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Publicly Available Published by De Gruyter June 6, 2020

An Illustration to Ælfric’s De temporibus anni in Ælfwine’s Prayerbook

Loredana Teresi
From the journal Anglia


The present essay discusses a diagram found in London, British Library, Cotton Titus D.xxvii+xxvi, the so-called Ælfwine’s Prayerbook. The diagram, which appears on fol. 21 v (see Figure 1), has been interpreted by most scholars as an incomplete tidal rota or an incomplete wind rota (as it contains only 4 out of the canonical 12 winds). A detailed, comparative analysis of the features of the diagram, however, proves that the hypothesis of the tidal rota must be discarded in favour of that of the wind diagram. Moreover, an analysis of the manuscript contents and of the way in which the manuscript was written reveals a close connection between the diagram and Ælfric’s De temporibus anni, showing that the diagram is complete in its present form, and was inspired by the Ælfrician text. My study shows that the rota constitutes an illustration to the discussion of the winds appearing in the De temporibus anni and, at the same time, a representation of the Cross and of the close connection between God and the natural world, perfectly integrated within Ælfwine’s interests and architectural plans, as well as within the “visual-exegetical method” (Kühnel 2003) of the period.

1 Object and Purpose of the Study

London, British Library, Cotton Titus D.xxvi and London, British Library, Cotton Titus D.xxvii[1] are two small volumes making up the so-called Ælfwine’s Prayerbook.[2] The two volumes originally formed a single codex, in which what is now D.xxvii preceded D.xxvi (Henel 1942: xx; Ker 1957: no. 202). The ‘Prayerbook’ is actually a rather more complex volume, containing a variety of texts including a calendar, computistical texts and tables, scientific treatises, prognostics (like the Dies aegyptiaci), commonplace texts (such as the names of the Seven Sleepers), prayers, etc. (see Section 2 for further details). Both volumes forming the original manuscript were edited by Beate Günzel for the Henry Bradshaw Society in 1993, with the exception of Ælfric’s De temporibus anni, the Passion according to St John (Euangelium Iohannis XVIII–XIX), and the Easter table (of which she only printed the obits).[3] In the present essay, the various items contained in the manuscripts will therefore be numbered according to Günzel’s edition.

Fol. 21 v in D.xxvii features a diagram (86 mm in diameter) showing the four principal winds, which has been generally described by scholars variably as either an incomplete tidal diagram (Günzel 1993: 110) or an unfinished table of winds (Birch 1892: 276, “Appendix”, item no. 4). In his 1942 edition of Ælfric’s De temporibus anni, Henel, however, already drew attention to the connection between this diagram and Ælfric’s description of the winds in his computistical work (Henel 1942: 104). I intend to demonstrate that this rota is indeed a wind diagram meant to illustrate Ælfric’s De temporibus anni (which was copied on fols. 30r–54r of the same volume), and that it is not only complete, but also well integrated in the general ideological planning of the manuscript.

The true meaning and function of the diagram can only be understood by considering together various aspects of the manuscript, and in particular the owner and planner of the miscellany, the copying process, and the relationship between the various texts contained in the codex.

2 The Manuscript: Origin, Date, Owner, Scribes, Contents and Structure

The codex was certainly written in Winchester, at the New Minster,[4] presumably between 1023 and 1031 (Gneuss and Lapidge 2014: no. 380; Günzel 1993: 1–2).[5] Ker states that “the manuscript was the personal property of Ælfwine” and that it was especially written for him (1957: 265–266). Various elements point in that direction, but the most important piece of evidence is given by item no. 14 (D.xxvii, fol. 13r), a note in cryptographic writing[6] which explicitly refers to Ælfwine as the owner of the manuscript and also names the main scribe of the manuscript, Ælsinus or Ælsige (Günzel 1993: 70 and 109).[7]

Günzel (1993: 6–7) enumerates eleven scribes (named A–L but without J) working on the manuscript, with the two main scribes (A and B) working at the same time, in an alternate manner.[8] Scribe A, Ælsinus, has been identified also as the main scribe of the Liber vitae of the New Minster (London, British Library, Stowe 944) as well as of a calendar and computus in Cambridge, Trinity College, R.15.32 (Ker 1957: no. 202; Günzel 1993: 8). Günzel claims that Ælfwine directed the compilation of the manuscript, but was not personally involved in the copying process. Conversely, Gameson (2002: 45) and Keynes (1996: 111–113) claim that Ælfwine and scribe B are probably the same person.[9] The remaining scribes (C–L) are responsible for later additions, dating mainly to the first half of the eleventh century, with one (E) writing in the twelfth century.

