The Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry

BookThe Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry

The Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry

2 volumes

Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies


July 26th, 2006




Commonly referred to as The Exeter Book, this important anthology is the earliest and largest surviving book of vernacular poetry from Anglo-Saxon England. This revised edition of the two-volume set first published in 1994 includes many newly-discovered alterations to the poetic texts in addition to the four hundred new readings listed in the first edition. The Bibliography has also been updated and reorganised and the Commentary includes discussion of critical works which have appeared since 1994. The book is published in a two-volume set. Volume One contains the Introduction and Texts. Volume Two contains the Commentary, Bibliography, Index to Bibliography.

Bernard Muir is Reader in Medieval Language and Literature in the English Department, University of Melbourne. His publications include The Art of the Book: Its Place in Medieval Worship(Exeter); Vita Sancti Wilfridi Auctore Edmero: The Life of Saint Wilfrid by Edmer (Exeter); A Pre-Conquest English Prayerbook (Boydell).

... a valuable updating of its forebears. Bernard Muir’s painstaking examination of both the manuscript and the enormous amount of scholarship on it has resulted in a wealth of new information alongside the riches of the old. This is a fine and full edition.


... vivid, sharp, precise and minutely examinable photographs of the whole Exeter Book. And a privilege it is, too: even if Muir’s editing were nonsense (and it is very far from that), the DVD would make the book available to scholars in a way that preserves the manuscript itself from damage, is an unquestionable improvement on the 1933 facsimile, and allows leisurely and detailed study. The work has the added bonus of a thoroughly competent edition of all the poetic texts and some DVD ‘extras’.‘We may take the edition first. The DVD incorporates Muir’s book-based edition, bibliography and commentary from the second edition of the Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry, in two volumes (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2000).

New textual readings based on close reading and examination of the manuscript, and thorough discussion of earlier editions and emendations, make the work an essential resource for the scholar and advanced student. The facsimile itself is marvellous. There is detailed commentary in the introduction on the physical and structural aspects of the manuscript, its binding, gatherings, prickings, defects and damage, drypoint markings, marginalia, division and organization of contents, handwriting, capitals, punctuation and spellings. The photographs of the manuscript are so good that many of the non-textual features like drypoint markings are visible. There are different views available: verso and recto of the open book, an individual page, or thumbnails of pages of the whole book. Using the cursor and clicking on the magnifier, one can magnify small areas of the manuscript for detailed examination, or drag the magnifier over the width of the page. One can open the edited text alongside the page, click on the line-by-line commentary from the text or from the “hot” areas shown on the manuscript, and access the bibliography. There are selected text readings and recordings of performed Latin chants (for the Advent Lyrics).’‘…it makes the Exeter Book accessible to scholars in a way that has not been possible before. It is a magnificent achievement.

Medieval Review, electronic journal

The new electronic edition of the Exeter Book shows to what heights these developments have led, and to what extent a combined textual and visual representation of the manuscript has surplus value when compared to ‘traditional’ text or facsimile editions. To put it in plain words: once I started the DVD I was lost. Completely unaware of my surrounding I spent three hours without noticing that time had passed only to awake to the reality of everyday departmental life by a knock on my door. Bernard Muir and Nick Kennedy have given us a user-friendly, esthetically attractive, and all-encompassing facsimile-cum-edition of the text. The DVD provides crystal clear images of every page of the manuscript, side by side with the text.
Erik Kooper, The European English Messenger, Autumn

Author Information

Bernard Muir is Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Melbourne. His publications include The Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry (Exeter); A Pre-Conquest English Prayerbook (Boydell).

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Foreword to the First Edition
Foreword to the Second Edition
The Advent Lyrics
The Ascension
Christ in Judgement
The Life of Saint Guthlac (A)
The Life of Saint Guthlac (B)
The Canticles of the Three Youths
The Phoenix
The Passion of Saint Juliana
The Wanderer
God's Gifts to Humankind
The Seafarer
The Fates of Mortals
Maxims I (A)
Maxims I (B)
Maxims I (C)
The Order of the World
The Riming Poem
The Panther
The Whale
The Partridge
Homiletic Fragment III
Soul and Body II
Wulf and Eadwacer
Riddles 1-59
The Wife's Lament
Judgement Day I
Contrition (A) and (B)
The Descent into Hell
The Lord's Prayer I
Homiletic Fragment II
Riddle 30b
Riddle 60
The Husband's Message
The Ruin
Riddles 61-94
Introductory Remarks to the Commentry
Primary Sources and Facsimiles
Critical Literature
Reference Works Consulted
Index to Bibliography of Critical Literature