Lists of period documents, with additional links and translations etc.


Health and Medical Texts
Instructional Works
Wills and Charters
Poetry and Riddles



Health / Medical Texts

Name Comment Language Date
The Omont Fragment

A single leaf of parchment found amongst the private papers of M. Henri Omont after his death in 1940. The short text is among the earliest known sections of connected English prose, probably dating to the mid 8th century. The manuscript is known as the Fragmenta H. Omont No. 3.

Of possible Mercian origin. Some recipes are also in Bald's Leechbook and Lacnunga.

Old English 750 / 850 / 10th century
Herbarium of Pseudo-Apuleius, a compendium of diverse Latin texts. The Latin original seems to have been in circulation in England by the 9th century (800 AD). Latin 800
The Old English Herbarium

A translation into Old English of the so-called Herbarium of Pseudo-Apuleius, a compendium of diverse Latin texts. The Latin original seems to have been in circulation in England by the 9th century (800 AD).

The Herbarium complex contains several works: a group of works giving medicines derived from plants, followed by other, shorter, ones giving medicines derived from animals. The Old English translation of this complex must have met a real need; four copies survive, one of them (London, BL, Harley 6258B, of about 1200) having the herbs arranged in alphabetical order according to their Latin names. There is also evidence that the Latin version was known in England from the eighth century and probably earlier. The oldest surviving manuscript (BL, Harley 585, which also contains other medical texts) was written about 1000 C.E., so that the text may be as much as a century later than Bald's Leechbook, but, as the language shows the characteristics of West Saxon, the translation may belong to the same school which produced the Leechbook.


Old Engish 800+
The Lacnunga Manuscript

The Lacnunga takes its name from an Old English word, læc, which means healing, and its title can be translated as "Remedies." This name does not occur in the manuscript, but was given to the collection by its first editor Oswald Cockayne.

It is one of several documents found in British Library MS. Harley 585, and contains nearly 200 treatments, using medicinal plants and other materials, as well as prayers and incantations. Most of it is written in Old English and Latin, but it also includes material in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Old Irish.

Though the manuscript dates from around 1000 C.E., some of the material it contains is far older. For example, a long charm now known as the "Lorica of Laidcenn" can be dated, based on the language used, to the 800s.

Old English / Latin / Aramaic / Hebrew / Greek / Old Irish 800-1000
Balds Leechbooks

A complete medical work in three seperate sections of Old English, dating from sometime in the 10th century (900 to 980 A.D.), apparently written at Winchester. It is a copy of an earlier work which may have been commissioned by King Alfred. The manuscript is London BL Royal 12.D, xvii.

The leechbooks are organized into three volumes. Books I and II are a collation of Mediterranean and English medical lore dealing respectively with external (such as skin, teeth, or ear) and internal (such as upset stomach, jaundice, or vomiting blood) problems and even surgery. Book III contains more magical (i.e. ritual) remedies, with longer and more complex charms, and a strong folklore element - plants are given English names (rather than English versions of Latin ones).

At the end of the second book is a Latin verse colophon from which it takes its name beginning Bald habet hunc librum Cild quem conscribere iussit, meaning "Bald owns this book which he ordered Cild to compile." Cild may have been someone with medical experience as well as being the organizer of the book, or he may have simply been a copyist who brought together various sources for Bald. Two doctors are mentioned in the book, Dun and Oxa, but we don't know much else about them.

The manuscript possibly once belonged to Glastonbury Abbey.

Old English c. 899
Regimen Sanitatis Salerni

The Salernitan Rule of Health (commonly known as Flos medicinae or Lilium medicinae - The Flower of Medicine, The Lily of Medicine) is a medieval didactic (instructive and informative) poem, a work of the Schola Medica Salernitana (from which its other name Flos medicinae scholae salerni is derived).

It is believed to have been written sometime during the 12th or 13th centuries, although some sources estimate this to have been as early as 1050.

The poem concerns domestic medical practice such as protective hygienic daily treaties and diet (e.g. it illustrates the therapeutic uses of wine). The true author is unknown but it is commonly attributed to John of Milan. The work itself came to be highly revered as a scholarly medical text and was seriously discussed until the 19th century.

According to tradition, the poem was written for the benefit of Robert Curthose. Robert III (called Curthose for his short squat appearance) (c. 1054 – February 10, 1134) was a Duke of Normandy and an unsuccessful claimant to the throne of England. He was the eldest son of William the Conqueror.

