Bodmin manumissions

  • Latin, Old English
  • prose

A group of 51 records, in Latin and Old English, of grants and manumission, the freeing of slaves, at Bodmin, Cornwall. These records were added to blank spaces and additional leaves of a gospel manuscript, the Bodmin Gospels (BL MS Add. 9381), over a period stretching from about the mid-10th to 11th centuries. They form an important source of information about social history and onomastics. The majority of personal names are Old English, while others are Latin and Old Cornish, making it one of the earliest witnesses of the Cornish language to survive.

  • Latin Old English
  • Secondary language(s): Old Cornish
prose (primary)



Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

Edition wanted
Some of the records were erased and made illegible. Recently, however, as reported on the British Library’s blog, multispectral imaging carried out by Christina Duffy and David Pelteret has helped to uncover some of these texts, including several Cornish personal names present in them.
[ed.] Förster, Max, “Die Freilassungsurkunden des Bodmin-Evangeliars”, in: Niels Bøgholm, A. Brusendorff, and C. A. Bodelsen (eds), Grammatical miscellany offered to Otto Jespersen on his seventieth birthday, Copenhagen, London: Leven & Munksgaard, Allen & Unwin, 1930. 77–99.
[ed.] Stokes, Whitley, “The manumissions in the Bodmin Gospels”, Revue Celtique 1 (1870–1872): 332–345.
Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive: <link>, <link> Internet Archive: <link>
Incl. glossarial index to Celtic words.
[ed.] [tr.] Thorpe, Benjamin, Diplomatarium anglicum aevi saxonici: a collection of English charters, from the reign of King Æthelberht of Kent, A.D. DC. V. to that of William the Conqueror; with a translation of the Anglo-Saxon, London: Macmillan, 1865.
Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive: <link>
623–631 Edition, with modern English translations of the Old English parts.
[ed.] Oliver, George, Monasticon diocesis Exoniensis: being a collection of records and instruments illustrating the ancient conventuel, collegiate, and eleemosynary foundations, in the counties of Cornwall and Devon, Exeter, London: Hannaford, Longman, 1846. <link> View in Mirador
[ed.] Kemble, J. M., Codex diplomaticus aevi Saxonici, vol. 4, London, 1846.
Internet Archive: <link>
[ed.] Gilbert, Davies, The parochial history of Cornwall: founded on the manuscript histories of Mr. Hals and Mr. Tonkin; with additions and various appendices, 4 vols, vol. 3, London: J.B. Nichols and Son, 1838.
Internet Archive: <link>
408–414 An edition later described by Stokes as being “shamefully inaccurate”.

Secondary sources (select)

Padel, Oliver, Slavery in Saxon Cornwall: the Bodmin manumissions, Kathleen Hughes Memorial Lectures, 7, Cambridge: ASNC, 2008.
Pelteret, David A. E., Slavery in early mediaeval England: from the reign of Alfred until the twelfth century, Studies in Anglo-Saxon History, 7, Woodbridge, Suffolk, Rochester, New York: Boydell Press, 1995.
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
August 2022, last updated: June 2023