zu einem etymologischen Wörterbuch des Altenglischen, Anglistische Forschungen 139 (Heidelberg: Winter, 1979; 156 pp.).


Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources. Ed. R. E. Latham and D. R. Howlett. London: Oxford UP for British Acad., 1975– . (Published in fascicles; for the publication schedule, see http://www.dmlbs.ox.ac.uk.) PA2891.L28 473′.21.

A dictionary of the Latin language used in Great Britain from c. 550 to c. 1550, but excluding most personal and place-names as well as Irish sources before 1200 because of their inclusion in Dictionary of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources (in progress; see http://journals.eecs.qub.ac.uk/DMLCS/index.html) and covering Welsh sources very selectively. Classical Latin words used with little change are given brief entries; fuller treatment is accorded postclassical words and usages, with the fullest entries going to distinctly British words and usages. An entry provides basic meaning(s), accompanied by an extensive list of quotations to illustrate nuances of meaning. Arabic etymologies in the Dictionary are more fully explained in J. D. Latham, “Arabic into Medieval Latin,” Journal of Semitic Studies 17.1 (1972): 30–67; 21.1-2 (1976): 120–37; 34.2 (1989): 459–69. Users should note that the original prefatory matter is reprinted along with a supplementary bibliography at the end of fasc. 5; this is meant to replace the prefatory matter to fasc. 1 when fascs. 1–5 are bound as vol. 1. For the history of the Dictionary and a description of current editorial practice, see Richard Ashdowne, “Ut Latine minus vulgariter magis loquamur: The Making of the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources,” Classical Dictionaries: Past, Present, and Future, ed. Christopher Stray (London: Duckworth, 2010) 195–222, the indispensable source for interpreting early British writings in Latin. Until the work is complete, R. E. Latham, ed., Revised Medieval Latin Word-List from British and Irish Sources (London: Oxford UP for British Acad., 1980; 535 pp.; a reprint of the 1965 edition along with a supplement listing additions and corrections), provides basic meanings for words. Review: (fasc. 1) A. B. Scott, Medium Ævum 46.1 (1977): 105–08.

See also

Greenfield, Bibliography of Publications on Old English Literature (M1670), lists other dictionaries (entries 52–82).



Dictionary of Old English Web Corpus. Ed. Antonette diPaolo Healey. University of Toronto Libraries. Dictionary of Old English Project, 2009. 23 Nov. 2012. <http://tapor.library.utoronto.ca/doecorpus/>.

An electronic corpus of all extant Old English texts (except for some variants in manuscripts of individual works) as well as of the Latin texts attached to them. The search engine allows users to create their own concordances of words or phrases (though users must search all spelling variants to construct a full list; variants are listed in the Old English Word Wheel in Web Corpus). Basic, Boolean, and proximity searches can be limited to a class (prose, verse, or gloss) and to a specific work; doing the latter requires that one know the entry number or short title used in Cameron, “A List of Old English Texts” (see below), which can be found through the site’s Bibliography Searches screen. For an explanation of how the corpus can be used, see Healey, ““The Dictionary of Old English Corpus on the World-Wide Web”,” Old English Newsletter 33.1 (1999): 21–28 (reprinted from Medieval English Studies Newsletter 40 [1999]: 2–10). Dictionary of Old English Web Corpus is an incomparable resource for linguistic studies, thematic investigations, and stylistic analyses. It effectively supersedes the following:

  • Venezky, Richard L., and Antonette diPaolo Healey, comps. A Microfiche Concordance to Old English. Newark: U of Delaware, 1980. Microfiche.

  • Venezky, Richard L., and Sharon Butler, comps. A Microfiche Concordance to Old English: The High-Frequency Words. 1983. Microfiche.

