The Heroic Age

A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe

Founded 1998   |   ISSN 1526-1867

Issue 14 (November 2010)  |   Issue Editors: Eileen A. Joy & Andrew Rabin

Laurence Nowell's Edition and Translation of the Laws of Alfred in London, British Library Henry Davis 59

Rebecca Brackmann

Lincoln Memorial University

© 2010 by Rebecca Brackmann. All rights reserved. This edition copyright © 2010 by The Heroic Age. All rights reserved.

Abstract:  : Laurence Nowell, a major figure in the sixteenth-century study of Old English law, laboriously gathered, transcribed, and edited Anglo-Saxon laws, eventually producing an Old English-Early Modern English edition and translation of the Laws of Alfred. Nowell's translation, examined in the context of comparable undertakings by his housemate Arthur Golding, reveals Nowell's strategies for making the Old English laws seem contemporary while still retaining their authoritative status as an object from the distant past. His manuscript's textual and visual emphasis on the royal origin of laws suggests that Nowell's presentation of Old English law as old and yet familiar also had political resonance for contemporary Elizabethan England.

§1.  The study of Anglo-Saxon law has its wellspring in the work of the Elizabethan antiquaries Laurence Nowell (1530–c.1570) and his friend and close associate, William Lambarde (1536–1601).1 Nowell, who served as a secretary to Sir William Cecil (later Lord Burghley), Queen Elizabeth's Secretary of State, was the premier Anglo-Saxonist of his day, and Lambarde found Nowell's transcriptions and lexical notes invaluable in the compilation of his 1568 Archaionomia, the editio princeps of many Old English law codes. Indeed, even though Lambarde had developed some fluency in Old English by the late 1560s, he still used some of Nowell's transcriptions as fair copy when he sent the Archaionomia to the press (Berkhout 1998, 12). However, while Lambarde wrote several treatises that reveal his conception of early English law, Nowell did not.2 The overwhelming majority of the manuscripts in his hand are transcriptions or editions of Old English or later medieval texts, made without commentary. Nowell, whose work stands at the headwaters of Anglo-Saxon studies, has left very little to show us why he undertook his research. Discussions of the Elizabethan antiquaries have assumed that Nowell, like his contemporary Matthew Parker, was motivated by a need for Protestant polemic, but Carl Berkhout has persuasively argued that there is no evidence for this:

It has often, too often, been remarked that the impetus for the sixteenth-century genesis of Anglo-Saxon studies was polemical, not altogether scholarly, and thus suspect or reprehensible.… For Nowell, and for that matter Lambarde, there is no evidence of any such motive. In bringing a refined humanistic background and a broader familiarity with textual issues to bear on the earliest modern comprehension and transmission of Anglo-Saxon texts Nowell provided for his contemporaries immediate standards and examples of sound, impartial scholarship that probably kept them more mindful of textual fidelity and more restrained in their religious or nationalistic enthusiasms than they would have been otherwise (1998, 14).

Nowell's labors, however, need not have been utterly divorced from the "nationalistic enthusiasms" of his day, even if he was less interested in specifically religious texts and more in legal and historical ones. The study of these subjects was tied strongly to the growing sense of English national identity, just as Protestantism was (Helgerson 1992). This article will explore some of Nowell's possible motives for the study of Anglo-Saxon law both by paying careful attention to a work of Nowell's that approached completion, and by extending our awareness of his intellectual milieu. Nowell had little interest in seeing his projects through the press; instead, he made an elaborate manuscript edition and facing-page English translation of the Laws of King Alfred the Great, now London, British Library, Henry Davis Collection 59. This translation and one in a similar treatment of the laws of Ine, now in a private collection, are the only extended compositions by Nowell to survive.3 His translation of Alfred shows us how well he understood the laws and, when his understanding falls wide, can show us how his errors arose. However, we should not only look at Nowell's translation in search of his mistakes. Since translations are also interpretations, his wording and editorial decisions can reveal much about his underlying conception of the Laws of Alfred. Nowell's use of modern idioms, side-by-side with deliberate archaisms, shows him claiming the text as a "modern" one while trying to retain the privileged status of the ancient laws. His translation is not a mechanical carrying-across of Old English into Modern English, but is instead a careful navigation of the alterity of the past and the needs of his present. One of Nowell's acquaintances, Arthur Golding, provides a strong point of comparison, and this exploration will conclude with a discussion of Golding's translations of classical Latin and the light they shed on Nowell's approach to his material.