The contents of the manuscript are listed as follows in Gneuss and Lapidge’s catalogue (2014: 305):

lunaria; prognostics; liturgical calendar with necrology; computus material (‘Winchester Computus’); Ælfric, De temporibus anni*; alphabet with OE sentences*; The Passion according to St John (Euangelium Iohannis XVIII–XIX); devotions to the Holy Cross; Offices of the Trinity, the Holy Cross, the Virgin; private prayers; directions for private devotions*; note in cryptography; notes on the names of the Seven Sleepers, on the age of the Virgin*, the Ages of the World, the length of Christ’s body, on the rainbow; Somniale Danielis; medical recipe*; rules of confraternity*; collectar; litany; Euangelium Iohannis I.1–14.

Three miniatures featuring in the manuscript (in the two volumes) have been placed in key positions within the framework of the Prayerbook, as noted by Ker (1957: no. 202), as if to separate different thematic sections: a representation of the Crucifixion (Günzel’s item no. 45; D.xxvii, fol. 65v) precedes “Devotions to the Holy Cross” (item no. 46); a representation of the Trinity with Virgin and Child (the so-called ‘Quinity’: item no. 48; D.xxvii, fol. 75v) introduces an “Office of the Trinity” (item no. 49), an “Office of the Holy Cross” (item no. 50) and an “Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary” (item no. 51); finally, a representation of St Peter (item no. 72; D.xxvi, fol. 19v) introduces the collectar at the “Commune sanctorum” (item no. 73), which, in turn, consists, at the beginning, of “Capitula. Vigilia unius apostoli” (‘capitula and collects for the feast of an apostle’; item no. 73.1).[10] They therefore show careful planning of the various sections and of the general architecture of the codex, and a strong connection between texts and images.

The miniatures are reminiscent of the Utrecht style, in that they appear as outline drawings, lightly shaded in four colours: blue, green and two shades of brown/red (Günzel 1993: 8–12; Ker 1957: no. 202).[11] The same four colours are used in the diagram on fol. 21 v (see Figure 1) and also to mark capitals in some texts, which shows that they are all to be considered as an integral part of the general architectural plan of the manuscript (see Section 4.1).[12]

3 The Immediate Context of the Diagram: The Computistical Section of Ælfwine’s Prayerbook

The computistical section – broadly intended[13] – appears at the very beginning of the compilation, in volume D.xxvii, on fols. 2r–56v, items nos. 1–42, although some other computistical texts are scattered in the volumes. It covers the first eight quires of the manuscripts. A complete, orderly list of the contents of this section can be extracted from Günzel’s edition:[14]

  1. lunarium for bloodletting (item no. 1; fol. 2r);

  2. text on the ides and the nones of the months (item no. 2; fol. 2v);

  3. table on solar regulars, concurrents, lunar regulars and epacts (item no. 3; fol. 2v);

  4. calendar (item no. 4; fols. 3r–8v);

  5. tables with the ages of the moon for lunations of 30 and 29 days (item no. 5; fols. 9r–9v);

  6. table with the age of the moon for the first day of a month (item no. 6; fol. 10r);

  7. verses for the limits of Quadragesima (item no. 7; fol. 10v);

  8. verses for the limits of Easter (item no. 8; fol. 11r);

  9. tables with the limits of Septuagesima, Quadragesima, Easter and Rogation (item no. 9; fol. 11v–12r);

  10. horologium (item no. 10; fol. 12v);

  11. text on the calculation of the feast limits (item no. 11; fol. 13r);

  12. text on the calculation of the epacts and the concurrents (item no. 12; fol. 13v);

  13. text on the four ember days (item no. 13; fol. 13v);

  14. cryptographic note on the names of the owner and main scribe of the manuscript (item no. 14; fol. 13v);

  15. note on the names of the Seven Sleepers (item no. 15; fol. 14r);

  16. Easter table (item no. 16; fols. 14v–21r);

  17. incomplete diagram on the relation between the moon and the sea[15] (item no. 17; fol. 21v);

  18. list of critical days for bloodletting (item no. 18; fols. 22r–23r);

  19. note on Christ’s threefold becoming of man (item no. 19; fol. 23r);

  20. text on the saltus lunae ‘leap of the moon’ (item no. 20; fol. 23r);

  21. text on the length of the day (item no. 21; fol. 23v);

  22. text on the calculation of the full moon of Easter (item no. 22; fol. 23v);

  23. text on the days on which the Easter lunation cannot begin (item no. 23; fol. 24r);

  24. text on the calculation of the Easter limit and the age of the moon on Easter Sunday (item no. 24; fol. 24r);

