A catalogue of Western manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries and selected Oxford colleges

MS. Hatton 20

Summary Catalogue no.: 4113

Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care, in the Old English translation attributed to King Alfred; England (perhaps Winchester), 890 × 897


Summary of Contents: The Pastoral Care is believed to be the earliest of the translations from Latin associated with King Alfred, who has been called 'the father of English prose'. This is the only manuscript to survive largely complete from Alfred's time. It was the copy sent by the king to Bishop Wærferth of Worcester, and remained in Worcester until the seventeenth century.
Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care

In the Old English (West Saxon) translation attributed to King Alfred

H. Sweet, King Alfred's West-Saxon Version of Gregory's Pastoral Care, 2 vols., EETS 45, 50 (London) [repr. 1958]
(fol. 1r)
Inscription (Cameron B16.23.2)
(fols 1r-2v)
Alfred's letter to Wærferth (Cameron B9.1.1)
Incipit: (fol. 1r ) Ælfred kyning hateð gretan ƿærferð biscep
Explicit: (fol. 2v) forðy ic ƿolde | ðætt hier ealneg æt ðære stoƿe ƿæren. buton se biscep hie mid him | habban ƿille. oððe hio hƿær to læne sie. oððe hƿa oðre biƿrite:
(fol. 2v)
Metrical preface (Cameron A36)
Incipit: (fol. 2v) Þis ærendgeƿrit agustinus. ofer sealtne sæ suðan gebrohte | iegbuendum sƿa hit ær fore Adihtode dryhtnes cempa rome | papa
Explicit: (fol. 2v) forðæm he his sume ðorfton ða ðe lædenspræ | ce læste cuðon
(fols 3r-5v)
Table of contents (Cameron B.9.1.2)
Incipit: ( fol. 3r) i Ðætte unlærede ne dyrren underfon larioƿdom
Explicit: (fol. 5v) Ðonne hƿa ðis eall gefylled hæbbe hu he ðonne sceal hine selfne ge | ðencean ˥ ongætan ðylæs hine auðer oððe his lif oððe his lar to upa | hebbe.
(fols 6r-98r)
Pastoral Care (Cameron B9.1.3)
Incipit: (fol. 6r) ÞV leofustra broður suiðe freondlice ˥ suiðe fremsumlice ðu me tæl | desð
Explicit: (fol. 98r) Ac ic ðe bidde ðæt ðu | me on ðæm scipgebroce ðisses andƿeardan lifes sum bred geræce ðin | ra gebeda ðæt ic mæge on sittan oð ic to londe cume ˥ arær me mið ðære | honda ðinra geearnunga forðæm me hæf gehefegad sio byrðen min | ra agenra scylda.

A leaf lost after fol. 41, containing part of ch. 33 (extracts made by Jocelyn in the 16th century, when the leaf was still extant, are in Lambeth Palace MS. 692); the present fol. 42 supplied by Junius, who copied the missing text from British Library MS. Cotton Tiberius B. IX.

(fol. 98r)
Metrical epilogue (Cameron A37)
Incipit: (fol. 98r) Ðis is nu se ƿæterscipe ðe us ƿereda god to frofre gehet foldbuendum.
Explicit: (fol. 98r) oððe him lifes drync forloren weorðe
Language(s): Old English
(fols 53v and 55r, margins)
Scribbles, 12th century (Cameron B27.3.33)
"(fol. 53v) ƿillimot writ þus oððe bet"
"(fol. 55r) ƿrit þus oððe bet oððe þine hyde forlet"
Language(s): English
(fols. 1r-43r, 94v, 95)

Glosses by the Tremulous Hand of Worcester, 13th century

Language(s): Latin

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment
Extent: i (paper) + i (medieval parchment) + 41 + i (17th-century supply-leaf) + 56 + i (paper) leaves
Dimensions (leaf): c. 270-6 × 212-8 mm.
Dimensions (written): 205-225 × 157-175 mm.
Foliation: i, ii, 1-99


(fols. 1-41, 43-98:) 12 | 2-58, 68 wants 8 after fol. 41, 7-138. All folios in Quires 7 and 9 are singletons, and also folios 2 and 7 in Quire 6, and 3 and 6 in Quire 4 (Franzen 1998, p. 12).


Ruled on hair side for 21-31 long lines. Single bounding lines, but Quires 5-7 have double inner binding lines (Franzen 1998, p. 11).


One main hand, 'a pointed Anglo-Saxon minuscule' (Ker).