The Manuscript

§2.  Henry Davis 59 is an exceptional manuscript for many reasons. The book is a codicological showpiece, written on membrane with a carefully-planned scheme for copying and decoration. The project of editing and translating these laws into English must have been of paramount importance to Nowell, to judge by the expensive materials he used—not only parchment, but dark blue, red, and green inks, and even "shell gold," a gold ink made of powdered gold in a matrix (Clemens and Graham 2007, 33). The varied coloring of the initials and, especially, the use of shell gold is limited among Nowell's manuscripts to Henry Davis 59 and the edition of the laws of Ine. His care also shows in the unusually neat script he used, his best display hand, which contrasts sharply with the rapid hand used in most of his other manuscripts. Henry Davis 59 opens with a text attached to the end of the Mosaic preface preceding Alfred's codes in the Domboc:

Ic ÆLFRED cyning þæs togædere gegaderod 7 awritan het monige þære þe ure foregengan heoldon þa me licodon; 7 þa þe me ne licodon ic awearp mid minra witen geþeahte: 7 on oþre wisan bebead to healdanne: for þam ic ne dorst g[e]þrist læcan þæra minra awuht feala on gewrit settan; for þam me wæs uncuþ hwæt þæs þam lician wold þe æfter us wæren (f. 1v). I ÆLFREDE king gathered together & commaunded to be writen of those thinges whiche our praedecessours obserued, so many as liked me & such as I liked not, I reiected by the aduise of my counseyllours, & commaunded them to be otherwise obserued. bycause I durst not praesume to putte in writing any multitude of myne owne decrees, bycause I was vncertayne what would please them that whiche were to cumme after us (f. 2r).4

Ic in the Old English and I in the translation are in a cobalt blue ink, and the next word, Ælfred / Ælfrede is written entirely in gold. This ink has not always adhered well to the writing surface and has flaked off in places, but the effect is still, after 450 years, visually impressive. For the remainder of the preface, Nowell used gold ink for the first letters of Offan, Myrcna, Æþelberhtes, Ælfred, and Westseaxna in the Old English and in their corresponding Modern English.

§3.  After this introductory section, Nowell used colored inks for the initial letters of the rubrics and of the individual codes. For the first eighteen folios he used the same color for the Old English word and its translation. For the first thirteen folios, he only used dark blue and red, alternating which color was used for the code and which for the rubric. Green makes its first appearance on folio 14, and a few leaves after that Nowell seems to abandon his scheme of keeping the colors consistent across the facing pages. It is clear that the colored initials for rubrics and codes were done before the copying of the main text, for on folio 14 recto (a Modern English side) a red B appears on line 12, which is then crossed out in the brown ink of the main text. Nowell apparently wrote the B as the initial for "Be þæm þe beforan biscopum feohtað" which appears on the facing page, folio 13 verso. The English rubrics in his text all translate Be as Of, so the mistake was about which side would contain Old English; this would be obvious if the main text were there. The rubrics themselves are written with a pen that had a more sharply wedge-shaped point than the rounder point of the pen with which he wrote the codes, and are in a lighter brown ink.

§4.  Nowell corrected his text in two stages. A first stage, done with the same nib and ink as the main text, mostly rectified mechanical copying errors such as eye-skip, as on folio 3v: "gif he magas h mete næbbe; Gif he magas næbbe" where he realized that he had skipped ahead due to the repetition of "gif he." Nowell also corrected dropped words as on folio 4r where the word they is written into the left margin of line thirteen after it was left out of the text, and repeated words, such as the struck-through shall, which was the first word of line fourteen on folio 4r but had already been written as the last word of line thirteen. Even in this initial stage, however, Nowell sometimes made changes that were not just corrections of copying errors but instead amended his translation. In line twelve of folio 4r, he began to write frendes to translate magas, as he had in line ten, but stopped after he had written fre, struck the letters through, and wrote kinsfolkes instead. Having done so, he went back to line 10 and wrote kinsfolkes over frendes in that line, although he did not strike through his initial choice of word here. Similar corrections, done on the fly, appear throughout the rest of the translation. The next stage of correction seems to have been done at the same time that the rubrics were written in. Rather than striking text through as in the first phase, in this stage Nowell rubbed the old text out and rewrote it with the same ink and pen that he used to write the rubrics. On folio 23r Nowell scrubbed out his original translation of gerefan and wrote shireue instead; the different shape of pen nib forced a change in his handwriting clearly apparent here. Similarly, in line fourteen kinges shirreue is written over a scrubbed-out section of text. Several other instances of words written in the sharper nib and lighter ink appear throughout the manuscript.

