Librarian’s Pick #3: A Latin Textbook from Early Medieval England (MS 154)

Over the course of Trinity Term 2020 the Library staff at St John’s College will be taking you on a ‘tour’ of some of their favourites among our Special Collections. Every Monday, we will upload a new note on the item of the week. Read on to discover more about our chosen items…

A Latin Textbook from Early Medieval England

by Petra Hofmann, College Librarian

Micel yfel deð se unwritere gyf he nele his woh gerihtan ‘The incorrect writer does much evil if he does not want to correct his error’

MS 154 is often overlooked when displayed next to the library’s more obvious treasures. The lack of illustrations and elaborate decorations as well as the brand-new binding do not easily endear it to visitors and so the smartphone cameras are usually directed elsewhere. Yet, this one thousand years old Latin textbook, complete with grammar, glossary, and verbal exercises (called colloquia), is worth a closer look. Depite its humble (dare I say shabby?) appearance, this little volume is an extraordinary survivor from late Anglo-Saxon England.

The blog is divided into the following sections:

  • The historical significance of the Grammar and Glossary (page 2 & page 3)
  • The puzzling and vexing verbal exercises (page 4)
  • The text added in the late 11th century on the final leaf (page 5)
  • The manuscript’s exciting history about which we know way to little (page 6)
  • References used (page 7)

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