    • An unlemmatized concordance based on an earlier version of Old English Corpus. Users should note that homographs are not differentiated. Editorial policies are explained and sources listed in the accompanying guides: Healey and Venezky, comps., A Microfiche Concordance to Old English: The List of Texts and Index of Editions, rpt. with revisions (Toronto: Pontifical Inst. of Mediaeval Studies for Dictionary of Old English Project, 1985; 202 pp.; Pubs. of the Dictionary of Old English 1), and Venezky and Butler, comps., A Microfiche Concordance to Old English: The High-Frequency Words (1985; 20 pp.; Pubs. of the Dictionary of Old English 2).

  • Bessinger, J. B., Jr., ed. A Concordance to The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records . Programmed by Philip H. Smith, Jr. Cornell Concordances. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1978. 1,510 pp.

    • A concordance based on George Philip Krapp and Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie, eds., The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records: A Collective Edition, 6 vols. (New York: Columbia UP, 1931–53), plus one other poem, “Instructions for Christians.” Madeleine M. Bergman, ““Supplement to A Concordance to The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records”,” Mediaevalia 8.1 (for 1982): 9–52, adds 113 lines of verse and runic inscriptions. Review: Thomas Elwood Hart, Computers and the Humanities 13.3 (1979): 229–35 (an important discussion of limitations and uses).

  • Cameron, Angus. “A List of Old English Texts.” A Plan for the Dictionary of Old English. Ed. Roberta Frank and Angus Cameron. Toronto: U of Toronto P–Centre for Medieval Studies, U of Toronto, 1973. 25–306.

    • Prepared as a list of manuscripts and editions on which the Dictionary of Old English is based, this was the most complete record of extant Old English works. Each entry identifies the known manuscripts (or object, for inscriptions), facsimiles, and the most important editions. Except for the variant manuscripts Cameron records, the bibliographical records in the Corpus provides the most current information on editions.



Edmonds, Flora, Christian Kay, Jane Roberts, and Irené Wotherspoon. Thesaurus of Old English. University of Glasgow. U of Glasgow, 2005. 23 Nov. 2012. <http://libra.englang.arts.gla.ac.uk/oethesaurus>.

An online expanded version of Jane Roberts and Christian Kay, A Thesaurus of Old English, new impression, 2 vols., Costerus ns 131–32 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000), that allows users to browse entries or to search the database by Old English word or phrase, modern English word, or tags (indicating that a word appears infrequently or only in poetry or in glosses or glossaries).

Much of the data in Thesaurus of Old English is incorporated into Kay et al., Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary (M1420).

Studies of Language


Mitchell, Bruce. Old English Syntax. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon–Oxford UP, 1985. PE213.M5 429′.5.

A detailed study of the principles of Old English syntax using “the formal descriptive approach and traditional Latin-based grammar.” Vol. 1 examines concord, parts of speech, and sentence parts; vol. 2, subordinate clauses, other sentence elements and their order, and problems specifically related to poetry. An afterword (pp. 1000–05) prints additions to vol. 2. Throughout, Mitchell examines problems of interpretation in literary texts, emphasizes areas needing further study, and rigorously evaluates existing scholarship (which is more fully surveyed in his Critical Bibliography of Old English Syntax [below]). Includes a selective bibliography, a general index to each volume, and two cumulative indexes: words and phrases; passages discussed (authors are indexed in Critical Bibliography [below]). A seminal work, Old English Syntax admirably fulfills the author’s intent to provide a basis for definitive studies of individual topics and eventually “an authoritative Old English Syntax.” For Mitchell’s response to reviews and a list of additions and corrections, see ““ Old English Syntax: A Review of the Reviews”,” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 91.3 (1990): 273–93; lists of reviews and additions and corrections are also printed in Critical Bibliography 239–47 (below). Reviews: R. D. Fulk, Philological Quarterly 66.2 (1987): 279–83; Stanley B. Greenfield, JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 86.3 (1987): 392–99; Willem Koopman, Neophilologus 71.3 (1987): 460–66; T. A. Shippey, TLS: Times Literary Supplement 28 June 1985: 716.