§5.  One last anomaly of the text should be discussed here: a series of pencil or plummet annotations to the translation in a second hand. The pencil notes appear to offer corrections, for instance "shireve" above the re-written "kinges shireue." The bottoms of some of the letters written in plummet seem to have been scrubbed out with the original text, and must have been written before Nowell scraped the vellum to make his changes. Nowell seems to have been defeated by the Old English "Gif hine man on hengene alecge" (Af. 35.2).5 Nowell's translation reads "If he laye him on a" followed by a blank space for the rest of the line (f. 24r). The pencil notes suggest "hang him by the heles" but here Nowell did not take the pencil suggestion as he left the line blank. On the whole, it looks like Nowell offered his translation to someone else for suggestions before he wrote the rubrics and made the final corrections.

§6.  The "someone else" is probably Lambarde. The hand looks like his, although the lettering is so faint that this is hard to determine, and it is difficult to imagine who else would have the knowledge to make suggestions about translating Old English laws. If this is the case, then we can draw some conclusions about the book's purpose and its place in Nowell's corpus. First, it was probably not made for Lambarde's use if Lambarde's Old English had progressed to the point that Nowell took his advice on translation. This can also be inferred from the expensive materials Nowell used—parchment, shell gold, and other ink colors would have been far more costly than the paper and brown ink he used for his other gifts to Lambarde: the Vocabularium Saxonicum (Nowell's Old English-to-Modern English dictionary, now Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Selden supra 63), and a copy of Ælfric's Grammar now London, Westminster Abbey Library MS 30.6 Both of these are inscribed by Lambarde as "ex dono Laurentij Nowelli."7 The Henry Davis manuscript has no such inscription. Certainly Nowell would not have used such costly inks and writing surfaces if the book was for his own private reference, nor would he have written so neatly or corrected so assiduously.

§7.  If this manuscript was not made for Lambarde, and I do not think it was, then what was its purpose? Probably Nowell prepared this manuscript as a present for a patron or potential patron. Most early antiquarian studies that saw print were dedicated to a patron, including Archaionomia, which is dedicated to William Cordell, Keeper of the Chancery Rolls. Nowell, whose inclinations did not lean toward printed books, may have prepared the laws of Alfred for a similar reason—to flatter someone whose support he hoped to gain for his research. This would explain the outlay he made for the materials; he hoped to impress his recipient with the magnificence of the volume or volumes (if the edition and translation of the Laws of Ine had the same destination as the Laws of Alfred) and his skill in manuscript production, as well as his linguistic facility with Old English.

The Text

§8.  Patrick Wormald (1997), in an article on the authenticity of certain codes in Archaionomia, undertook an extensive exploration of Nowell's stages in copying, collating, and editing the laws of Alfred, and many of his points are worth repeating here. Nowell's first encounter with King Alfred's Domboc came when he transcribed London, British Library Cotton Otho B.xi in a notebook now London, British Library Additional MS 43703. This initial transcription has a series of annotations in it, some of which are Nowell's own suggestions or ideas, some of which present readings from other manuscripts, and some of which offer the Latin of the Quadripartitus, a twelfth-century Latin translation of the Old English law codes. Nowell made a second copy of the Laws of Alfred with additions from other manuscripts in Canterbury, Cathedral Library Lit. B.2, which has the Old English copied out only onto one side of most leaves, perhaps with the intent of creating blank facing pages of the sort that Nowell must have needed to compose his Modern English translation before copying it onto the expensive membrane (Wormald 1997, 262–275). The text in Henry Davis 59 represents the result of this collation and copying, as it is "the first critical edition" of the Laws of Alfred (although it does not contain most of the Domboc's preface) (Berkhout 1998, 11). The numerous copies Nowell made of the Laws of Alfred argue that understanding it was of the highest importance to him. The expensive parchment copy, of course, makes the same argument—the laws of the Anglo-Saxon kings mattered greatly to Nowell, and he prepared his manuscript, the culmination of these labors, to impress its recipient with the splendor of the laws.

§9.  Nowell retains technical vocabulary from the Old English in some places in his translation, using terms such as weregild and were. Nowell knew what the words meant by the time he compiled Henry Davis 59, for they are basic terms in Anglo-Saxon law and this must have been a late project in his career since it had been prefaced by the several manuscript transcriptions of the laws. Probably it cannot have been written too long before Lambarde began his preparations for Archaionomia, if Lambarde's Old English was far enough along for Nowell to seek his advice on translation. Lambarde certainly understood what were was; he defined were on the first page of the Archaionomia's glossary as "Æstimatio capitis" 'price for the head' (B.vii). Similarly, wite is retained in Nowell's Henry Davis translation as a technical term; again, Lambarde understood and translated it (as "pretio" 'price') (Nowell f. 9r; Archaionomia f. 31r). In Af. 29 Nowell does not translate hloðbote but writes it in modern English, lothbote; since he understood the concept of bote and knew the meaning of hloð, he could have translated this as a phrase (f. 20r). Nowell defines hloðbot in a brief legal glossary on the flyleaf of his copy of Howlet's Abcedarium as "emendation pro morte hominis occisi a cohort," taking his definition from Quadripartitus, so he certainly knew what the word meant. Nowell's choice to retain the Old English words as technical terms rather than translate them must have been deliberate, not based on ignorance of the necessary vocabulary. Nor can it be a careless retention of the original as he translated on the fly, for the care with which he laid out his manuscript would have demanded that both the Old English and the translation be prepared in advance so that he knew exactly how many lines each code would take in each version.