  25. text on the spring equinox (item no. 25; fol. 24r);

  26. text on the fixation of Easter Sunday (item no. 26; fols. 24r–24v);

  27. text on the leap year (item no. 27; fol. 24v);

  28. text on the solar and the lunar years, and on the number of tides in a year (item no. 28; fol. 24v);

  29. text on the change of concurrents, epacts, etc. (item no. 29; fol. 24v);

  30. text on the lengths of the seasons (item no. 30; fols. 24v–25r);

  31. text on the calculation of advent (item no. 31; fol. 25r);

  32. prognostics by Pseudo-Esdras (item no. 32; fols. 25r–25v);

  33. text on the division of the year [OE] (item no. 33; fol. 25v);

  34. prayer (item no. 34; fols. 26r–27r);

  35. general lunarium (item no. 35; fols. 27r–29v);

  36. Ælfric’s De temporibus anni [OE] (item no. 36; fols. 30r–54r);

  37. text on indulgence of days (item no. 37; fol. 54v);

  38. text on the feast limits [OE] (item no. 38; fol. 54v);

  39. text on the calculation of the concurrents and the epacts [OE] (item no. 39; fol. 55r);

  40. [– alphabet with prognostics [OE] (item no. 40; fols. 55v–56v);][16]

  41. [– text on the relation between the sea and the moon [OE] (item no. 41; fol. 56v);]

  42. [– text on the age of the Virgin [OE] (item no. 42; fol. 56v).][16]

The diagram on fol. 21 v is therefore preceded by a long Easter table running from fol. 14 v through 21 r. The table is laid out in such a way as to comprise facing pages as a continuous writing surface. It is made up of twelve columns, of which seven appear on the verso and five on the recto.[16] The final part of the table appears on fols. 20v–21r, taking up, approximately, one third of each facing page (six lines of text on each page). The remainder of the page, both on fol. 20 v and on fol. 21 r, was left blank. The diagram under investigation occupies the centre of fol. 21 v, extending for most of the page, with a diameter of 86 mm. A new quire (d) begins on the facing page (fol. 22r), with a list of ‘critical days’ for bloodletting (see Chardonnens 2007: 520–523; Günzel 1993: 110). The diagram does not seem to have any thematic relationship with any of these adjacent texts.[17]

The fact that the diagram appears within the computistical section is, however, not surprising, as diagrams actually often accompany Easter tables and computistical texts.

4 The Diagram on Fol. 21v

4.1 Structure of the Diagram

The diagram on fol. 21 v is made up of five concentric circles – alternating blue, brown/red, blue, green and blue lines, from the innermost to the outermost circle – split into twelve sectors by twelve radiating blue straight lines, departing from the second, brown/red circle (see Figure 1). The names of the four headwinds – Subsolanus, Auster, Fabonius [sic], Septemtrio – have been inscribed in four of the twelve sections, in the band which is delimited by the third and fourth circles. Four blue crosses have been drawn at the top of each headwind sector. The other eight sectors in the band are all empty, as are all the other sectors in the diagram, and there is no indication of tides in the diagram, nor any further information added.

4.2 Earlier Interpretations

In the Appendix of his 1892 edition of the Liber vitae, Birch explicitly draws a parallel between this diagram, which he defines “a table of winds, unfinished”, and a rota featuring in the so-called ‘Byrhtferth’s glosses’ accompanying Bede’s De temporum ratione, as printed by Migne (1862) in PL 90 (see Figure 2):

A table of winds, unfinished, evidently an intended copy of Beda’s scheme in Migne’s Beda, vol. i, p. 423 (Patrol. Cursus, vol. 90). (Birch 1892: 276)

In her edition, Günzel, who considers the diagram as a proper, incomplete tidal rota (1993: 28, 110), makes reference to the same ‘pseudo-Byrhtferthian’ tidal diagram as the probable source of her item no. 17:

The relation between the moon and the sea is also discussed by Bede, De Temporum Ratione ch. 29 ‘De concordia maris et lunae’ and De Natura Rerum ch. 29 ‘De aestu Oceani’. Both books are accompanied by the so-called ‘Byrhtferth Glosses’ (Bridferti Ramesiensis glossae). Byrhtferth adds one and the same diagram as illustration to D[e] T[emporum] R[atione] ch. 17 ‘De lunae cursu per signa’ (PL 90, 385–86) and DTR ch. 29 ‘De concordia maris et lunae’ (PL 90, 423–24). This diagram is probably the source of no. 17 (incomplete). (Günzel 1993: 28)[18]

