Cambridge, University Library, MS Ll. 1. 10 Unit: section 2, ff. 2-99Book of Cerne prayerbook

  • Latin
  • Old English
  • s. ix1
  • composite manuscript
  • English manuscripts
  • parchment

Southumbrian, probably Mercian liturgical manuscript of the early 9th century containing extracts from the four Gospels, a collection of hymns and prayers, and an abbreviated Psalter. It is introduced by an Old English exhortation to prayer and concludes with a dramatic piece about the Harrowing of Hell. Signs of Irish influence in the style and contents of the manuscript have led scholars to regard the Book of Cerne as a witness to a shared Hiberno-Saxon monastic culture, although some of the details are disputed.

Ll. 1. 10
Part of
Cambridge, University Library, MS Ll. 1. 10 = Book of Cerne (composite) [s. xiii/xiv + s. ixin + s. xivex/xvin]
Book of Cerne prayerbook
prayers and hymns gospelbooks
Provenance and related aspects
Latin Secondary: Old English
s. ix1
9th century: c.820-840, Brown (1996).
Origin, provenance
Origin: MerciaMercia

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Worcester cathedralWorcester cathedral

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ass. with Æthelwald [bishop of Lichfield]Æthelwald ... bishop of Lichfield
Entry reserved for but not yet available from the subject index.

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The prevalent view, especially following an in-depth study by Michelle Brown (1996), is that the manuscript is likely of (western) Mercian origin and can be dated to the early 9th century, c.820x840s. Its use of Insular script most closely resembles Mercian charters of this period and may point to Worcester or Lichfield as the place of writing. More generally, it represents a Mercian script province (Schriftprovinz) which extended to Kent and Wessex. Artistically, it belongs to the Tiberius group of manuscripts. The geographical distribution of this group below the Humber combined with the historical background of Mercian-Kentish relations hints at a wider cultural context in which the Book of Cerne was produced. Brown also noted similarities in style with the Lichfield Gospels (s. viii), the origin of which is hotly debated but which she assigns to Lichfield rather than Wales/St. Teilo (Brown 2007; cf. Brown 1996: 167). Much discussion has focused on the evidence of two references to an Æthelwald in the manuscript: an Aedeluald episcopus is named in the acrostic on f. 21r and later, in the rubric on f. 87v, an Oeðelwald episcopus is credited with excerpting Psalms for the breviate Psalter. See the table of contents for details. On the basis of the acrostic and “presumably (if not necessarily)” the rubric, in conjunction with links pointing to Mercia/Lichfield, she suggests that the manuscript can plausibly be associated with Æthelwald, bishop of Lichfield (r. 818-830).

Later provenance: CerneCerne

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The three units were brought together at Cerne (Dorset), possibly as late as the 16th century.
Later provenance: ass. with John Moore [bishop of Norwich and Ely]Moore (John) ... bishop of Norwich and Ely
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In the possession of John Moore, bishop of Norwich and Ely.
Hands, scribes
According to Brown (1996), “its maker was undoubtedly drawing heavily upon a number of earlier sources” (156), which evince different textual traditions (Ch. 5), including a Hiberno-Latin strand. Dumville argued in 1972 that the Book of Cerne is “no more than a poor copy possibly at more than one remove from the exemplar” and that this exemplar was associated with Æthelwold, bishop of Lindisfarne (d. 740). Brown, however, has questioned the arguments for this thesis.
Codicological information
UnitCodicological unit. Indicates whether the entry describes a single leaf, a distinct or composite manuscript, etc.
composite manuscript
Foliation / Pagination
Twelve quires: 1 (ff. 2-8; first leaf is wanting); 2 (ff. 9-16); 3 (ff. 17-26; leaf 5 is wanting, cancelled); 4 (ff. 27-42); 6 (ff. 43-52); 7-12 (ff. 53-99).
Palaeographical information
Category: Insular minuscule

‘Phase II minuscule’, according to T. Julian Brown’s classification of Insular script.

