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A Commentary on The Old English and Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition

A Commentary on The Old English and Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition

Andy Orchard

ISBN 9780884024774

Publication date: 06/01/2021

This volume is a companion to The Old English and Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition. Its extensive notes and commentary on hundreds of Latin, Old English, and Old Norse–Icelandic riddles illuminate and clarify the multifaceted and interconnected nature of a broad, international tradition. Within this commentary, readers will encounter a deep reservoir of knowledge about riddles produced in both Latin and Old English during the Anglo-Saxon period, and the literatures with which they were in dialogue.

Riddles range from those by prominent authors like Aldhelm, Bede, Alcuin, and Boniface to those presented anonymously in collections such as the Exeter Book. All are fully discussed, with particular attention paid to manuscript traditions, subject matter, solutions, style, sources, parallels, and recommendations for further reading. Consideration is given to running themes throughout the collection, comparisons to other riddles and to other literature more broadly, and important linguistic observations and manuscript readings. The commentary also lists the manuscripts and earlier editions for each riddle, extensive catalogues of proposed solutions, and additional bibliographic references. Following the general discussion of each riddle there is detailed line-by-line annotation.

This authoritative commentary is the most comprehensive examination to date of the bilingual riddle tradition of Anglo-Saxon England and its links to the wider world.


  • A comprehensive new collection beautifully edited…Riddles represent the whole of Anglo-Saxon life. These short pieces range about as widely as possible in tone and form, from ribald cracks to grammar lessons to ornate religious puzzles by the archbishop of Canterbury. For perhaps the first time, Orchard’s collection gathers these early medieval riddles from across centuries and languages.

    —Adrienne Raphael, New York Times Book Review


  • Andy Orchard is Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and a Fellow of Pembroke College, University of Oxford.

Book Details

  • 744 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8 inches
  • Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection

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