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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 5, 2015

St Gallen and the “Leiden Glossary”

  • Michael Lapidge EMAIL logo
From the journal Anglia


The “Leiden Glossary” is uniquely preserved in a manuscript which was written at St Gallen c. 800 (Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, Voss. lat. Q. 69). Because it contains more than 250 glosses in Old English, many of which are also preserved in early English glossaries from Canterbury, such as the “Épinal-Erfurt” and “Corpus” glossaries, it has been thought, since the time of Henry Sweet (writing in the 1880s), that the original collection of glosses from which these later glossaries derive was compiled at Canterbury c. 700; and subsequent scholarship attributed the compilation of the original collection to the famous Canterbury school of Archbishop Theodore (d. 690) and Abbot Hadrian (d. 709). Recently, however, this long-accepted attribution has been challenged by Professor Rosamond McKitterick, who has suggested that the “Leiden Glossary” was in fact compiled at St Gallen by the scribe(s) who copied the manuscript there in the years around 800. In support of this hypothesis, she pointed to some sixteen manuscripts preserved in the library of St Gallen at approximately the time the “Leiden Glossary” was copied there, which preserve the biblical and patristic texts which are laid under contribution in the glossary. The present article examines each of these sixteen manuscripts, and demonstrates conclusively that none of them could have been the source of entries in the “Leiden Glossary”. Furthermore, a number of texts which are represented in the “Leiden Glossary” but are not found in St Gallen manuscripts are shown to have been studied in England, at Canterbury, in the late seventh century by Anglo-Latin authors such as Aldhelm. Finally, analysis of the Old English glosses themselves demonstrates beyond doubt that they were first written down in England no later than the early eighth century. In sum, the hypothesis that the “Leiden Glossary” was compiled at St Gallen c. 800 is shown to be untenable, and the traditional attribution to the school of Canterbury is confirmed.

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Published Online: 2015-11-5
Published in Print: 2015-11-1

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