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

MS. Laud Misc. 636

Summary Catalogue no.: 1003

The Peterborough Chronicle (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, MS. E); Peterborough, c. 1121-31, c. 1155, and s. xiii/xiv


Summary of Contents: The so-called Anglo-Saxon chronicle was originally compiled in King Alfred's reign and perhaps with his encouragement, and was continued in several versions after his death (Irvine 2015). This manuscript, copied at Peterborough Abbey, is the only version to continue beyond 1079, and is an almost unique witness to historical writing in Old English in the early twelfth century. The later annals are particularly celebrated for the supposedly eye-witness description of William the Conqueror, and for their evidence of linguistic change from Old English to Middle English.
(fols. 1r-91v)
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to 1154 (MS. E, 'The Peterborough Chronicle') (Cameron B.17.9)
Incipit: (fol. 1r/1) Brittene iȝland is ehta hund mila lang
Explicit: (fol. 91v/29) xr(rist) him un

Fol. 91v is very badly worn and the final lines of the chronicle are virtually illegible.

The text is written to the end of the last line of fol. 91v, so the manuscript may 'possibly but not very probably' (Ker) be incomplete.That the manuscript was compiled and written at Peterborough is shown by local entries not found in other manuscript of the Chronicle; local entries for 1041 and 1052 were added in the margin "in the ink and hand of the text" (Ker). The production of the chronicle to 1131 is discussed in more detail by Irvine (2010).

Pr. Irvine 2004
Language(s): Old English
(fols. 86v-90v, margins)
Livere de reis de Brittanie
Incipit: Devant la Natiuite nostre seinur Mil. et .cc. anz vint Brutus le fiz Siluius
Explicit: Apre ly fu ^rei^ eaduuard sun ^fiz^ beau bacheler pruz e vailant

Added, late 13th century or perhaps early 14th century.

Kritische Ausgabe der Anglonormannischen Chroniken: Brutus, Li Rei de Engleterre, Le Livere de Reis de Engleterre, ed. C. Foltys (Berlin, 1962), pp. 45-114
Dean & Boulton 13
Language(s): Anglo-Norman

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment
Extent: i (parchment) + xi (blank paper, unfoliated) + 91 (interleaved with 17th-century paper) + xiv (blank paper, unfoliated) + vii (paper, foliated 92-98) + ii (blank paper, unfoliated) + iv (paper, foliated 99-102) + ii (blank paper, unfoliated) + i (parchment). The main watermarks on the added paper resemble Heawood 1248 and 3499.
Dimensions (leaf): 210 × 145 mm.
Dimensions (leaf): 240 × 165 mm.
(fols. 86-90)
Dimensions (written): c. 170 × 100 mm.
Foliation: 1-102, with several unfoliated leaves (see above, Extent). Foliated in red pencil.


1-710, fols 1-70; 810, + 1 folio after fol. 80, fols 71-81; 910, fols 82-91.


Written in 30 long lines (fol. 91, 29 lines)

Fols 2-7 written in two columns.

Ruled in leadpoint.

Quire 1, fols 1-10, partly ruled in hard point.


Two main scribes, the first copying at intervals in the period 1121-1131, the second c. 1155.

Fols 1r-88v/9: the scribe wrote the text in different stages. Fols 1r-81r/10 was written at the same time. After that the writing changes in aspect and colour of ink, inidicating that the annals up to fol. 88v/9 were probably written in six blocks: 1122, 1123, 1124, 1125-6 ‘lande’, 1126 ‘On þes’- 1127, 1128-31. The hand is a round English vernacular hand which uses both Caroline and insular letter-forms (see, also Ker 1957, p. 425; Whitelock 1954, pp. 14-17; O'Brien O'Keeffe 2003, p. 42; Irvine 2004 , pp. xix-xxii) ‘a’: insular for English and Latin. ‘d’: insular with ascender slightly curving to the right ‘f’: insular. ‘g’: insular. ‘r’: insular. ‘s’: insular. The low and high form of ‘s’ are used indifferently. ‘ð’: the same size as ‘d’, with a median stroke starting usually on the ascender and concluding with a dot to the left. Short and tapered ‘descenders’ curving to the left. Abbreviations infrequent (see, for a full analysis Irvine 2004, pp. xxiv-xxviii) The head of nota ‘˥’ is curved. Other manuscripts copied by this scribe: BL Cotton MS. Tiberius C. i (Clark 1954 and Ker 1957, p. 425); BL Harley MS. 3667 (Clark 1954)

Fols 88v/10-91: Scribe 2 writes in a clear upright and compressed minuscule, using mainly Caroline letter forms (Ker 1957, p. 425; Whitelock 1954, pp. 14-17; Irvine 2004, pp. xxi-xxiii). ‘f’: with a descender often below the line. ‘r’: with a descender often below the line. ‘s’: with a descender often below the line. ‘þ’ used along with ‘th’. ‘ð’ used along with ‘th’. ‘u’ often used instead of ‘ƿ’. ‘ƿ’ used with ‘u’ or ‘uu’. ‘Ƿ’ capital ‘W’ always stands instead of ‘Ƿ’. ‘descenders’ often descend below the line, as they would not normally do in a Latin literary text of this date, and turn to the left at the end. Abbreviations more frequent than Scribe 1 (see, for a full analysis Irvine 2004, pp. xxiv-xxviii) Other manuscripts copied by this scribe: corrections in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 134 (Bishop 1953, p. 440); London, Society of Antiquaries, MS 60, fols 6-71. (Bishop 1953, p. 440)

The addition on fols. 86v-90v in textualis.