The parallel Birch and Günzel draw is probably partly based on the fact that extant tidal rotae often also contain information on the winds – see, for example, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Lat. 5543, fol. 135 v, or London, British Library, Harley 3017, fol. 135 r (see Figure 3). As an Anglo-Saxon parallel, Günzel mentions the diagram in London, British Library, Cotton Julius,[19] fol. 15 r (1993: 200, note to item no. 17), which, however, does not bear the names of the winds (see Figure 4). She describes the diagram printed by Migne in details, and compares it to the one in D.xxvii, fol. 21 v (item no. 17) in the following terms:[20]

Byrhtferth’s diagram shows the revolution of the moon round the earth. The points of the compass are given by the names of the twelve winds. The 30 days of a lunation are arranged clockwise. The neap tides and the spring tides are marked a few days before the complete moon quarters on the 5th, 13th, 20th and 28th days of the lunation. No. 17 only gives the names of the four cardinal winds: Auster (south), Favonius (west), Septemtrio (north) and Subsolanus (east). There are four crosses which probably mark the spring tides and the neap tides, but they are not at the same places as the malinas and the ledones in Byrhtferth’s diagram. (Günzel 1993: 28)

4.3 Standard Tidal rotae vs. the Diagram in D.xxvii

As Günzel’s description shows, tidal rotae thus have indeed a more complex structure, aimed to accommodate information on the age of the moon. The basic type (e. g. Oxford, St John’s College, 17,[21] fol. 8r) generally consists of three or four circular concentric bands divided into 30 sectors (sometimes 29). In the four-circle systems, two of the bands bear the words Luna and Aqua, respectively, throughout; another band indicates the moon’s age with numbers from 1 to 30, whilst the remaining band is divided into four subsectors, bearing numbers from 1 to 7 and from 1 to 8 alternatively (see Figure 4). In three-circle rotae, the word Luna is abbreviated and appears before the number representing the moon’s age (see Figure 3). A T–O map is often inserted in the inner circle, for orientation purposes.[22] Finally, the words malina and ledo are added to the diagram.[23] These are generally placed around the outer edge of the diagram, often – but not always – enclosed in four additional small circles (see Figures 2–3), but they can also be placed around the inner circle (see Figure 4). None of these ‘characteristic’ features of tidal diagrams appears in D.xxvii, fol. 21 v, which lacks not only the legends but also the structural elements described above.

It is true that the crosses here may have a similar function to the malina and ledo inscriptions, but they occupy different places in relation to their compass location, when compared to malina and ledo in the diagram printed in PL 90: in D.xxvii, the crosses clearly mark (clockwise) South, West, North, and East, as explicitly indicated by the names of the headwinds (see Figure 1), whilst, in what Günzel calls “Byrhtferth’s diagram” (see above, Section 4.2 and note 22), malina and ledo are marked above the South-East, South-West, North-West and North-East sectors, as indicated by the names of the winds and also by the T–O map inserted in the middle (see Figure 2). There are, however, some tidal diagrams where malina and ledo are placed above the cardinal points of the compass (as in London, British Library, Cotton Julius, fol. 15 r, for example; Figure 4); so this element cannot in itself clarify the nature and function of the diagram. The crosses drawn in D.xxvii, however, are all the same, and would therefore not allow a distinction between malina and ledo.

Thus, there seems to be no reason to connect the diagram in D.xxvii, fol. 21 v, to a tidal rota, especially considering that winds are not relevant for the calculation of the times of spring tide and neap tide, and are not always copied in tidal rotae. See, for example, once again, the tidal diagram in London, British Library, Cotton Julius, fol. 15 r (Figure 4) or the one in Oxford, St John’s College, 17, fol. 8 r, both having no winds.[24]

Günzel is forced to define the diagram as “incomplete” (1993: 28 and 110) because it lacks all the fundamental parts of a tidal rota, both in terms of structure and content. As the only information we have in the diagram is the name of the four headwinds, the most reasonable assumption is that it is in fact a wind diagram (rota ventorum), as indicated by Birch and Henel, and the hypothesis of the diagram being a tidal rota must be discarded.

This particular diagram, however, also differs in many respects from ‘standard’ rotae ventorum. It appears rather unusual as it is oriented to the South-East and only bears the names of the four headwinds, disregarding the remaining standard eight sidewinds. I intend to argue that, despite these apparent incongruities, not only is this diagram a rota ventorum in its own right, but that it is complete in the present state, bearing all the information it was originally meant to convey, and therefore far from being the only ‘incomplete’ text in this carefully planned miscellany. A brief description of standard wind rotae is, however, necessary to prove my point.

