Census of Bede Manuscripts


Welcome to the website of the Census of Bede Manuscripts, a collaborative, scholarly project to create a definitive list of the medieval manuscript copies of the works of the Venerable Bede.

About the Project

The Venerable Bede (672/3-735) was one of the most prolific and influential intellectuals of the Early Middle Ages, having authored over thirty works, most of which went on to be widely known and studied in the later Middle Ages. Today these works survive in thousands of medieval manucript copies housed in repositories all over the world. Despite the importance of, and wide scholarly interest in Bede's works, however, a definitive accounting of the manuscripts of them remains to be completed. In 1943, Cornell historian M. L. W. Laistner, together with a research assistant, Dr. H. H. King, published A Hand-List of Bede Manuscripts, which was a first step toward such a definitive accounting. Having been undertaken during the Second World War, however, the Laistner-King handlist was by necessity based upon notices of manuscripts in published catalogues, and as a result was marred by numerous omissions and inaccuracies, as was pointed out in several contemporary scholarly reviews. Subsequently, other scholars have built upon the foundations laid by Laistner and King by undertaking more definitive research into the transmission of certain Bedan works, but for many other works no fuller treatment of the manuscript transmission is available.

The aim of the present project, under the editorship of George Hardin Brown (Stanford) and Joshua A. Westgard (University of Maryland), is to create a comprehensive and definitive census of the manuscripts of Bede's works, to replace the badly out-of-date Laistner-King handlist. To that end, we are currently compiling a comprehensive update to the Laistner-King handlist on the basis of studies and manuscript descriptions published since 1943. This preliminary version will be circulated for scholarly comment and correction, and ultimately published in print form. Subsequently, a corrected edition of this list will be made available on the present website in the form of a searchable database. This electronic version will be a permanent and freely accessible scholarly resource, one that will be periodically updated until the definitive accounting of the manuscripts of this important author's works has been completed.

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