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New Medieval Books: Recovering Old English

Recovering Old English

By Kees Dekker

Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 978-1-009-37169-8

By the 16th century, Old English was a language that could not be understood by the vast majority of the people in England. However, it was at this time that some scholars began to collect, edit and study these writings. This book tells the story of their work and achievements in preserving a medieval language.


This Element explores these philological activities of scholars involved in the recovery of OE in the period between circa 1550 and circa 1830 by examining approaches to documents, language and texts, starting from the four processes to which I have already referred: collecting, recording, editing and studying OE. The developments in these four processes are essential for our understanding of how the knowledge of OE was restored, how its lexicon and grammar gradually came to be understood, and how texts written in OE met with their early modern audiences. I will conclude with a preview of the transition from pre-modern to modern philology in the early 19th century. Each section provides readers with a set of stepping stones which will facilitate further explorations and new inroads.


Who is this book for?

While it is only about 80 pages long, this short book will interest two groups – those who research the Old English language, and those who research the development of medieval historiography. It is a fascinating look at how people in early modern England looked back at their medieval past.

The author

Kees Dekker is a Senior Lecturer in Older English Language and Literature at the University of Groningen. Click here to view his page.


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