4.4 Standard Wind rotae vs. the Diagram in D.xxvii

Standard wind rotae[25] appearing in Anglo-Saxon or early Norman manuscripts generally feature twelve winds, following either Isidore’s list drawn from his De natura rerum or the one featuring in his Etymologiae. In the Etymologiae (XIII.xi.2–3), Isidore begins his list with the four headwinds, starting with the East wind, Subsolanus. He then completes the full list of twelve winds, naming the two subwinds flanking each headwind (see the table in this section for a schematic list):

Ventorum quattuor principales spiritus sunt. Quorum primus ab oriente Subsolanus, a meridie Auster, ab occidente Favonius, a septentrione eiusdem nominis ventus adspirat; habentes geminos hinc inde ventorum spiritus. Subsolanus a latere dextro Vulturnum habet, a laevo Eurum: Auster a dextris Euroaustrum, a sinistris Austroafricum: Favonius a parte dextra Africum, a laeva Corum: porro Septentrio a dextris Circium, a sinistris Aquilonem. Hi duodecim venti mundi globum flatibus circumagunt. (Lindsay 1911: XIII.xi.2–3)

‘There are four principal gusts of winds. Of these the first, Subsolanus, blows from the East; from the South Auster; from the West Favonius; from the North the wind of the same name [i.e. Septentrio]. They all have twin gusts of winds on each side. Subsolanus has Vulturnus on the right side and Eurus on the left; Auster has Euroaustrum on the right and Austroafricus on the left; Favonius has Africus on the right side and Corus on the left; finally, Septentrio has Circius on the right and Aquilo on the left. These twelve winds surround the world’s globe with their breezes’.[26]

Isidore also provides the Greek names of some of the winds (XIII.xi.6–13).[27] In his De natura rerum (ch. xxxvii, “De nominibus uentorum”, 1–4), Isidore names all twelve winds systematically in Latin and Greek, starting this time with Septentrio, the North wind, and proceeding in triads, i. e. giving headwind and flanking subwinds. The description of the first triad will suffice as an example:

Ventorum primus cardinalis Septentrio, frigidus et niualis; flat rectus ab axe et facit arida frigora et siccas nubes; hic et Aparctias. Circius, qui et Thrascias; hic a dextris Septentrionis intonans facit niues et grandinum coagulationes. Aquilo uentus, qui et Boreas uocatur, ex alto flans, gelidus atque siccus, et sine pluuia, qui non discutit nubes, sed stringit; unde et non inmerito diaboli formam induit, quia iniquitatis frigore gentilium corda constringit. (Fontaine 1960: 295)

‘The first cardinal wind is Septentrio, cold and snowy; it blows straight from the North Pole and brings dry cold and dry clouds; it is also called Aparctias. Circius, also named Thrascias, roaring to the right of Septentrio, brings snow and hail. The wind Aquilo, which is also called Boreas, blowing from on high, is cold and dry, and without rain; it does not chase away the clouds, but rather makes them thicker. Thus, and with good reason, it may appear as a devil, since it tightens the hearts of people with the cold of iniquity’.

The text then proceeds with the remaining three triads. The complete table of Latin and Greek names for headwinds and sidewinds, in this tradition, is therefore the following:

Latin namesGreek names



Austroafricus (Etym.)[28]






Drawing heavily on Isidore’s De natura rerum, Bede gave his own description of the twelve winds in his De natura rerum (ch. xxvii, “Ordo Ventorum”, 1–17), starting with Septentrio and proceeding with the same triadic format (Jones 1943: 218–219), and naming the same twelve winds.

Isidore’s and Bede’s texts were often accompanied by diagrams, especially wind rotae, with the winds arranged circularly around the earth. These diagrams, however, as already mentioned, also circulated in isolation, within computistical material.

Thus, drawing on this tradition, standard wind rotae not only show all twelve winds, but also tend to be oriented either to the East (i. e. with Subsolanus at the top) or to the North (i. e. with Septentrio at the top), on the basis of these very popular descriptions. Some examples, inter alia, can be found in London, British Library, Cotton Tiberius E.iv, fol. 30 r and Oxford, St John’s College, 17, fol. 40 v (Figure 5). If the diagram in D.xxvii, fol. 21 v were based on Isidore or Bede, therefore, it would presumably feature all twelve winds and would also be oriented to the East or to the North, like the other diagrams deriving from these sources that have come down to us. Our diagram, to the contrary, has only four winds (the headwinds) and the South-East at the top (see Figure 1).

The fact that our rota unusually only features four winds is presumably the reason why it has been deemed “unfinished” or “likely incomplete”.[30] However, there may be other explanations for this reduction in the number of winds. Henel’s reference to this particular diagram, in his edition of Ælfric’s De temporibus anni,[31] appears very relevant here, as the features of the rota under investigation seem indeed to point to Ælfric’s De temporibus anni, which was copied in the same manuscript, on fols. 30r–54r (item no. 36 in Günzel’s edition).