Like the Book of Nunnaminster, the Royal Prayer Book and the Harley Prayer Book fragment, it is considered to be a Mercian representative of a Southumbrian school of liturgical illuminated manuscripts known as the Tiberius (or Canterbury) group, all datable to the 8th or 9th century. These share a number of stylistic traits, notably in their zoomorphic style of decoration and display scripts.(1)n. 1 London, British Library, MS Harley 2965 (Book of Nunnaminster); London, British Library, MS Royal 2 A xx (Royal Prayer Book); London, British Library, MS Harley 7653 (Harley Prayer Book). Other representatives of this group include: London, British Library, MS Cotton Tiberius C ii (the Tiberius Bede), after which the entire group is named; London, British Library, MS Cotton Vespasian A i (Vespasian Psalter); London, British Library, MS Royal 1 E vi; Stockholm, National Library of Sweden, MS A. 135; Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, MS Barberini Lat. 570 (Barberini or Wigbald Gospels).
Table of contents

Links to texts use a standardised title for the catalogue and so may or may not reflect what is in the manuscript itself, hence the square brackets. Their appearance comes in three basic varieties, which are signalled through colour coding and the use of icons, , and :

  1. - If a catalogue entry is both available and accessible, a direct link will be made. Such links are blue-ish green and marked by a bookmark icon.
  2. - When a catalogue entry does not exist yet, a desert brown link with a different icon will take you to a page on which relevant information is aggregated, such as relevant publications and other manuscript witnesses if available.
  3. - When a text has been ‘captured’, that is, a catalogue entry exists but is still awaiting publication, the same behaviour applies and a crossed eye icon is added.

The above method of differentiating between links has not been applied yet to texts or citations from texts which are included in the context of other texts, commonly verses.


While it is not a reality yet, CODECS seeks consistency in formatting references to locations of texts and other items of interest in manuscripts. Our preferences may be best explained with some examples:

  • f. 23ra.34: meaning folio 23 recto, first column, line 34
  • f. 96vb.m: meaning folio 96, verso, second column, middle of the page (s = top, m = middle, i = bottom)
    • Note that marg. = marginalia, while m = middle.
  • p. 67b.23: meaning page 67, second column, line 23
The list below has been collated from the table of contents, if available on this page,Progress in this area is being made piecemeal. Full and partial tables of contents are available for a small number of manuscripts. and incoming annotations for individual texts (again, if available).Whenever catalogue entries about texts are annotated with information about particular manuscript witnesses, these manuscripts can be queried for the texts that are linked to them.



London, British Library, MS Harley 2965 (Book of Nunnaminster); London, British Library, MS Royal 2 A xx (Royal Prayer Book); London, British Library, MS Harley 7653 (Harley Prayer Book). Other representatives of this group include: London, British Library, MS Cotton Tiberius C ii (the Tiberius Bede), after which the entire group is named; London, British Library, MS Cotton Vespasian A i (Vespasian Psalter); London, British Library, MS Royal 1 E vi; Stockholm, National Library of Sweden, MS A. 135; Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, MS Barberini Lat. 570 (Barberini or Wigbald Gospels).
See also the parent manuscript for further references.

Primary sources This section typically includes references to diplomatic editions, facsimiles and photographic reproductions, notably digital image archives, of at least a major portion of the manuscript. For editions of individual texts, see their separate entries.