§10.  Yet alongside this deliberately archaic diction, Nowell also employed stylistic traits and phrases from his own day, as in Af. 7:

Be þæm þe on cyninge[s] healle feoht
Gif hwa on cynignes healle gefeohte; oþþe his wæpn gebrede 7 hine mon gefo; sie þæt on cyningesdome swa deað swa lif swa he him forgifan wille (f. 9v).
Of him that figteth in the kinges palace
If any man fight in the kinges palace, eyther drawe his weapon & be taken, be it at the kinges pleasure & iudgement whether he shall liue or die, or whether he will forgyue him (f. 10r).

The translation of cyningesdom as "pleasure and iudgement" smacks of the contemporary legal writing of Nowell's day. Early modern writers frequently deployed near-synonyms in a practice known as "lexical doubling"; this became particularly prominent in legal writing (Crystal 2004, 152). Nowell's phrasing here draws on a common idiom in legal discourse in the sixteenth century: penalties assessed at "the king's (or queen's) pleasure." To give just a few examples, the Forgery Act of 1562 states that violators shall "suffer Imprisonment and pay Fine and Ransom at the Pleasure of the Queen's Majesty" (5 Eliz. 1 c. 14). The Ecclesiastical Appeals Act of 1532 used a similar formula to describe penalties: "to make Fine and Ransom at the King's Pleasure" (24 Hen. 8 c. 12). Nowell's translation of "on cyningesdom" as "at the king's pleasure and judgment" retains the literal meaning of cyningesdome (i.e., king's judgment) but also would have given an early modern reader a flash of familiarity in the ancient laws.

§11.  Nowell makes a similar decision to use a modern legal phrase in his translation of Af 33, concerning breaking a sworn pledge:

Be godborhum O
Gif hwa oþerne godborhes oncunne; 7 teon wille þæt he hwelcne ne gelæste þæra þe him geseald (f. 21v). If any man charge another with the breache of promese wherin he hath called god to witnesse & accuse him that he hath not accomplished summe of the thinges whiche he committed vnto him (f. 22r).

Nowell used the familiar collocation "breache of promese" with the modifying phrase "wherin he hath called god to witnesse" to translate the Old English godborhes oncunne, a phrase for which there is no direct modern equivalent. Indeed, this is a thorny passage (for which Nowell had not yet finalized his Modern English rubric). Bosworth-Toller makes no attempt to define godborh, noting only that it is "a word of uncertain meaning"; Dorothy Whitelock translates this code as "[i]f anyone charges another about a pledge sworn by God" which is a good literal translation and does not include any overt reference to the breaking of the pledge (Whitelock 1955, 378). Nowell's choice adds the concept of breaking (clearly implied in the law but not stated) to the word godborh. Nowell's choice, however, not only modernizes the concept but alters the grammar of his original: "breach" not "God-pledge" is the object of the verbal phrase "charge with" in Nowell's translation, unlike Whitelock's more literal "charges about a pledge." Not only is "breach of promise" casting the misdeed in modern terms, the sentence's structure emphasizes the contemporary phrasing.

§12.  In some places Nowell's translation even more plainly inserts anachronistic concepts into the Laws of Alfred. In Af. 34 Nowell twice translates folcgemot as commune court, and translates gemot as court (f. 23r). This choice suggests to the reader that the function and status of the gemot was comparable to the modern courts. Nowell certainly could have used less specific language here. Quadripartitus generally translates folcgemot as populum placiti and gemot as conventus, so Nowell might have followed it and used an English equivalent, perhaps gathering or assembly. Nowell is consistent in this choice: in Af. 22, he not only translates folces gemot as commune court, but here translates gerefan as kings iustice, underscoring his translation's equating of a gemot to a court of law (f. 18r). In Af. 34, the word translating gerefan is corrected in the rubricating phase to shireue, as I have already discussed (f. 23r). Perhaps Nowell also had iustice here before Lambarde suggested a correction to the modern English relative of the word, sheriff.