Ornamental arabesque initial ‘B’ on fol. 1r, green with decoration in red.(Pächt and Alexander iii. 88)

Years in red; first letter of each annal usually stroked with red.

Plain coloured red initials from fol. 83v onwards (1124) and in the added text on fols. 86v-90v.


'The occasional marginalia in Latin and notas of s. xiii/xiv (e.g. on f. 18) show that the OE text was read and to some extent understood at this date by someone with an interest in local affairs.' (Ker)


Standard binding of the Laudian collection, calf over pasteboard with Laud's arms in gilt; rebacked.

Accompanying Material

Paper leaves were added to the manuscript at the beginning and end, and between the leaves of the manuscript, in the early seventeenth century. Fols 92r-97r contain transcripts by William Lisle from the The Parker Chronicle (CCCC 173, Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, A version). The quire also contains seventeenth-century tables of contents of nine Parkerian homilaries and miscellaneous notes in various hands (O'Brien O'Keeffe 2003, p. 41).


Origin: c. 1121–31; continued c. 1155; additions, late 13th or early 14th century ; England, Peterborough Abbey

Provenance and Acquisition

Peterborough, Northamptonshire, Benedictine abbey of St Peter, St Paul, and St Andrew: (MLGB3: evidence from locally specific contents, including obits, scribbles, etc.). Not identifiable in the surviving catalogues from the abbey.

On fol. 1r there is an erased inscription, s. xiv: ‘alienauerit...sit...et a celesti consolacione alienatus’ (Ker 1957, p. 426).

William Cecil, Lord Burghleigh (1520-1598); in his possession when Laurence Nowell (d. 1576) made a transcription, now London, British Library, Add. 43704 in 1565 while he was in residence at Burghleigh House.

Probably owned by Matthew Parker (d. 1575) by 1566/67, as Parkerian underlinings, scoring in the margin and pointing fingers agree closely with the citations of the Chronicle in A Defence of Priestes Mariages of that date (Whitelock 1954, p. 23).

William Lisle (d. 1637); his annotations throughout.

William Laud, 1638 (fol. 1r).

Part of Laud's third donation to the Bodleian, 1639 (Hunt in the revised Quarto catalogue).

Record Sources

Adapted (Feb. 2022) with 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 George Younge (2010; 2013). (Principal revisions: summary added; bibliographical updates; corrections to provenance; additional description of the Anglo-Norman text, of decoration, and of extent.) Previously described in the Quarto Catalogue (H. O. Coxe, Laudian Manuscripts, Quarto Catalogues II, repr. with corrections, 1969, from the original ed. of 1858–1885).


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Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)
Digital Bodleian (full facsimile from 35mm slides)


    Online resources:


    Bately, Janet M., ed., The Anglo- Saxon Chronicle, A Collaborative Edition: Volume 3, MS A (Cambridge: Brewer, 1986)
    Bishop, Terence Alan Martyn, 'Bibliographical Notes. Notes on Cambridge Manuscripts', Transaction of Cambridge Bibliographical Society, 1 (1949-53), 432-41
    Clark, Cecily, 'Notes on MS. Laud Misc. 636', Medium Ævum, 23 (1954), 71-75
    Dean, Ruth J., and Boulton Maureen B. M., Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts, Anglo-Norman Text Society Occasional Publications Series, 3 (London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 1999)
    Irvine, Susan, ed., The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. A Collaborative Edition: The E-Text (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2004)
    Irvine, Susan, 'The Production of the Peterborough Chronicle', in Reading the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Studies in the Early Middle Ages 23 (2010), 49-66
    Irvine, Susan, 'The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle', in A Companion to Alfred the Great ed. Nicole G. Discenza and Paul E. Szarmach (2015), 344–367
    Ker, N. R., 'Some Notes on the Peterborough Chronicle', Medium Ævum, 3 (1934), 136
    ---, Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957; repr. 1990), item 346
    Laing, Margaret, Catalogue of Sources for a Linguistic Atlas of Early Medieval English (Woodbridge: Brewer, 1993), pp. 138-9
    O'Brien O'Keeffe, Katherine, 'Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud. Misc. 636 (1003), Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (E-text) ("Peterborough Chronicle")', in Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts in Microfiche Facsimile (Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2003), vol. 10: Manuscripts Containing the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Works by Bede, and Other Texts, pp. 41-44
    Watson, Andrew G. Catalogue of Dated and Datable Manuscripts c. 435-1600 in Oxford Libraries (1984), no. 620
    Whitelock, Dorothy, ed., The Peterborough Chronicle: The Bodleian Manuscript Laud Misc. 636, with an appendix by Cecil Clark, Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile, 4 (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1954)

Last Substantive Revision

2022-02-16: Description revised for publication on Digital Bodleian.