5 The Relationship between Ælfric’s De temporibus anni and the Diagram in D.xxvii

The Ælfrician computistical text survives in eight manuscripts, with dates ranging from the end of the tenth to the second half of the twelfth century.[32] In D.xxvii, Ælfric’s treatise is found on fols. 30r–54r (quires 5, 6, 7 and partly 8, all copied by scribe A, i. e. Ælsinus), beginning under the heading “De primo die seculi, siue de equinoctio uernali”.[33]

Drawing mostly on Bede’s De temporum ratione – but partly also on De temporibus and De natura rerum –, Alfric’s treatise is a discussion of natural science, with chapters on computus, celestial bodies, astronomical cycles, the four elements, meteorology and other natural phenomena (fourteen chapters in total).[34] Chapter x – “De duodecim uentis” (‘On the twelve winds’, Günzel’s item no. 36.10; fols. 46v–48v) – enumerates the Latin names of the four headwinds[35] (only the Greek name Zephirus for Fabonius is given), describing them in the following terms:

Seo lyft ðonne heo astyred bið is wind. Se wind hæfð mislice naman on bocum. Đanon ðe he blæwð, him bið nama gesett. Feower heafodwindas sind; se fyrmesta is easterne wind, Subsolanus gehaten, forðan ðe he blæwð fram ðære sunnan upsprincge ⁊ is swiðe gemetegod. Se oðer heafodwind is suðerne, Auster gehaten; se astyrað wolcnu ⁊ ligettu, ⁊ mislice cwyld blæwð geond þas eorðan. Se ðridda heafodwind hatte Zephirus on Greciscum gereorde, ⁊ on Ledenum Fabonius; se blæwð westan, ⁊ ðurh his blæd acuciað ealle eorðlice blæda ⁊ blowað, ⁊ se wind towyrpð ⁊ ðawað ælcne winter. Se feorða heafodwind hatte Septemtrio; se blæwð norðan ceald ⁊ snawlic, ⁊ wyrcð drie wolcnu.

‘When the air is stirred up, it becomes wind. The wind has various names in books. Its name is established according to the direction from which it blows. There are four principal winds; the first is the easterly wind, called Subsolanus because it blows from the direction of sunrise, and which is very moderate. The second principal wind is the southerly, called Auster. It propels clouds and lightning, and blows various plagues around this earth. The third principal wind is called Zephirus in the Greek language, and in Latin Fabonius. It blows from the west, and through its force all earthly plants take life and flourish, and this wind casts out and thaws each winter. The fourth principal wind is called Septemtrio. It blows from the north, cold and snowy, and produces dry clouds’. (Blake 2009: 94–95)

Thus, Ælfric’s brief section on the names of the winds only mentions the four headwinds (i. e. Subsolanus, Auster, Fabonius and Septemtrio) and highlights their characteristics. It is followed by a paragraph which explains the existence of the remaining eight sidewinds, but these are not named, apart from Aquilo (Greek Boreas). Ælfric claims that it would be æðryt ‘tedious’ and menigfeald ‘complex’ to speak about them, thereby suggesting that they are not important and do not need to be learned:

Đas feower heafodwindas habbað betwux him on ymbhwyrfte oðre eahta windas, æfre betwux þam heafodwindum twegen windas. Đæra naman ⁊ blawunge we mihton secgan gif hit ne ðuhte æðryt to awritenne. Is swa ðeah hwæðere an ðæra eahta winda, Aquilo gehaten, se blæwð norðan ⁊ eastan, healic ⁊ ceald ⁊ swiðe drie; se is gehaten oðrum naman Boreas, ⁊ ealne ðone cwyld þe se suðerna wind Auster acenð, ealne he todræfð ⁊ afligð. Us ðincð to menigfeald þæt we swiðor embe ðis sprecon.

‘The four principal winds have between them in rotation eight other winds, always with two winds between the principal winds. Their names and characteristics we could describe if it did not seem tedious to write about. However, one of the eight winds is called Aquilo. It blows from the north-east, high, cold and very dry. It is called by another name, Boreas, and it completely disperses and drives away all the plague which the southern wind Auster produces. It seems to us too complex that we should speak further about this’. (Blake 2009: 94–95)

If we compare this information with the legends in the diagram on fol. 21 v, we cannot but observe that the latter is a congruent and systematic representation of the Ælfrician text: the four headwinds that he thinks should be named and learned (Subsolanus, Auster, Fabonius and Septemtrio) are well represented; the crosses above the legends clearly stress their status as headwinds;[36] and finally only the Latin forms of their names are given.[37] What is more, the spelling of the legends in the diagram coincides with the spelling on fols. 47v–48v (e. g. Fabonius and Septemtrio).