§13.  Nowell also expected the laws to make sense. He thought that the codes of King Alfred should match his idea of legislative logic and what he understood of human anatomy; the fact that many modern readers share his attitude ought not obscure it. In Af. 53, one of the laws establishing penalties for specific injuries, Nowell writes:

Gifmon bið on eaxle wunde þæt ðæt liþseaw utflowe (f. 34v). If a man be wounded vpon the shulder so that it flieth out of ioynte (f. 35r).

Liþseaw is the substance that modern medicine refers to as synovial fluid or synovia; the code is probably referring to the sort of swelling following an injury now known as "water on the joint" (Oliver, forthcoming).8 Nowell's translation of "liþseaw utflowe" as "flieth out of ioynte" is inaccurate. This error dates as far back as Nowell's interlinear notes in his copy of the Domboc made in British Library Additional MS 43703, in which he wrote iunctura over liþseaw, a Latin equivalent to Henry Davis 59's ioynte. In doing so, he ignored Quadripartitus, which uses compaginis glutinum (literally "gluten of the framework (of the human body)") to render liþseaw. Since gluten was the common Latin word for the substance, the author of Quadripartitus probably knew what liþseaw meant (the term synovia is not recorded in print until the sixteenth century) (Rodnan, et al. 1966, 821–825). Nowell ignored both Quadripartitus and the second element of the Old English compound to translate liþseaw as iunctura and ioynte. I can surmise two reasons for Nowell to have done this. Perhaps he did not know enough about human anatomy to know what synovia was, although he owned at least two medical books and may have had a passing interest in the subject.9 Or, perhaps it seemed more probable to him that an injury would cause dislocation of a joint than that synovial fluid would "flow out," since even if he related the Old English description to "water on the joint," such injuries are far more common on the knee or elbow than on the shoulder. Nowell, in either case, made his translation conform to his understanding of anatomy and his sense of probability. He expected laws to deal with common injuries, not rare ones.

§14.  The impression that Nowell's manuscript gives us about his view of the Old English laws can be summed up as follows: he thought that the laws deserved to be showcased in his magnificent and codicologically deluxe manuscript, so he obviously afforded them a high status. He believed that they were coherent and logical. He preserved their specialized vocabulary in places in order to showcase their complexity and alterity. At the same time, he also wanted them to seem familiar and used phrasing and vocabulary common to legal writing of his own day. One more aspect of his manuscript deserves comment, however—Nowell chose to translate the Old English laws into English. This probably seems unremarkable to most modern readers, but set against the backdrop of sixteenth century legal studies and the actions of other antiquaries, it stands out sharply. John Joscelyn, a contemporary Anglo-Saxonist who began to compile an Old English dictionary (which he did not complete) usually glossed words in Latin. So did every other Old English lexical project (except Nowell's own Vocabularium Saxonicum) for the next eighty years. When Lambarde published Archaionomia, he translated into Latin on the facing pages. His preface even suggests that it was on Nowell's advice that he did so:

Obtulit mihi superiori anno Laurentius Noelus . . . priscas Anglorum leges, antiquissima Saxonum lingua, et literis conscriptas, atque a me (quoniam ei tum erat trans mare eundum) vt latinas facerem, ac peruulgarem vehementer flagitauit (sig. Aiiir).

Last year, Laurence Nowell . . . presented to me the ancient laws of the English, written in the most ancient language of the Saxons and in their script, and (since he was then about to travel overseas), he vigorously urged me to translate them into Latin [lit. "make Latin"] and publish them.10

§15.  Reasons to publish the laws in Latin were many. The antiquaries largely learned Old English through the medium of Latin. I have already mentioned Quadripartitus, which was a major aid to Nowell's understanding of the laws—by comparing the Old English to the Latin translation, Nowell could begin to piece together the vocabulary and morphology of Old English. The same was true of glossed texts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels (which Nowell saw)—the main Latin text had Old English words written over them as a crib for Anglo-Saxon readers; Nowell and the other antiquaries used their knowledge of Latin to gather information about the Old English. The Grammar and Glossary of Abbot Alfric of Eynsham functioned similarly—Alfric had written it to teach Anglo-Saxon students Latin; the antiquaries reversed this and used their Latin to decipher the Old English.11 Most educated men in the 1560s had begun learning Latin before the age of ten, and a Latin translation of the laws would have been entirely intelligible to them. Assuming that the intended audience of Nowell's manuscript of the Laws of Alfred was a potential patron, the person in question would almost certainly have been able to read Latin. A Latin translation would flatter his patron's learning and give his text intellectual elite status, and might have been easier for him since he would have Quadripartitus as an aid.

