Wulfstan Manuscript

Wulfstan Manuscript – Rosenkilde and Bagger – Cotton MS Nero A I – British Library (London, United Kingdom)

United Kingdom — 11th–16th century

An authentic inside perspective on 11th-century Anglo-Saxon England: laws, social structures, and the rights and duties of different classes of the population in two distinct works

  1. Old English texts containing the laws of the kings Cnut, Edgar, and Alfred make up the first part of the manuscript

  2. The second part is Wulfstan’s Institutes of Polity, a series of treatises concerning the duties of each member of society

  3. These two 11th century works were bound together in reverse order of age no later than 1580

Wulfstan Manuscript

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Wulfstan Manuscript

This codex consists of two separate 11th century works pertaining to Wulfstan, Bishop of London and Worcester and Archbishop of York, that were bound together in reverse order of age no later than 1580. In addition to legal texts from the reigns of various Anglo-Saxon kings, it also contains treatises and homilies written by Wulfstan himself. The newer section from around the time of the Norman Conquest consists of texts written in Old English while the older, dating from about 50 years earlier, is written in Old English and Latin. This is a precious specimen presenting the laws of Anglo-Saxon England as well providing insight into the ecclesiastical perspective on societal structures and the rights and responsibilities of various classes of people in a medieval society.

Wulfstan Manuscript

Wulfstan was a Benedictine monk who became Bishop of London in 996 before becoming Bishop of Worcester and Archbishop of York until his death in 1023. He was well known as a writer of homilies, especially concerning the Antichrist, and was also instrumental in drafting the legal codes for the kings Æthelred the Unready (r. 978–1016) and Cnut the Great (r. 1028–35). As such, Wulfstan is considered to be one of the most important writers from late Anglo-Saxon England whose works influenced other writers of late Old English literature. His law codes were still in effect in 1100 when Henry I, fourth son of William the Conqueror, was crowned King of England.

A Precious Anglo-Saxon Compendium

The first text comprising ff. 1–57 was written around the time of the Norman Conquest with a missing part (ff. 58–69) completed during the 16th century by the English clergyman and antiquarian John Joscelyn. It consists of Old English texts containing the laws of King Cnut, King Edgar (r. 959–975), and King Alfred (r. 871–899). The second text comprising ff. 70–174 is written in Old English and Latin and predates the first text by about 50 years. It presents the series of treatises concerning the duties of each member of society by Wulfstan known as the Institutes of Polity in four sections along with five of his homilies, various ecclesiastical canons, and other legal documents. The codex also includes an early modern table of contents at the beginning and an early modern index at the end, aiding the reader in sorting through the various Anglo-Saxon texts.


Alternative Titles
Size / Format
360 pages / 17.5 × 12.0 cm
11th–16th century
Anglo-Saxon law codes; writings related to Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester and archbishop of York; homilies, sermons and hymns
Previous Owners
John Joscelyn
William Lambarde
Sir Thomas Crompton
Francis Tate
Sir Robert Bruce Cotton
Sir Thomas Cotton
Sir John Cotton

Available facsimile editions:
Facsimile Editions

#1 A Wulfstan Manuscript containing Institutes, Laws and Homilies

Rosenkilde and Bagger – Copenhagen, 1971

Publisher: Rosenkilde and Bagger – Copenhagen, 1971
Commentary: 1 volume by Henry Royston Loyn
Language: English
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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