The two texts appear therefore to be undoubtedly connected, all the more so if one takes into account the fact that the De temporibus anni in D.xxvii was copied immediately after the third quire, that is the one ending with the Easter table and the diagram under investigation (see above, Section 3). Günzel’s scribal synopsis (1993: 10) shows that scribe A (Ælsinus) copied the first three quires, up to fol. 21 (items nos. 1–17, ending with the Easter table and the diagram), then proceeded with his copying work on quire five,[38] which – quite strikingly for the sake of this essay – begins with the De temporibus anni (fols. 30r–54r; item no. 36). The present distance, in the manuscript, between these two texts (the diagram and Ælfric’s De temporibus anni; see the list in Section 3) must therefore be perused under a different light, since the texts appear contiguous in Ælsinus’s copying process, with the diagram placed immediately between the Easter table and Ælfric’s treatise.

It is rather hard, however, to assign the diagram in D.xxvii to scribe A (Ælsinus) with any degree of certainty,[39] and it is even harder to ascertain if the diagram was drawn before the copying of the De temporibus anni or added later. It is tempting, though, to assume that, with the Easter table being concluded on fol. 21 r, space was left on fol. 21 v for additional material to be inserted, perhaps a ‘suitable’ item to connect the two sections thematically. And it is plausible that either Ælfwine (scribe B?), or, less likely, Ælsinus himself (i. e. scribe A), contrived the plan to fill the blank space on fol. 21 v with the wind diagram conceptually ‘excerpted’ from the De temporibus anni.

An illustration of Ælfric’s treatise would perfectly fit the late Anglo-Saxon England trend for diagrams illustrating computistical and natural science texts, like those featuring, for example, in the great computistical miscellanies revolving around Abbo of Fleury and Byrhtferth of Ramsey (e. g. Oxford, St John’s College, 17).

Since no other Ælfrician copy of the De temporibus anni appears to be accompanied by a wind diagram,[40] and as no other existing wind rotae share similar features (see above, Section 4.4), we may conclude that the diagram on fol. 21 v was not copied from an existing model: more likely the diagram originated in this very manuscript and was meant by Ælfwine to illustrate the discussion on the winds in Ælfric’s computistical treatise. This ‘uniqueness’ should not surprise, as this is the case also with the Crucifixion miniature. As Karkov (2006: 98) notes, this miniature “has no single identifiable source, and no exact parallels; in other words, it was designed specifically for its place and role in this one manuscript”. The same, I believe, applies to the wind diagram on fol. 21 v.

Images have a key role in this book, as pointed out by Karkov:

They also form a diagram of salvation for the individual soul, to map the reader’s progress into the meaning and function of the book, to locate him physically and spiritually in time and space, and to relate this manuscript, its meaning, and its reader, to a series of other books and readers (or witnesses). (2006: 98)

Being part of this set of images in the manuscript, the diagram in D.xxvii also partakes of the same importance and function. Similar to the miniatures, the diagram also acts as a structural pillar in the economy of the manuscript: it connects, ideologically, the cosmological section of the miscellany with the devotional part, in a way that will be explored in Section 6.

6 The Role of the Cross in Ælfwine’s Plan for the Prayerbook

A very important additional feature of this wind diagram is the symbolic representation of a Cross emerging from the way in which the diagram was drawn. The four sectors representing the headwinds and culminating with the tiny blue crosses can be seen as forming the four flaring arms of a bigger Cross, a symbolic reference to God, Christ, Salvation, the End of Time and God’s creation, as well as God’s power over the natural elements. This symbolic representation is by no means a unique feature of this diagram.[41] It is a rather common element of scientific and computistical diagrams, as shown by Bianca Kühnel (2003) in her study on the Maiestas Domini in scientific diagrams and quincux structures. In the early Middle Ages, and especially in the Carolingian period and later, scientific diagrams and Christian art met in what Kühnel calls a “visual-exegetical method”, a practice that bridged the gap between science and faith by depicting the relationship of God and Christian doctrine with the natural world (Kühnel 2003: 13–22). Among other things, Kühnel’s study discusses the way in which a Cross emerges in the tidal rotae found in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Lat. 5543, fol. 135 v, and in London, British Library, Harley 3017, fol. 135 r. These two diagrams also contain the names of the winds, as mentioned above (Section 4.3), but they only bear the names of the sidewinds, leaving the headwinds sectors either blank (as in the case of Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Lat. 5543, fol. 135v) or filled with colour (as in London, British Library, Harley 3017, fol. 135 r, which can be seen in Figure 3). The names of the headwinds are only given as additional information on the sidewinds (e. g. Vulturnus qui et Calcias dexterior SubsolaniVulturnus, also called Calcias, blowing at the right of Subsolanus’).[42] Kühnel notes how, as a consequence, in these two tidal rotae a Cross emerges from the interplay between written and empty space (the latter being either white or filled with colour).[43] This interplay between written and empty space can also be seen in the wind diagram in D.xxvii, where the Cross emerges from written space, on the basis of the peculiar features of the account on the winds in Ælfric’s De temporibus anni. The four headwinds he mentions become the four flaring arms of the Cross; thus the paucity of information in Ælfric’s account is transformed into added value: a symbol of the Cross and Salvation, and of God and cosmic harmony, bearing on the relationship between the Creator and his Creation, i. e. the natural world.

