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The Ormulum, Written about 1200 in England

MS. Junius 1

  • Request

The Ormulum, in 20,000 lines of septenarian Middle English verse, being a fragment (about one-eighth of the whole) of the homilies on the gospels written by Orm, an Augustinian canon, probably of Danish origin, about 1200 A.D. in or near Lincolnshire, and dedicated to his brother Walter. The orthographical peculiarities (the doubling of the consonant after a short vowel, and the use of three kinds of 'g' first shown by A. S. Napier, Notes on the Orthography of the Ormulum, Oxford, 1893), have made this manuscript of great importance, and the place of origin has been much disputed (cf. Athenaeum, May 19 and July 14, 1906). Since the editions by dr. R. M. White (Oxford, 1852) and by the rev. Robert Holt (Oxford, 1878) the tendency has been to bring the work farther south for philological reasons.

The MS. itself is plainly holograph and contains a number of small inserted leaves which have been foliated separately but are not included in the numeration of columns, which is by Junius. These are fols. 11, 13-16, 19, 26-9, 37, 39, 47, 49-50, 56-62, 64, 67, 71, 78, 82, 108. Since the columns were numbered, nos. 13-28, 45-52, 69-76, 97-104, 137-44, 157-60, 181-204, 221-4, 237-44, 257-60, 277-80, 297-300, 399-406 have been lost. The bulk of the work is preceded by a dedication, beg. 'Nu, broperr Wallterr, broperr min Affterr pe flæshess kinde' (fol. 3), texts, beg. 'Secundum Lucam I [i. 5]. Fuit in diebus illis' (fol. 5), preface, beg. 'piss boc iss nemmnedd Orrmulum Forrpi patt Orrm itt wrohte', introduction, beg. 'All mannkin, fra patt Adam wass purrh Drihhtin wrohht off eorpe' (fol. 10). The text beg. 'An preost wass onn Herodess da33, Amang Judisskenn peode' (fol. 10, col. 2). An Alphabetum Anglicum with runic equivalents (13th cent.) is on fol. 2.


  • Creation: Written about 1200 in England


90 Leaves

Language of Materials

  • English, Middle (1100-1500)


MS. Junius 1

Other Finding Aids

Falconer Madan, et al., A summary catalogue of western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford which have not hitherto been catalogued in the Quarto series (7 vols. in 8 [vol. II in 2 parts], Oxford, 1895-1953; reprinted, with corrections in vols. I and VII, Munich, 1980), vol. II, no. 5113

Custodial History

A note on fol. 2 states that this book was bought in 1659 by Janus Ulitius (or Van Vliet, a friend of Junius), whose library was sold in 1666 when this MS. appeared in the sale catalogue (Mus. Bibl. III. 4°. 1) as '107 [cf. fol. 1]. Een oudt Sweeds of Gottisch in Parquement geschreben Boeck ober de Evangelium'. It was thus probably bought by Francis Junius at The Hague in 1666 and bequeathed by him with his other MSS. to the Bodleian.


  • For a collation and study of the corrections see Corrections and Additions in the Ormulum MS. (Upsala, 1922) by Sigurd Holm, who distinguishes four hands, and for another view Die Einheitlichkeit des Orrmulum by H. C. Matthes (Heidelberg, 1933).
  • Facsimiles will be found in Holt's edition, in the Pal. Soc, ser . ii, pl. 133, Skeat's Twelve Facsimiles (1892), and Westwood's Pal. Sacr.

Physical Facet

On parchment, in double columns


20 1/4 × 8 3/4 in.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom