|L'Isle, A Saxon Treatise, 1623|
As luck would have it, this copy includes only the front matter and Ælfric's piece; the full-sized book ought to also have a reprint of the older A Testimonie of Antiquitie as well as some additional materials, as described (in brief) on the title page of the present book.
But even a quick glance at the binding suggests that the book has been its current size at least since the middle 1800s. More, the pebbled cloth that now covers the boards looks like it may lie overtop of an older brown calf covering: the boards, at least, may belong to an even older binding, though whether that older binding included only the present pages or once included the whole of the original book may no longer be determinable. It is possible, of course, that this copy of this book provides evidence for an early independent presentation of just the initial Ælfric material, but the most we can be sure of, I think, is that the book has stood in its present form for some 150 years or so.
My academic interest in Old English, of course, makes printed books with Old English texts an area
|Title Page; a pencil note beside the|
final section of the title reads "Not Here"
During all the time I worked as an academic, I never had occasion to consult L'Isle's book, I am sorry to say. My long-standing project of reclaiming Ælfric as a poet or versifier might have led me here, though, as this Ælfrician composition is, indeed, in his characteristic rhythmical style. This alliterative style has (in my opinion) long been misunderstood and mischaracterized as prose. L'Isle, of course, seems to have had no notion that the work he was printing was in verse, and his error has been repeated now for almost four centuries.
As is the way of things when I encounter a new old book, I took the time, of course, to glance through this new one, and I was surprised to encounter the following passage in the final section of the Preface:
|The bottom of leaf f3 [verso]; the typesetter|
appears to have misunderstood L'Isle's "son,"
printing "same," giving "Woden, which was
the same of Frealaf, &c." (left margin)
Seeing this passage, I immediately thought it would be a fun project to try to track down which manuscript L'Isle might be taking the genealogies from: with a West Saxon and a Mercian genealogy, a manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle immediately seems a possibility.
Interestingly, as L'Isle prints it, the genealogy of Ine (or "Ina") includes the reading "Ceolwald Cuþulfing,"which is present in copies of the West Saxon Regnal Table (in the copies associated with both A and B Chronicle manuscripts), but not in the Chronicle proper. Unfortunately, here I've run aground, and I have not--yet, at least--been able to trace where the unusual forms "Þinferð" and "Ænwulf" come from, neither of which seems to turn up in the Chronicle manuscripts. David Dumville's edition of the genealogies found in Cotton Vespasian B vi, CCCC 183, and Cotton Tiberius B v likewise indicates that none of those is the source for these spellings ("Anglian Collection," Anglo-Saxon England 5, pp. 23-50). Attempting to trace these genealogies has given me, I must admit, a kind of fun puzzle to work on, and even if I haven't solved it all, it has indicated the real breadth of manuscripts and texts that L'Isle must have known.
And, of course, if any of my readers can pin down L'Isle's source or sources for these genealogies, I'd be eager to hear about it.