Why CH I.15-22?

One feature shared by successful digital editions of Old English texts is their carefully limited scope. Kiernan’s Electronic Beowulf examines one text from a single manuscript; his Electronic Boethius reproduces one text from three manuscripts; Muir’s MS. Junius 11 deals with one manuscript as a whole. Experience with dedicated but all-too-busy academics suggests that editing all forty homilies in the First Series would require another decade of work; consequently, we have chosen to focus on only eight: Catholic Homilies I.15-22. The choice, however, is a strategic one: this set of homilies covers a key period in the liturgical year, Easter to Pentecost; their importance is attested by the fact that they are reproduced both individually and as a block in twenty-eight manuscripts produced in at least five scriptoria for over two hundred years following their composition. Most importantly, perhaps, they provide unique insight into the development and re-use of the First Series, as they are the only homilies with copies to survive from each of Clemoes’ six posited phases of First Series production. By enabling scholars to move beyond the printed edition to examine the evidence for the dynamic development of these texts directly, we aim to bring new perspective to the creation and afterlife of this key Old English corpus.