§16.  So why, in the face of all these reasons, did Nowell write his translation of the laws in English? Potential answers to this question lie outside the evidence of the manuscript itself, in Nowell's intellectual cohort and professional associations. Nowell, during most of the period that he was working on his Anglo-Saxon studies, lived in William Cecil's house, first as a tutor to Cecil's ward, the young Earl of Oxford, then as a sort of secretary-cum-consultant for Cecil's own antiquarian studies. During much of that time, one of the most famous English translators of the mid-sixteenth century, Arthur Golding, also lived with Cecil.12 Golding was the Earl of Oxford's guardian and uncle, and Nowell must have been closely associated with Golding in his capacity as Oxford's tutor. They were roughly the same age, lived together in Cecil's house, and were both engaged in the study and translation of ancient texts—Golding working on classical Latin, Nowell working on Old English. It would not be surprising if some kind of cross-pollination took place under those circumstances. Although there is not space here for a detailed examination of Golding's translations, we can look at some of the features that might provide context for Nowell's translation of the laws of Alfred and help us to understand Nowell's project, not as an isolated endeavor, but an exercise that took place within a growing interest in English translation.

Golding's English Translations

§17.  Arthur Golding (c.1535–c.1605) is one of the best-known translators of the sixteenth century. He translated works as diverse as the writings of John Calvin and Caesar's Gallic Wars, but his modern fame rests on his translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, which appeared in full in 1567. The first four books had been published in 1565, so the project was undertaken at the same time that Nowell was working on the Anglo-Saxon laws. As James Worthington points out, Golding's work, especially in his prose translations but also in his verse Metamorphosis, adhered more rigidly to what modern readers would recognize as translation, as opposed to much early modern translation which was more paraphrase with little concern for the original syntax or structure. Golding's method, apparently, was to take the Latin originals phrase by phrase, so that the sentences matched up closely between the Latin and the English versions (Worthington 1949, 350). When Golding finished his translation of Caesar, his version was, in Worthington's view, "more precise" than the version of John Brende which he was supposed to be completing (1949, 349).

§18.  Such phrasal precision was tested in Golding's Metamorphosis as he decided to translate the Latin into heptameter couplets.13 Several of the verbal additions that this meter necessitated place the text in an English context, culturally as well as linguistically. John Nims, in the introduction to his edition of Golding's Metamorphosis, points out what would become crucial to understanding Golding's work, that Golding "Englishes" Ovid (Golding 1965/2000, xxxi). Raphael Lyne extends this analysis, considering the way that Elizabethan translators, including Golding, used their efforts in an attempt to enrich the English language and its literature—the "store" of English (Lyne 2001, 4–7). Unlike Nims, Lyne argues that Golding's "Englishings" arise not from a lack of talent or awareness, but form part of a complex negotiation whereby the Elizabethan present made use of the past. Lyne discusses some of the patterns of change that Golding makes to his source: he adds dialect to characters' speeches (classical Latin did not reflect dialects) to show a regional variety recognizable to his contemporary audience as existing within Britain (2001, 54–61). He chooses vocabulary that in some cases locates the text in England: Lyne mentions the use of the word neckeverse in the passage relating Minerva's contest with Arachne (Book VI.7–10), and Bedlam in the Pentheus narrative (III.898; Lyne 2001, 62–72). In Lyne's view, "[o]ne of the most distinctive features of Golding's translation is this tendency to evoke not classical scenery, but rather 'realia'. . . from closer to home" (2001, 62). Lyne also discusses in some detail the words with religious valance that Golding places in his translation: priests wear "Mitres" and sacrifice on "altars," both words which were not only English but could be fraught with controversy at this time (Lyne 2001, 63–69). Gary Gibbs and Florinda Ruiz, drawing on Lyne's analysis, suggest that Golding's Metamorphosis is an encoded statement of the chaos of the world for those without salvation, written to underscore his equation of "social disorder with sin" in a format that the elect around him would be able to decipher (2008, 562). The work becomes not only "Englished" but does so in a way that had immediate cultural and religious relevance, in its "augmentation" of English literature and its possible Puritan subtext.

§19.  Golding's "Englishings" can shed light on some of Nowell's similar treatment of the Laws of Alfred. Nowell's choice to translate the Laws of Alfred into English recalls the goals of Golding's English translation, as both deploy ancient texts for contemporary purposes. Both employ a similar strategy of translating phrase by phrase, a decision that is invisible to most modern readers but that nonetheless represents a choice in an age where much "translation," especially of prose, was nearly paraphrase. Lyne observes, "Golding may be said to impose an English country side onto the Metamorphoses, but for the reader it is much more as if he discovers it there" (2001, 22). We can also see Nowell "discovering" English legal phrases from his own day within the Laws of King Alfred when he presents Anglo-Saxon legal concepts in decidedly contemporary terms, such as "breach of promise" and "king's pleasure and judgment." Even as Golding layers imperial Roman texts with contemporary English (imperial?) identity, Nowell also tries to project the English present onto its past.14

