Skip to content

Cambridge » University Library » MS Gg.5.35

Library Place Cambridge
Library Name University Library
Shelfmark MS Gg.5.35
Folio Range Whole MS (454 fols)
Date XI med.
  • England
  • Canterbury

Canterbury (Saint Augustine's Abbey)


The contents of this large codex include:

  • Juvencus, Evangeliorum libri (1r-52v)
  • Sedulius, Carmen Paschale and other poems (53r-84r)
  • Arator, Historia Apostolica and other poems (84v-126r)
  • Prosper, Epigrammata (126v-147v)
  • Prudentius, Psychomachia and Dittochaeon (148r-166v)
  • Lactantius, De ave Phoenice (167r-169v)
  • Boethius, De consolatione Philosophiae (170r-209v)
  • Rhabanus Maurus, De laudibus sancte crucis (209v-262r)
  • Hucbald of St Amand, De harmonica institutione (263r-276r)
  • Aldhelm, De virginitate (280r-326v)
  • Milo, De sobrietate (327r-361v)
  • Lapidary poem (362r)
  • Hymn on All Saints, inc. Aula superna poli reboet modulamine dulci (362v-363r)
  • Abbo of St Germain, Bella Parisiacae urbis (book III only) (363v-365r)
  • Various hymns and poems (365v-369v)
  • Aenigmata by Eusebius, Tatwine, Boniface, Symposius, Aldhelm and Bede (370r-377v, 382r-384v, 389r-406v, 418v)
  • Pseudo-Alcuin, two specula principum (378r-380v)
  • Versus cuiusdam Scoti de alfabeto (381r-v)
  • Hymn Sancte sator legis lator suffragator largus dator (388v)
  • Alcuin's Epitaph (388v)
  • Epistula and Disticha Catonis (407r-412r)
  • Pseudo-Columbanus, Praecepta vivendi (412v-415v)
  • Bede, Versus de die iudicii (416r-418r)
  • Oswald of Ramsey 'On composing verse' (419r)
  • Hymn Terrigene bene nunc laudent ut condecet almum (419v)
  • Hisperic poem Rubisca (419v-420r)
  • Hisperic poem Adelphus Adelpha Meter (420r-v)
  • Greek alphabet, Incipit numerus grecorum ab uno usque ad millenarium (420v)
  • Greek prayers and other religious poems (420v-422r, 423r-v)
  • Medical riddle and verses, and a medical tract (422v-423r, 425v-431v, 444v-446v)
  • Bibliotheca magnifica de sapientia, inc. Me sine matre pater genuit pariente puellam (423v-425r)
  • The so-called 'Cambridge Songs' and other miscellaneous poems (432r-444r).
Old Breton Materials Yes
Irish / Hiberno-Latin materials Yes
Connection with Brittany

This is a large and complex English manuscript with an extensive associated bibliography (see especially Rigg and Wieland 1975 for an excellent overall description, although when that article was written the Brittonic glosses had not yet been identified), and only some of the most relevant points can be addressed here. For our purpose, the most interesting aspect of this MS is the fact that it contains copies of two rare Hisperic poem of possible Irish or Breton origin: Rubisca and Adelphus Adelpha Meter, both of which are accompanied by Latin as well as Brittonic glosses. The former text only carries one vernacular gloss on fol. 420r, where the word anficuruo is glosses circum aincrum (Herren 1987: 20, 160); as has been shown by Lambert (1989: 88), the word aincrum is actually a scribal error for amcrum, a perfect calque on the Hisperic term anficuruo, which must mean 'curved round' (cf. Herren 1987: 100–1). As a consequence, this gloss shows that the scribe of the Cambridge MS copied the poem Rubisca from an exemplar that already contained the Brittonic word in question—a word which, clearly, he could not understand (note that the other copy of Rubisca, i.e. Paris, Bibl. Sainte-Geneviève, MS 2410, does not contain Brittonic glosses). On the other hand, there are no vernacular glosses to the poem Adelphus Adelpha Meter, although we must consider that the other extant copy of this poem—Saint-Omer, BM, MS 666, fols 43r-v—does contain no less than thirteen Brittonic glosses.

Now, given that the Cambridge MS was certainly written in an English scriptorium (most likely in St Augustine's Abbey at Canterbury, possibly 'shortly after the Norman occupation', as suggested in Herren 1974b: 71), how can we be sure that the Brittonic gloss amcrum is specifically Old Breton, and not Old Cornish? After all, these two languages were basically undistinguishable in the Early Middle Ages. The answer is a probabilistic one; in particular, we must consider that a strong Breton interest in Hisperic literature is confirmed by (1) the existence of Breton copies of the Hisperica Famina (cf. Herren 1974a: 7–10), and by (2) the composition of Hisperic texts on the part of some Breton literati (cf. e.g. Lemoine 1988; 1995). Moreover, the vernacular glosses on Adelphus Adelpha Meter that occur in the Saint-Omer MS were either composed by a Breton scholar working at Saint-Bertin in the tenth century or were copied there from a Breton exemplar (for some early links between Brittany and Saint-Bertin, see Ugé 2005: 20–4); in the latter case, some vernacular glosses might theoretically have been present in the exemplar from which the poem was copied unto the Cambridge MS but could have been deliberately omitted by the English scribe, who did not understand them and therefore found them irrelevant. In view of these elements, positing a Breton exemplar for the Hisperic texts in Cambridge Gg.5.35 seems to be the simplest solution, although admittedly it is difficult to tell whether both of these texts were copied from a single Breton exemplar, or rather from distinct exemplars—certainly Breton in the case of Rubisca, but only possibly Breton in the case of Adelphus Adelpha Meter (cf. Herren 1987: 22). Lapidge has argued that the two above-mentioned Hisperic texts may have been composed in Brittany and then brought from there to England by the grammarian Israel—who may well have been Breton—during the first half of the tenth century (Lapidge 1992: 104–10, 113; for the controversial issue of Israel's nationality and biography, see Deuffic 2008: 123–4; Cinato 2020: 250–6). For the Old English glosses in this MS, cf. Ker 1957: 21–2 (§16).

Number(s) in Bischoff's Katalog n/a
Essential bibliography

ASM 25–6 (§12); Bauer 2008: 133 (erroneously ascribing the Old Breton gloss medot to this MS); Cinato 2020: 260 (n. 40), 261–2; DGVB 5; Hardwick and Luard 1856–67: III, 201–5 (§1567); Herren 1974b: 71–2; Herren 1987: 18–23, 160; Jenkinson 1908: xxxvi–xxxviii; Ker 1957: 21–2 (§16); Lambert 1989: 88; Lambert 2018: 40; Lapidge 1992: 104–8; Lemoine 2010: 221; L&S §897; OHLP 881; Rigg and Wieland 1975; Schrijver 2011: 11; The Calendar and the Cloister; Wieland 1983.

URLs for digital facsimile
Last Updated 2021-06-12 10:26:53
Author Jacopo Bisagni
DHBM Identifier #40
« Previous MSS

Cambridge » University Library » MS Dd.10.16

Next MSS »

Chartres » BM » MS 21 (28)