Categories of Liturgical Sources in Anglo-Saxon England

The place to begin in discussing A-S liturgical minutae is with the state of primary sources—what are they and how may they be categorized? How will I know where to find what items?

The most comprehensive resource I know of is a 1985 article printed in a festschrift for Peter Clemoes: Helmut Gneuss, “Liturgical books in Anglo‑Saxon England and their Old English terminology,” pages 91-141 in Learning and literature in Anglo-Saxon England : studies presented to Peter Clemoes on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday, edited by Michael Lapidge and Helmut Gneuss (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

What makes this article invaluable is that Dr. Gneuss has laid out the major types of books according to liturgical use, then categorized every surviving A-S liturgical sources known to him within his typology. Here are his headings from page 99:

BOOKS FOR THE MASS
A Missal and Sacramentary
B Gradual
C Troper
‑ Mass Lectionaries ‑  
D Gospel‑Book and Gospel Lectionary
E Epistolary
BOOKS FOR THE OFFICE
F Breviary
G Collectar
H Psalter
J Antiphoner
K Hymnal
‑ Office Lectionaries ‑  
L Bible
M Homiliary
N Legendary
O Books with special offices
BOOKS FOR THE CHAPTER OFFICE
P Martyrology
Q Regula S. Benedicti and Chrodegang’s Regula canonicorum
EPISCOPAL BOOKS AND RITUALS
R Pontifical
S Benedictional
T Manual
OTHER BOOKS
U Consuetudinary
W Prayer‑Books and Private Prayers
X Liturgical Calendar
Y Confraternity Book

This set of typologies is incredibly helpful for thinking through different kinds of liturgical materials. The danger in seeing a typology like this, however, is assuming that since these categories exist epistemologically that they exist in reality—that each section represents a kind of book one might find in a monastic library. This is not the case… Inevitably, certain kinds of material travel together. For instance, it is quite common for a “Psalter” to be much more than Gnuess’s category H. Indeed, most physical psalters contain H (the Book of Psalms) but this is preceded by X (a liturgical kalendar) and followed by K (a hymnal).

Nevertheless, Gneuss’s categories are a great place to begin for learning about the range of early medieval liturgical materials.

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2 Responses to Categories of Liturgical Sources in Anglo-Saxon England

  1. What do you find in an antiphoner? Have any of them been translated?

  2. Antiphons…

    Seriously, though, I’ll take these up in turn and work briefly through each category; I’ll talk about what’s in them then and try to point to relevant available material for study.

    Regrettably, no antiphoners have survived from A-S England…

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