In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Junius Manuscript

  • Introduction
  • General and Introductory Works
  • Bibliographies and Reference Works
  • Dating and Phases of Construction
  • Origin and Provenance
  • The Script and Punctuation of the Junius 11 Manuscript
  • Illustrations and Ornamented Initials
  • The Genre of Old English Biblical Verse
  • The Compilation of the Junius 11 Poems

Medieval Studies The Junius Manuscript
Leslie Lockett
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0145


“Junius 11” is the nickname of a manuscript of Old English biblical poetry, whose formal shelf mark is Oxford, Bodleian Library, Junius 11. It contains the sole surviving copies of four long Old English poems, which modern editors have titled Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, and Christ and Satan. As these titles suggest, the first three are poetic renderings of Old Testament narratives; the fourth recounts several New Testament and apocryphal episodes in which Christ triumphed over Satan. Scholars have proposed dates for the manuscript ranging from c. 950 to c. 1050, making it roughly contemporary with the other major Old English poetic codices (the Exeter Book, the Vercelli Book, and the Nowell Codex, which contains Beowulf). Within this group Junius 11 stands out by virtue of the dozens of spaces set aside for illustrations throughout the book, although only a portion of the illustrations for Genesis were ever completed. In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Bede reports that the first author of Old English biblical poetry was a cowherd named Cædmon, who in middle age became suddenly and miraculously gifted with the ability to orally compose alliterative verse based on biblical topics, including the events of Genesis and Exodus, the life of Christ, and the Last Judgment. Because the contents of Junius 11 parallel Cædmon’s oeuvre, early scholars of Old English believed that Junius 11 preserved Cædmon’s own compositions and labeled it the “Cædmon Manuscript.” However, since the four poems differ markedly from one another in poetic style and in their methods of rendering biblical material into verse, they are now believed to represent the work of at least five poets who belonged to different centuries and regions of Anglo-Saxon England. This article opens with introductory works that will acquaint the reader with the manuscript as an artifact and with the poems contained in it. Subsequent sections present bibliographies for further reading, studies of the manuscript from codicological and art-historical perspectives, and the editions, translations, and studies of each of the Junius 11 poems. The two final sections cover studies of the genre of biblical verse and of the rationale behind the compilation of the Junius 11 poems into a single volume.

General and Introductory Works

No single resource can provide a comprehensive introduction to an artifact as complex as Junius 11, but for readers unfamiliar with the manuscript, Muir 2004 makes readily available the basic information about manuscript features along with a complete digital facsimile, the Old English texts, and Modern English translations. Readers who are looking for a brief, factual introduction to an individual poem should begin with Lapidge et al. 1999; those interested in paleography and codicology should begin with Ker 1990. All of the Junius 11 poems are edited in Krapp 1931. Anlezark 2011 has the advantage of supplementing the edited texts with facing-page translations but the disadvantage of excluding Christ and Satan from the volume. An accessible overview of the content of the poems and the genre of biblical verse, as well as dominant critical interpretations, can be found in Greenfield and Calder 1986.

  • Anlezark, Daniel, ed. and trans. Old Testament Narratives. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 7. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.

    Edition and facing-page translation of all the Old Testament poems in Junius 11, with concise and accessible introduction and endnotes. Note that Christ and Satan is not included in this volume.

  • Greenfield, Stanley B., and Daniel G. Calder. A New Critical History of Old English Literature. New York: New York University Press, 1986.

    Literary history covering many genres of Old English literature. The chapter on Old Testament verse provides a nuanced but accessible introduction to scholarly interpretations of Genesis, Exodus, and Daniel; the chapter on New Testament verse discusses the structure and imagery of Christ and Satan.

  • Ker, N. R. Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

    One of the essential reference works for Anglo-Saxonists. At entry no. 334, Ker reports the key codicological features of the manuscript and describes the hands of the main scribes of Liber I and Liber II as well as the corrections and marks made by later users of the book. Originally published in 1957.

  • Krapp, George Philip, ed. The Junius Manuscript. Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 1. New York: Columbia University Press, 1931.

    The standard critical edition of the Junius 11 poems. The edited texts are highly dependable, but the volume contains no glossary and slim interpretive notes.

  • Lapidge, Michael, John Blair, Simon Keynes, and Donald Scragg, eds. The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999.

    A compact reference work containing several articles pertinent to Junius 11: Paul G. Remley, “The Junius Manuscript”; Peter J. Lucas, “Junius, Franciscus (1591–1677),” “Genesis,” “Exodus,” and “Daniel”; Donald Scragg, “Christ and Satan”; and Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe, “Cædmon.” Each article concludes with a brief bibliography and is thoroughly cross-referenced.

  • Muir, Bernard J., ed. A Digital Facsimile of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Junius 11. CD-ROM. Software by Nick Kennedy. Oxford: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, 2004.

    High-resolution digital images of the entire manuscript are supplemented by transcriptions and translations of each poem, interpretive and textual notes, extensive bibliography, and brief introductory essays on topics such as the manuscript’s codicology, illustrations, and provenance.

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