Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry: An Edition of Exeter Dean and Chapter MS 3501

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry: An Edition of Exeter Dean and Chapter MS 3501

Article excerpt

The Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry: An Edition of Exeter Dean and Chapter MS 3501, ed. Bernard J. Muir (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 1994). 817 pp. ISBN o-8598-436-3. $45.00.

Nearly sixty years have passed since Krapp and Dobbie's edition of the Exeter Book for Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records; a new complete edition has been a desideratum for some time. In this two-volume work Bernard J. Muir builds on the work done in preparation of his 1992 bibliography of the Exeter Book, and the detailed study he has made of the manuscript, to produce a magisterial edition.

Muir's extensive work with the actual manuscript - by contrast to Krapp and Dobbie, who edited the Exeter Book from facsimile - bears fruit in the noting of over 400 alterations and corrections which bear on the poems' reception and interpretation over the centuries. Space does not permit much analysis of the significance of the addenda, but valuable groundwork has been done for those who wish to pursue the question further.

Muir also revives certain older poem titles - 'The Fates of Men' rather pointlessly becomes 'The Fates of Mortals' - and refers to the entire work as the ExeterAnthology, arguing for a conscious and deliberate selection of poems rather than a haphazard collection. In the Introduction there is little space for lengthy argumentation of this hypothesis; nevertheless, I would have welcomed a fuller discussion of the principles of selection in preference to the editor's dogged pursuit of explanation for the sectional breaks, occasioned by his anxiety to disprove Pat Conner's 'booklet theory' (pp. 18-27). A private battle with Conner is waged in the footnotes; some of these (notes 17, 33 and 101) are unnecessarily snide in tone. …

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