, Volume 83, Issue 2, pp 291-297

William Somner, S 1622, and the Editing of Old English Charters

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Abstract

In this article, I assess the editorial technique of William Somner (1598?–1669), the scholar responsible for the first Anglo-Saxon dictionary to be published, Dictionarium Saxonico- Latino-Anglicum (1659). His work on the customs and land tenures of Kent, A Treatise on Gavelkind (1660, 2nd ed. 1726), includes editions of four pre- Conquest charters, two of which have not survived in manuscript form. I focus on a vernacular charter (S 1622) which Somner only edited in part, and which is not witnessed elsewhere. The charter, datable to AD 805 × 822, has not hitherto attracted much critical attention, but is interesting for a number of reasons. It is one of the earliest charters in Old English, and contains some interesting pronouncements on the alienability of bookland. It is clear from the phonology and orthography of the text that Somner was editing from a ninth- century text, rather than a later copy. The extract is hard to understand, but it is evident that the membrane was stained or damaged in some way. I argue that this led Somner to make a number of transcription errors. I therefore suggest a number of emendations to his text and offer a translation of the extract based on these changes.