The central role played by the Cross in Ælfwine’s Prayerbook has already been noted. As Keynes (1996: 112) states, “[o]ne striking feature of the texts which he entered in the book is the sense which they convey of a personal and particular devotion to the Holy Cross”. The most notable instance is the miniature illustrating the Crucifixion, on D.xxvii, fol. 65 v. Ælfwine’s own name appears in this miniature, in the inscription Hec crux consignet Ælfwinum corpore mente, in qua suspendens traxit Deus omnia secum ‘May this Cross, hanging upon which the Lord drew all things to himself, consecrate Ælfwine in body and in mind’ (Keynes 1996: 113). A prayer to the Cross precedes the miniature, on fol. 64 v (item no. 44) and it is then followed by Devotions to the Holy Cross (item no. 46; fols. 66r–73v) and by the Office of the Holy Cross (item no. 50; fols. 80r–81v). Furthermore, in the so-called ‘Quinity’ (the miniature in D.xxvii, fol. 75v) God Father, the adult Jesus, the infant Jesus and the dove representing the Holy Ghost all have cruciform nimbuses,[44] and it is tempting to link these four cruciform nimbuses, appearing within the roundel surrounding the Quinity, to the four cross-headed winds in the wind rota.[45] It is certainly a fact that the headwinds in the diagram have been marked with tiny crosses, which, beside marking the headwinds status, might also have the function to signal the big iconic Cross given by the shape of the four-wind diagram, and therefore point to God/Christ as source of the harmony of the universe, beginning and end of all things, to respond to Ælfwine’s own conception and devotion.

7 Conclusions

Far from being an incomplete diagram of the relationship between the moon and the tides, the rota drawn on fol. 21 v in D.xxvii should be interpreted as a complete diagram of the headwinds, as exposed in Ælfric’s De natura rerum, ch. x “De duodecim uentis”. It was probably added on a blank folio, at Ælfwine’s desire, in order to link the strictly cosmological part of the Prayerbook to the devotional part, symbolically representing the Cross, and therefore the relationship between God and the natural world. It is an example of the so-called “visual-exegetical method” that was a feature of the early Middle Ages, and fits in perfectly with Ælfwine’s devotional focus on the Cross and Salvation. The diagram thus not only bears a link to the text to which it refers in the manuscript, but, far more importantly, expresses a connection between God and his Creation.

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Figure 1 London, British Library, Cotton Titus D.xxvii, fol. 21 v: Wind rota © British Library Board

Figure 1

London, British Library, Cotton Titus D.xxvii, fol. 21 v: Wind rota © British Library Board

Figure 2 Migne, PL 90 (1862: 423–424): Tidal rota with names of the winds

Figure 2

Migne, PL 90 (1862: 423–424): Tidal rota with names of the winds

Figure 3 London, British Library, Harley 3017, fol. 135 r: Tidal rota with winds and Cross © British Library Board

Figure 3

London, British Library, Harley 3017, fol. 135 r: Tidal rota with winds and Cross © British Library Board

Figure 4 London, British Library, Cotton Julius, fol. 15 r: Tidal rota with no winds © British Library Board

Figure 4

London, British Library, Cotton Julius, fol. 15 r: Tidal rota with no winds © British Library Board

Figure 5 Oxford, St John’s College, 17, fol. 40 v: Wind rota © By permission of the President and Fellows of St John’s College, Oxford

Figure 5

Oxford, St John’s College, 17, fol. 40 v: Wind rota © By permission of the President and Fellows of St John’s College, Oxford

Published Online: 2020-06-06
Published in Print: 2020-06-04

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston