Dr Chris Monk translations

Christopher Monk is a historical research consultant and educator working in the creative and heritage sectors. He specialises in the Middle Ages, particularly the culture of early medieval England (c.500-c.1100). He has worked with Rochester Cathedral since 2013, collaborating on its ‘Hidden Treasures, Fresh Expressions’ project, financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and several other organisations. He helped to produce the multi-media outputs for the project’s exhibition on Textus Roffensis, the Cathedral’s most important medieval book, a manuscript that has been recognised as ‘Britain’s greatest hidden treasure’.

In these web pages, Chris will be gradually releasing his translations of Old English and Latin documents from Textus Roffensis (Rochester, Cathedral Library, MS A. 3. 5). The focus is on texts that have yet to be translated, or fully translated, elsewhere – or, if they do exist, are not readily accessible.

Medieval languages present many challenges to the translator. Dr Monk explains: ‘It is difficult to decide how much one should preserve medieval idiom. Certain words or turns of phrase may be obscure to the modern reader, because they’re very much part of the medieval world they were used in, and so I need to translate in a way that clarifies the meaning or sense. Sometimes, however, I really want the audience to “hear” the medieval voice, and so I decide to use a modern cognate that best preserves the flavour of the original language. Translation is always a compromise.’

Following each translation there is a modern edition of the original language as it appears in the actual manuscript. The emphasis is on accessibility rather than academic convention. Dr Monk has, for example, indicated where he has expanded the scribe’s abbreviations rather than just do so silently, and he has represented the different colours of ink in the manuscript, such as using a red font for rubrics. ‘I want non-experts to be able to read the text directly from the manuscript’, Chris explains, ‘and so by comparing the manuscript text with the edition they should be able to do so more easily.’

 

Links are in bold:

Edmund’s First Code: Textus Roffensis, ff. 44r-45r; Translated from Old English and edited

King Edmund assembled a great council at London on the holy Eastertide, both divine and worldly ranks. Oda and Archbishop Wulfstan were there, and many other bishops inquiring about the counsel of their souls and of those who were subject to them…

Æthelred’s Woodstock Code, also known as Æthelred I: Textus Roffensis, ff. 46r-47r; Translated from Old English and edited

This is the decree which King Æthelred and his council decreed at Woodstock for all the people as a remedy of peace in Mercia according to English law…

The anonymous law tract known as Að (‘Oath’): Textus Roffensis, f. 39v; Translated from Old English and edited

An oath of a mass-priest and of a worldly thegn is in English law reckoned as equally dear; and because the mass-priest received what he had through God’s gift of the seven orders of the church, he will have the rights of a thegn…

The anonymous law known as Ordal [‘Ordeal’]: Textus Roffensis, ff. 32r-32v; Translated from Old English and edited

And with this ordeal, we are commanding the command of God and the archbishop and all bishops: No one may come into the church – except the mass-priest and the one who shall undertake the ordeal– after the one who carries in the fire, who heats up the ordeal. Literally, ‘the one who shall go thereto’; a similar phrase is used in the next paragraph…

The anonymous fragment of law known as Pax (‘Peace’): Textus Roffensis, f. 38r; Translated from Old English and edited

Thus far shall be the king’s peace* from his city gate [or ‘gatehouse’] where he is seated, on its four sides. That is 3 miles, and 3 furlongs, and 3 acres, and 9 feet, and 9 spans, and 9 barley-corns…

The anonymous fragment of law known as Walreaf (‘Corpse Robbery’): Textus Roffensis, f. 32v; Translated from Old English and edited

Corpse robbery is an outlaw’s deed. If someone should wish to be acquitted thereof, do so with forty-eight full-born [or ‘noble-born’] thegns…

Æthelred II restores to the see of Rochester at the request of Bishop Godwine six sulungs at Wouldham and one mansa at Littlebrook. A.D. 995: Textus Roffensis, ff. 152r–155r; Translated from Latin and Old English

…With this present charter, I have agreed to restore liberty of the same aforesaid portion of land, in perpetual and immutable inheritance, to the pontifical seat of the church of Rochester, dedicated to the saviour of all, our lord Jesus Christ, and his holy and most blessed apostle Andrew…

Æthelred II restores to the see of Rochester six sulungs at Bromley and the use of forest in the Weald. A.D. 998: Textus Roffensis, ff. 156v–159v; Translated from Latin and Old English

… I Æthelred, glad, benevolent and faithful, and, by the granting of divine mercy, king of the English people, restore to the omnipotent Christ and to his holy apostle Andrew (full brother of the blessed chief of the apostles, Simon Peter), a certain area of land at Bromley…

Æthelred II grants to Bishop Godwine of Rochester fifteen hides at Fen Stanton and Hilton, Hunts. A.D. 1012: Textus Roffensis, ff. 159v–162r; Translated from Latin and Old English

…I Æthelred, king of the nations of all people of Britain, for the attainment of the rewards of the heavenly life, do give by my honourable right hand to a certain Godwine, devoted servant of God, bishop of the diocese of Rochester, and to me as a friend altogether beloved, 15 hides of land in the estate at Fenstanton and at Hilton…

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