The Tremulous Hand of Worcester: A Study of Old English in the Thirteenth Century

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The shaky handwriting of the thirteenth-century scribe known as `the tremulous hand of Worcester' appears in at least twenty manuscripts dating from the late ninth to the twelfth century, glossing perhaps 50,000 Old English words, sometimes into Middle English, but much more often into Latin. This book examines the full range of the scribe's work and addresses some important questions, such as which of the Worcester glosses may be attributed to him, why he glossed the words he did, what the purpose of the glossing may have been, and how well he knew or came to know Old English. Christine Franzen argues that the scribe went through a methodical learning process, one step of which was the preparation of a first-letter alphabetical English-Latin word list, the earliest known in the English language. This first full-scale study of the Worcester glosses is important for the wealth of information it provides about the work methods of the tremulous scribe, the English language at a transitional point in its history, and about the ability to read Old English in the thirteenth century.