Latin c. 1054 - 1200
Be Eacenum Wife
(On Pregnant Women)
MS. Cott. Tiberius A. III. fol. 40. b. (Miscellany) 1050 AD. Possibly written under the direction of King Alfred (10th century). Old English 1050
Peri Didaxeon

London BL Harley MS 6258 B, ff 51v-66v
Translated from the Greek, there is no direct evidence that this text was known in pre-Conquest England.

The copy (London BL Harley 6258) dates to around 1200, but does bear clear affinites to other Old English works.

This is the only known copy of the translation into Old English of a Latin collection of recipes mainly based on Petrocellus' Practica and Gariopontus material which were probably compiled not earlier than in 1035. The text is imperfect at the end.

Old English/Latin 1035 - late 12th century- 1200
Herbarium Dioscorides Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40-90AD ) was an ancient greek physician, famous for writing 5 herbal books under the title De Materia Medica. These books were copied extensively throughout the centuries.    
Petrocellus' Practica   Latin  
Gariopontus   Latin  
Medicina de Quadrupedibus

ff. 75r–82v: Medicina de quadrupedibus, including texts on the medicinal properties of badgers and mulberry trees, and Sextus Placitus Papiriensis's Liber medicinae ex animalibus, translated into Old English.

Other copies in Cotton MS Vitellius C. iii (ff. 75r-82v), Harley MS 6258B (ff. 44v-51r), and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Hatton 76 (ff. 124v-130r).

Sextus Placitus Sextus Placitus of Papyra, (active ca. 370 CE), an ancient Roman physician, is best known for his Libri medicinae Sexti Placiti Papyriensis ex animalibus pecoribus et bestiis vel avibus Concordantiae.

Placitus wrote fanciful descriptions of medicines derived from animals, and other sources.

Cotton Vitellius C iii

ff. 75r–82v: part of the Medicina de quadrupedibus, including texts on the medicinal properties of badgers and mulberry trees - Sextus Placitus Papiriensis's Liber medicinae ex animalibus, translated into Old English.

Harley MS 585

ff. 106v-114v: Sextus Placitus (attr.), Liber medicinae ex animalibus (4 animals), imperfect. This copy of the short version (A-version) of the treatise is highly imperfect and deals with only four animals, however the composition of the gathering does not indicate the loss of any leaf. Marginal note in Latin 'de cervo' added later, incipit: 'Wið næd/ran slite heortes horn ha/fað', breaking off at 'on gesmyred hraðe hyt gelac/nað'.

Old English 3rd quarter 9th century



Instructional Works

Name Comment Language Date
Capitulare de villis

A set of instructions composed on the orders of Charlemagne for the officials running his estates. (A capitulary was a text containing legislation and/or administrative orders, often on very diverse topics, organised in separate short sections (capitula). This was the normal means by which the legislation of Carolingian rulers was circulated.) The original document was written in Latin.

A Latin version with images here:

An English translation of part of the Latin text can be found at:

A German site:

Latin c. 800 AD
Rectitudines Singularum Personarum

A treatise on the rights and duties of agricultural labourers and tenants, preserved in the twelfth century legal compilation Quadripartitus, but originally written in the tenth century, perhaps for a monastery in Wessex, and reworked in the early eleventh century by Archbishop Wulfstan of York.

Great discussion and translation here:

Be Gescéadwísan Geréfan
(Concerning Sagacious Reeves)

A document detailing all that a good 'reeve' (bailiff, steward; public or royal official) should do for the better running of his estate. The manuscript in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (ccclxxxiii.f.102) dates from about 1100 AD, but the document is probably from the early part of the 11th century (1000 AD).

See my copy of the text and translation here.

  c. 1000-1100
Ælfric's Colloquy

Written by Ælfric (c.950-1020) in Latin, and anonymously translated into Old English in the early 1000s. It is a dialogue between a schoolmaster and his pupils, which may have been used in the monastic schools of Western Europe for the purpose of instruction, and particularly as a device for teaching Latin.
4 manuscripts preserve the Latin text:

C: British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius A. iii, fols. 60b-64b (contains a continuous linear gloss in Old English and has the epilogue (318-end))
J: St John's College, Oxford, Codex No. 154, fols. 204a-221b (early 11th c)
R1: Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp, Codex No. 47, fols. 18a-19b
R2: British Library, Additional MS No. 32246, fols. 16b-17b