§20.  However, the differences between Nowell's translation and Golding's are also illuminating. While Golding at some points even translated personal names (Emets for Myrmidons in Book VII line 843 is one example), Nowell retained a few archaisms from the Old English, such as lothbote. In Nowell's varying of strange technical terms with familiar idioms and assumptions about the law's inherent consistency and logic, we find a tension between the need to modernize the laws and the realization that in many details their technical terms, and even their aims, were different. Nowell tries to push time in two directions—if he "discovers" the modern English legal present in the codes of the past, he also brings the language of the past into the present by including "loanwords" from Old English. This chronological breakdown could make a case for the timeless nature of English law, both Anglo-Saxon and Elizabethan.

§21.  By way of conclusion, I would like to briefly consider what Nowell does not include in his Henry Davis manuscript—most of the extensive Preface from Alfred's Domboc—and, consequently, the importance of the portion of the Preface that he does include. The omission of the majority of the Preface is odd when one considers the importance of the Domboc's Mosaic translations in the work of Nowell's contemporaries. As Todd Preston has discussed, Archbishop Parker and John Joscelyn used the vernacular passages from Exodus to provide support for the Protestant emphasis on the need for vernacular Bibles in the sixteenth century and the view of England as an "Elect Nation" (2004, 166–188). Perhaps Nowell felt that Joscelyn had adequately treated the Decalogue (assuming that Henry Davis 59 was produced in or after 1566, the year that Parker and Joscelyn's Testimonie of Antiquity was probably published), or that the Mosaic translations and discussion of Hebrew laws were more in the arena of the Parker circle. This omission, however, draws even more attention to the portion of the Preface that Nowell does retain—Alfred's description of the selection process for his Laws: "I ÆLFREDE king gathered together & commaunded to be writen of those thinges whiche our praedecessours obserued, so many as liked me & such as I liked not, I reiected by the aduise of my counseyllours" (f. 2r). This prefatory statement explicitly ties the laws' compilation to royal power. As David Pratt observes, Alfred's method is to first himself gather and evaluate the codes of his ancestors, and only then give options to his counselors (2007, 218). Although Alfred states that his laws are taken from the laws of prior kings and that he "durst not praesume to putte in writing any multitude of myne owne decrees" he does (by his own admission) write some and the rest are from his royal ancestors.15 The laws flow from the monarch, even if the monarch should not impose too many newly-created ones. The royal origin of law is also, of course, visually stressed in the opening of Henry Davis 59 by the use of the gold ink for the word "Alfred" and for the initial letter of the names of all monarchs and kingdoms in the rest of this prologue, in both the Old English and Modern English. Comparison with the first page of Nowell's manuscript edition of the Laws of Ine underscores this: Ine's father and brother (who were not kings) have a red initial, not a gold one.16 Gold was used exclusively to highlight kings and realms in Nowell's editions and translations.

§22.  As Nowell knew from his studies, Alfred's role as a lawgiver was tied to his diligent reading of texts and his skills in translation (as the Mosaic preface made clear). Alfred translated such texts as the Psalms and Boethius; his prowess in both the linguistic and the legal arenas were known in the sixteenth century through Asser's Life of Alfred as well as later chronicles such as that of Matthew Paris (Keynes 1999, 240–241). It is hard not to notice that Nowell's own queen was also famous for her linguistic skills—she had been tutored by Roger Ascham, whom Nowell probably knew. She valued English translation and, during her procession through the City the day before her coronation, had famously kissed "the Byble in Englishe" and promised to read it often (despite the fact that she could read both Hebrew and Greek).17 Elizabeth herself undertook translation into English, including portions of the Psalms and Boethius. Perhaps, just perhaps, Nowell prepared this enigmatic manuscript, with its sumptuous materials, its English translation, and its emphasis on the kingly origin of lawgiving, with a royal audience in mind.


1.   For what is known about Nowell's life, see Carl Berkhout 1998; for a detailed discussion of many of his manuscripts, see Robin Flower 1935; for Lambarde's use of Nowell's transcripts see Patrick Wormald 1997. Biographical studies of Lambarde are Wilbur Dunkel 1965 and Retha Warnicke 1973. Carl Berkhout dates Nowell's and Lambarde's association from 1559, based on Nowell's notes in his commonplace book (Berkhout 1998, 6).  [Back]

2.   I examine Lambarde's views of Old English law in a forthcoming essay.  [Back]

3.   Nowell's edition and translation of the Laws of Ine have been examined by Carl Berkhout, who plans a forthcoming essay on the manuscript. I am indebted to him for information about it, and for sharing with me an image of its first page.  [Back]