Old English Syntax must be used with Mitchell, A Critical Bibliography of Old English Syntax to the End of 1984 Including Addenda and Corrigenda to Old English Syntax (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990; 269 pp.), and Mitchell and Susan Irvine, “A Critical Bibliography of Old English Syntax: Supplement, 1985–[2000],” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 93.1 (1992): 1–56; 97.1 (1996): 1–28; 97.2 (1996): 121–61; 97.3 (1996): 255–78; 103.1 (2002): 3–32; 103.2 (2002): 179–204; 103.3 (2002): 275–304; 107.1 (2006): 91–116; 107.2 (2006): 169–85 with entries organized chronologically within classified divisions that usually match the organization of Old English Syntax. As in Old English Syntax, Mitchell is forthright and blunt (or rancorous, in at least one reviewer’s opinion) in his evaluations. Works that “can be safely disregarded by the general reader” are marked by a dagger and generally receive no further comment; a symbol resembling crossed swords identifies studies that are “written from a ‘modern linguistic’ viewpoint and often call for no further comment” (for Mitchell’s prejudice against such studies see the introduction to Old English Syntax and ““ Old English Syntax: A Review of the Reviews”” [above]); a double dagger indicates works evaluated in Old English Syntax. Entries not preceded by one of the symbols are usually accompanied by full (usually evaluative) annotations; some, though, are for studies that, despite their titles, have little relevance to Old English. Reviews are cited as part of entries for books. The main volume concludes with three appendixes: a list of reviews of Old English Syntax; additions and corrections to Old English Syntax; and comments by reviewers that Mitchell did not accept. Two indexes in both the main volume and the supplement: subjects; authors and reviewers (including citations in Old English Syntax; to obtain a revised index of authors and reviewers, see p. 56 of the supplement). Admirably thorough in coverage, Critical Bibliography of Old English Syntax certainly fulfills the promise of the “critical” in its title and, if used with due regard to the clearly articulated prejudices of the foremost scholar of the subject, is an invaluable guide to scholarship on Old English syntax.


Hogg, Richard M., and R. D. Fulk. A Grammar of Old English. 2 vols. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1992–2011. PE131.H64 429′.82421.

A detailed historical grammar of Old English, covering phonology (vol. 1), morphology (vol. 2), and almost all other aspects and features of the language except syntax (for which, see Mitchell, Old English Syntax [M1710]). Volume 1 concludes with an index of words discussed; volume 2 has two indexes: subjects; words discussed. Grammar of Old English is the authoritative work on the subject.

More suitable for beginners is Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson, A Guide to Old English, 8th ed. (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012; 427 pp.).



Histories and Surveys

Pearsall, Derek. Old English and Middle English Poetry. London: Routledge, 1977. 352 pp. Vol. 1 of The Routledge History of English Poetry. R. A. Foakes, gen. ed. PR502.R58 821′.009.

Emphasizes poetry as a social, rather than artistic, phenomenon in a critical history of poetry to c. 1500. Ranging broadly through the poetic corpus, Pearsall offers chapters on ““ Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxon Poetic Tradition”,” “Anglo-Saxon Religious Poems,” “Late Old English Poetry and the Transition,” “Poetry in the Early Middle English Period,” “Some Fourteenth-Century Books and Writers,” “Alliterative Poetry,” “Court Poetry,” and “The Close of the Middle Ages.” Concludes with an appendix listing technical terms (mostly describing metrics) and a chronology (with sections for historical events, poems by composition date, and the most important poetry manuscripts). Indexed by persons, anonymous works, and a few subjects. Although reviewers have pointed out errors in translations, objected to a number of interpretations, and faulted the density of many passages, they generally commend the breadth and learning of the work. Reviews: Daniel G. Calder, Anglo-Saxon England 10 (1982): 243–44; Margaret E. Goldsmith, English 27.127 (1978): 33–37; Stanley B. Greenfield, Modern Philology 77.2 (1979): 188–91; Fred C. Robinson, Modern Language Review 76.3 (1981): 651–54.

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Martinez and Martinez, Guide to British Poetry Explication, vol. 1 (L1255a).