From the time when the Anglo-Saxon language sank into English, perhaps we may say from the latter part of the twelfth century, the pure Saxon writings could no longer be understood, and the manuscripts written in that language were regarded as little better than lumber : they were suffered to lie on the shelves of monastic libraries, for want of better books to occupy their place, and, as opportunity occurred, were often erased, and a Latin treatise on some then more valuable and interesting subject written on the same parchment. We have an instance of this latter practice in a manuscript in the library of Jesus College, Cambridge ; where, beneath the Latin decretals which now occupy it, and particularly round the margins of some of the folios, may be traced the remains of a fine copy of Alfric's Saxon sermons. It has not unfrequently happened that valuable Saxon books have been preserved by the circumstance of the same manuscript containing Latin books which were considered much more preciousby the monks to whom they belonged. It is not impro bable that sometimes the monks were induced, by thefact of their possessing such books, to study as far as they were able the older form of their language : the glossary, Latin and Saxon, with Alfric's Saxon grammar of the Latin language, are common manuscripts, and might give them some assistance.

 

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Literature, Popular Superstitions, and History of England in the Middle Ages

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