4.   Editorial principles are as follows: all abbreviations are expanded, with abbreviated letters shown in italics. Words struck through in the original are shown with a line through them. Letters omitted are shown in square brackets, although generally I reproduce Nowell's text as exactly as possible without corrections. No folio numbers appear in the manuscript; all such numbers are my own.  [Back]

5.   My abbreviations are those of Liebermann's Die Gesetze 1903–1916, vol. I p. xi. For ease of reference, I also use his code numbers, the modern standard, rather than those of Lambarde's Archaionomia.  [Back]

6.   The Vocabularium has been edited by Albert Marckwardt as Laurence Nowell's Vocabularium Saxonicum (1952); see also Marckwardt 1948. For discussion of the Westminster copy of Ælfric see Ronald Buckalew 1982.  [Back]

7.   Berkhout does not believe that the Vocabularium was a gift to Lambarde but instead passed to him with the rest of Nowell's papers upon Nowell's departure for the Continent; however, I see no reason to doubt Lambarde's inscription (Berkhout 1984).  [Back]

8.   I am indebted to Lisi Oliver for allowing me to read her forthcoming book chapter on arm, leg, and torso injuries in early law.  [Back]

9.   Berkhout states that Nowell owned a copy of Leonhart Fuchs's Institutionum Medicinae (Berkhout 1998, 13); Nowell also owned another of Fuchs's books, the Hippocratis Coi Medicorum omnium sine controversia principis Aphroismorum sectiones septem, now in the University of Virginia Special Collections library.  [Back]

10.   My translation of this passage is dependant on my editorial emendation of the Latin in the Archaionomia, where per ends one line and uulgarem begins another; I take them as one word, peruulgarem, even though the usual double-dash indicating a word split across lines is missing here. Todd Preston makes a heroic effort to translate this passage without emending; he renders "ut latinas facerem, ac per uulgarem" as "translate into Latin and the common tongue" (2004, 175). I prefer my reading of peruulgarem as a first person subjunctive verb rather than a prepositional phrase, even though it requires editing the text, for several reasons: Preston must supply "tongue" which is not in the Latin. He must also take the prepositional phrase per uulgarem as some kind of object of facere even though this does not parallel the idiom in the first part of the clause where latinas is simply used in the accusative, and is reading against the punctuation of the original, where a comma between the verb facerem the phrase per uulgarem is less likely to suggest that the second was the object of first, and more likely to separate parallel verb phrases. There are also contextual difficulties: if "latinas facerem, ac peruulagarem" 'to turn into Latin and publish' is correct, then this accurately describes the Archiaonomia, which provided a Latin translation of the codes and was printed. If this means "translate into Latin and the common tongue," then why does Lambarde include it since he does not translate the laws into the common tongue (ie, English)?  [Back]

11.   For the antiquaries' use of Ælfric's Grammar see Buckalew 1982; for several other general discussions of the early study of Old English, see the essays in Tim Graham 2000.  [Back]

12.   Golding's biography is detailed in Louis Golding 1937. Important discussions of his translation are Gordon Braden 1978 and Raphael Lyne 2001.  [Back]

13.   Grundy Steiner has demonstrated that Golding's base text was a version of Ovid containing the commentary of Raphael Regius supplemented by that of Jacobus Micyllus, such as the 1543 edition printed by Ioannes Hervagius in Basel (1950, 318).  [Back]

14.   Lyne suggests the "imperial" possibilities in English translations of ancient Roman texts (2001, 1–5).  [Back]

15.   See Patrick Wormald 1999, 277–279 for a discussion of this passage as a topos of legal writing. Wormald makes a strong case, but Nowell in all likelihood would not have realized that Alfred was drawing on a tradition of royal prefaces.  [Back]

16.   Ine's situation, acceding to the throne while his father was still alive, was an unusual one; see Stenton 1971, 72–73. For discussion of Ine's preface generally, see Wormald 1999, 103–106.  [Back]

17.   The event is described in The Quenes Maiesties passage 1960, 44. This pamphlet and a second, slightly longer version called The Passage of Our Most Drad Soveraigne Lady Quene Eliyzabeth are now generally acknowledged to have been written by Richard Mulcaster. Although Mulcaster's accuracy may have been compromised by his apparent commission to write the pamphlet, and Elizabeth probably knew beforehand exactly what would happen en route and had time to plan her reactions (see Leahy 2003 and DeMolen 1974), it is, to my argument, unimportant whether this was a spontaneous overflow of sincere emotion, or a calculated act deliberately reported by a master rhetorician. Indeed, if the whole sequence was planned, then it can only emphasize how valuable Elizabeth thought translation was, and her awareness of its potential cultural and national impact.  [Back]

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