Another hand on fols. 6v, 8r, 12r-14r, 15r-v, 40r, 45b, 46v, 48v-49r, 49r-53v, 67v-69v, 98v (Ker).

A third hand supplies Alfred's preface on an independent quire of two leaves (Ker).

A fourth scribe wrote verses on fol. 2v (Watson).

Annotations in an 11th century hand in Alfred's preface, identified as the hand of Archbishop Wulfstan (D. Scragg, A conspectus of scribal hands writing English, 960-1100 (2012), no. 307).

Fols 53v and 55r): an English Vernacular Minuscule using insular forms. ‘a’: insular ‘ð’: long ascender curving to the right and a round bowl ‘ƿ’: with long tapered descender. s. xii

Latin annotations by the so-called Tremulous Hand (Franzen 1998).


Titles of chapters are in red, often metallic.

Initials are black filled with yellow, red and green on their own or in combination and have zoomorphic, interlace or other decoration. Sometimes colours are used to fill letters or ˥ which follows a mark of punctuation or other letters 'chosen for no apparent reason' (Franzen 1998, p. 11).

There is a hardpoint drawing on fol. 5v.

Additions: Annotations by Archibishop Wulfstan, s. xi1, and other readers, s. x. John Joscelyn's notes appear on fols 1r and 69v and Dugdale's on fol. ii (Ker 1957, p. 385).


Rebound, s. xvii/ xviii, along with MSS. Hatton 76, Hatton 115 and Hatton 116 (Franzen 1998, p. 11).


Origin: Between 890 and 897 ; southern England, perhaps Winchester. ‘+ ÐEOS BOC SCEAL TO ǷIOGORA CEASTRE’ on fol. 1 shows that this was the copy of the translation sent to Werferth, bishop of Worcester (-897). It must date from after the accession of Plegmund to the archbishopric of Canterbury in 890: Plegmund is named in this capacity on fol. 2r, and is also named as one of the three recipients of copies in a note formerly in British Library MS. Cotton Tiberius B. XI (Ker, p. 257, no. 195, Plegmund's copy, now mostly destroyed; the third copy, not extant, was made for Swithulf, bishop of Rochester).

Provenance and Acquisition

Worcester cathedral priory: sent to Worcester by order of King Alfred; annotated at Worcester in the 11th and 13th centuries (the Tremulous Hand); perhaps used at Worcester by Joscelyn in the 16th century.

Borrowed by Christopher, Lord Hatton before August 1644 and was used by Dugdale, for his Old English-English dictionary, and Junius, who supplied the missing text on fol. 42.

After Hatton's death it was sold to the London bookseller Robert Scot, who sold it to the Bodleian Library in 1671 (Franzen 1998, p. 10).

Record Sources

Adapted (Sept. 2021) with minor revisions from the description created for The Production and Use of English Manuscripts 1060 to 1220 by Orietta Da Rold with the assistance of Hollie Morgan and Sanne van der Schee with reference to published scholarship (2010; 2012) Previously described in the Summary Catalogue.


To ensure its availability to future readers, access to this item is restricted, and readers are asked to work from reproductions and published descriptions as far as possible. To apply to see the original, please send a message to specialcollections.enquiries@bodleian.ox.ac.uk, outlining the subject of your research, the importance of this item to that research, and the resources you have already consulted.

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (7 images from 35mm slides)


Ker, N. R., ed., The Pastoral Care, Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile (Copenhagen: Rosenhilde and Bagger 1956), vol. 6
Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts in Microfiche Facsimile (Tempe, AZ: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1998), vol. 6: Worcester Manuscripts


    Online resources:

    Printed descriptions:

    Gneuss, Helmut, and Michael Lapidge, Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: A List of Manuscripts and Manuscript Fragments Written or Owned in England up to 1100 (Toronto, 2014), item 626
    Franzen, Christine, Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts in Microfiche Facsimile (Tempe, AZ: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1998), vol. 6: Worcester Manuscripts
    Watson, Andrew G., Catalogue of Dated and Datable Manuscripts c. 435-1600 in Oxford Libraries (Oxford; New York: Clarendon Press, 1984), no. 517
    Otto Pächt and J. J. G. Alexander, Illuminated Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library Oxford, III (1973), no. 18, pl. I)
    Ker, N. R., Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957; repr. 1990), item 324

Last Substantive Revision

2021-10: Matthew Holford: description revised for digitization, based on da Rold/Morgan/van der Schee and other published descriptions; manuscript not seen.