OE text with words linked to a glossary and pictures:

My translations:


Latin and Old English 1000
Monasteriales Indicia
(Monastic Signs)
Cotton Tiberius A. III, Christ Church, Canterbury - f. 97v to 101v.
The Monasteriales Indicia is a document containing the description of many signs to be used by monks and nuns of the Benedictine Order - an order that insisted on silence for most of the time. The manuscript is a product of the Benedictine reform and contains a copy of the Rule of St. Benedict the Regularis Concordia (an 'agreement about the rule') as well as the descriptions of the signs to be used.
  mid 11th century



Name Comment Language Date
'Saint Gall Garden Plan'

An entire plan for a monastic complex, drawn sometime between 819 and 826 AD in Reichenau, Switzerland. Text in Latin.

Latin 819-826
Julius Calendar

The earlier version of the 'Labours of the Months'.
BL Cotton Julius A. vi was written and illuminated probably at Christ Church, Canterbury, in the early eleventh century (c.1000-1050). The two cycles of pictures are clearly related closely to each other and the later version may have been copied from the earlier.

For pictures see British Library Images Online collection at
search for each manuscript reference

Tiberius Calendar The later version of the 'Labours of the Months'.
BL Cotton Tiberius B. v was written and illuminated probably at the Old Minster, Winchester, in the second quarter of the eleventh century (c.1025-1050). The two cycles of pictures are clearly related closely to each other and the later version may have been copied from the earlier.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle






The Will of Wynflæd

The last will and testament of Wynflæd a wealthy lady living in Late Saxon England. The text is contained in BL Cotton Ch. viii. 38 and is probably an 11th century copy of an earlier document dated to c. 950 AD.
See my copy of the text and translation here.

Text and translation here:

The will is also documented here (but some of the extrapolated details are incorrect)





Codex Exoniensis (The Exeter Book) The Exeter Book, Exeter Cathedral Library MS 3501, also known as the Codex Exoniensis, is a tenth-century book or codex which is an anthology of Anglo-Saxon poetry. It is one of the four major Anglo-Saxon literature codices, along with the Vercelli Book, Nowell Codex and the Cædmon manuscript or MS Junius 11. The book was donated to the library of Exeter Cathedral by Leofric, the first bishop of Exeter, in 1072. It is believed originally to have contained 131 leaves, of which the first 8 have been replaced with other leaves; the original first 8 pages are lost. The Exeter Book is the largest known collection of Old English literature still in existence.

UNESCO recognized this book as one of the "world's principal cultural artifacts".

Old English c. 960-990





BL Harley MS 585: late 10th early 11th century: Old English/Latin: Medical miscellany

Contents include translations of:

Pseudo-Apuleius, Herbarium (circa 183 plants) (ff. 1r-101v) including Old English translations of two Latin herbals:
Pseudo-Apuleius, Herbarium, imperfect at the beginning (ff. 1r-66v); Pseudo-Dioscorides, De herbis femininis and Curae herbarum (ff. 66v-101v);

Medicina de quadrupedibus (ff. 101v-114v) that includes three texts:
De taxone liber (ff. 101v-104v); De moro (ff. 104v-106v); Sextus Placitus, Liber medicinae ex animalibus (ff. 106v-114v);

A table of contents of Pseudo-Apuleius, Herbarium (ff. 115r-129v);

'Lacnunga' (Leechbook) (ff. 130r-151v, 157r-193r), including the poem Lorica of Lodgen or Lorica of Gildas in Latin (ff. 152r-157r);

Marginal 13th-century glosses in Old English, Middle English and Latin.


Zoomorphic initials (2-6 lines; ff. 30v, 47v, 66v, 73v, 81r, 111v, 130r, 150v, 174r) and decorated initials (2-5 lines; throughout) in brown or red ink (guide letters on ff. 177v and 178r).

Original chapter numbers in Roman numerals in brown ink (ff. 1r-101r) partially substituted by a later numbering (ff. 1r-42r) in red, which agrees with the table of contents. Occasional titles and rubrics in brown or red ink. Marginal pen drawings (ff. 4r, 11v, 17v, 21r, 26v, 30v, 46r, 48v, 57r, 120r, 136v).