[dig. img.] Cambridge Digital Library, Online: University of Cambridge, 2011–present. URL: <http://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk>.
[ed.] Kuypers, Arthur B., The prayer book of Aedeluald the bishop, commonly called the Book of Cerne, Cambridge: at the University Press, 1902.
Internet Archive: <link>

Secondary sources (select)

Gneuss, Helmut, and Michael Lapidge, Anglo-Saxon manuscripts: a bibliographical handlist of manuscripts and manuscript fragments written or owned in England up to 1100, Toronto Anglo-Saxon Series, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014.
41–42 [id. 28.]
Binski, Paul, Patrick Zutshi, and Stella Panayotova [ass.], Western illuminated manuscripts: a catalogue of the collection in Cambridge University Library, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. xxiv + 506 pp.
Brown, Michelle P., “The Lichfield Angel and the manuscript context: Lichfield as a centre of Insular art”, Journal of the British Archaeological Association 160 (2007): 8–19.  
It has long been surmised that Lichfield, which at the end of the 8th and beginning of the 9th centuries even served as England's third archbishopric for a time, may have been a notable centre of religious culture. None the less, the site's traumatic history of despoliation by Viking and puritanical Civil War forces has led to an absence of artworks in situ or of early archives. The recent excavation by Warwick Rodwell of what is thought to be the shrine of St Chad, including the carefully deposited remains of an imposing sculptural slab depicting an angel has gone some considerable way towards rectifying such lacunae. The angel probably formed half of an Annunciation panel which acted as a gable end from a stone house-shaped tomb, for which formal and stylistic parallels are here adduced. These would suggest a date for the piece of late 8th or early 9th century, a time when kings Offa and Coenwulf of Mercia were both patronising Lichfield. Remarkably, the angel retains much of its original polychrome pigmentation and the unusual palette, consisting of shades of purple, white and black—not the most obvious colours to use for stone sculpture—raises interesting connections with two manuscripts that have been associated with early Lichfield: the Lichfield Gospels and the Book of Cerne. This paper goes on to explore the relationship between these works and concludes that the Lichfield Gospels was made during the mid-8th century, probably at Lindisfarne but for another centre which is likely to have been Chad of Lindisfarne's shrine at his foundation of Lichfield. This book features a palette of purples and white, perhaps prompted by Bedan exegesis, and the stone sculptures added to Chad's shrine around 800 may have been coloured similarly to complement the Gospelbook. The Book of Cerne, probably made for Bishop Aethelwald of Lichfield (818–30) also features these colours, inter alia, and its St John evangelist symbol offers the closest analogy for the treatment of the angel's plumage, further reinforcing the likelihood of a Lichfield origin for this important prayerbook.
Howlett, David, “‘Tres linguae sacrae’ and threefold play in Insular Latin”, Peritia 16 (2002): 94–115.
Incl. discussion of the acrostic.
Brown, Michelle P., “Mercian manuscripts? The ‘Tiberius’ group and its historical context”, in: Michelle P. Brown, and Carol Ann Farr (eds), Mercia. an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in Europe, London, New York: Leicester University Press, 2001. 278–290.
Brown, Michelle P., The Book of Cerne: prayer, patronage, and power in ninth-century England, The British Library Studies in Medieval Culture, London: British Library, 1996.
Sims-Williams, Patrick, Religion and literature in Western England, 600-800, Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England, 3, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
263, 274, 276, 279, 281–285, 288–292, 302, 310, 313–314, 317–322, 325, 333
Brown, T. Julian, “The Irish element in the Insular system of scripts to circa A.D. 850”, in: Heinz Löwe (ed.), Die Iren und Europa im früheren Mittelalter, 2 vols, vol. 1, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1982. 101–119.
Dumville, David N., “Liturgical drama and panegyric responsory from the eighth century? A re-examination of the origin and contents of the ninth-century section of the Book of Cerne”, The Journal of Theological Studies NS 23 (October, 1972): 374–400.
Henry, Françoise, Irish art during the Viking invasions, 800-1020 A.D., London: Methuen, 1967.
Kenney, James F., “Chapter VII: Religious literature and ecclesiastical culture”, in: James F. Kenney, The sources for the early history of Ireland: an introduction and guide. Volume 1: ecclesiastical, Revised ed., 11, New York: Octagon, 1966. 622–744.
720–722; cf. 724–725 [id. 578.]

External links

C. A., Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
December 2019, last updated: November 2022