Cotton MS Vespasian A VIII, fol. 2v. King Edgar offering his charter to Christ with the Virgin and ST Paul. c.966ad (New Minster Charter)
Add MS 49598: 963-984ad: Latin: (The Benedictional of St. Athelwold) many images of saints (fol 2r embroidered overmantles, veils and dresses; fol 5v embroidered over-mantle; fol 51v white coif;
Cotton MS Vitellius A XV: fols 89v to 106v (Marvels of the East) many unusual illustrations: Old English: 975-1025ad
Harley MS 603: (The Harley Psalter): Latin: many illustrations: 1050-1100
Add MS 61735: c. 1007-1025: The memoranda comprise a list of valuations of livestock, seed, farm implements, ships etc., supplied by Ely Abbey to Thorney Abbey (refounded 972); an inventory of livestock on Ely Abbey farms; a list of rents, in eels, due from fenland belonging to Ely. It is not known whether the notes relate to a gift from Ely to Thorney, or to some other transaction between the two houses. No comparable documents have survived from this period. The reference to land at [Little] Thetford implies a date after 1007, when it was acquired by Ely (Hart, Early Charters (1966), pp. 32, 47)
Stowe MS 944: Liber vitae of New Minster: c 1031 fol 6r King Cnut and Aelfgifu (Emma)
Harley MS 4986: Pharmacopeal compilation: late 11th c: Latin/German : Contents includes:

1. Pseudo-Antonius Musa, De herba vettonica liber (ff. 1*r-2*r, 1r);

2. Pseudo-Apuleius Platonicus, De medicaminibus herbarum liber (ff. 1r-44r);

3. Epistula ad Marcellinum (f. 44v);

4. De taxone liber (ff. 44v-45r);

5. (Pseudo-?) Sextus Placitus, Liber medicinae ex animalibus, with additions (ff. 45r-50r);

6. Anthimus, De observatione ciborum (ff. 51r-56v);

7. Gargilius Martialis, Medicinae ex holeribus et pomis, excerpt (ff. 56v-64r);

8. Theodorus Priscianus, Diaeta (ff. 64r-66r);

9. A text relating to clysters (ff. 66r-66v);

10. Additions to bestiary (ff. 67r-68v);

11. Medical recipes (circa 170 recipes) (ff. 68v-80r).

Decoration: Miniatures of plants and animals in colours (ff. 1*v-50r). Initials in red.

Cotton MS Claudius B IV: 1050-1075ad: Old English Hexateuch (imperfect)

The manuscript contains portions of the Hexateuch, in Old English:

ff. 1r-1v: Ælfric’s preface to Æthelwærd (imperfect).

ff. 1v-72v: Genesis.

ff. 72v-105v: Exodus.

ff. 105v-110v: Leviticus.

ff. 111r-128r: Numbers.

ff. 128v-140r: Deuteronomy.

ff. 140v-156v: Joshua.

The Old English text was written around the second quarter of the 11th century.

Notes in Old English (Kentish) and Latin commentaries and titles (some excerpts from other texts, including Peter Comestor's Historia scholastica, Jerome's translation of Eusebius's De situ et nominibus locorum Hebraicorum and Jerome's Liber quæstionum hebraicarum in Genesim) were added during the 12th century.


Twelve full-page miniatures, in pen outlines and colours (ff. 2r, 19r, 29r, 43v, 49r, 54r, 66r, 67v, 139v, 140r, 143r, 151r).

Many smaller miniatures, ranging from almost full-page to around a quarter of a page in size, throughout the volume, in pen and colours, many in varying stages of completion.

Small, plain initials, in colours.

Cotton MS Tiberius C VI: 1075 ad: Tiberius psalter (feasting scene) fol 5v
Harley MS 55: early 11th c

The volume is made up of fragments from two different manuscripts. The first fragment (ff. 1r-4v; unit A) probably formed the end of the original manuscript, and includes:

Bald, Leechbook, book 2, chapter 59 (ff. 1r-3r);

Laws of King Edgar (r. 959-975) (ff. 3v-4v);

Oswald, archbishop of York (972-992), Statement relating to alienated lands (f. 4v).

The second fragment (ff. 5r-13v; unit B) contains the laws of King Cnut (r. 1016-1035).


ff. 1r-4v: Large chapter initial (2 line; f. 1r) in ink, paragraph initials (one-line; ff. 1r-3v) in ink set between vertical bounding lines.

ff. 5r-13v: Large initials (2-3 lines; ff. 5r, 7v, 13r) in red, paragraph initials touched in red, rubric (f. 5r) in red.



© Rosie Wilkin 2005
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