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The Exeter Book: Introduction

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This book, written all in one hand and containing both religious and secular poetic texts, begins with "Christ I," "Christ II," and "Christ III" calling on readers to consider as Messiah, Redeemer, and Judge respectively. [1] But the book is complex and its collection various. The texts within it are divided into sections that reflect themes of its time. It was written in the 960s or 970s and is called the Exeter Book because it was acquired by Bishp Leofric for Exeter Cathedral in the eleventh century. It contains over thirty poems and more than ninety riddles. The themes it treats are roughly as follows: salvation and how to attain it, behaving morally in the world, and religious and allegorical texts with a more monastic bent. [2]

Some of the more famous works found in this manuscript are "The Wander," "Deor," "Wulf and Eadwacer," "The Wife's Lament," and the three "Christ" poems.


1. S.A.J. Bradley, trans. and ed., Anglo-Saxon Poetry (Everyman: London, 1982), 201.

2. Treharne, Elaine, ed. Old and Middle English: An Anthology. Malden: Blackwell, 2000, 35.



Chambers, R. W., ed. The Exeter Book of Old English Poetry (facsimile).

Krapp, George P., ed. Exeter Book : Anglo Saxon Records III. New York: Columbia UP, 1989.

Mackie, W. S. & Israel Gollancz, eds. Exeter Book : Poems 1-VIII. Early English Text Society, no. 104.

Tupper, Frederick, ed. The Riddles of the Exeter Book. New York: Ginn, 1910.

Williamson, Craig. The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book. Chapel Hill : U of North Carolina P, 1977.


Bradley, S.A.J. trans. and ed., Anglo-Saxon Poetry (Everyman: London, 1982).

Critical Studies

Green, Martin. The Old English Elegies : New Essays in Criticism and Research. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson U P, 1983.

Harwood, Britton J. & Gillian R. Overing. Class and Gender in Early English Literature : Intersections. Bloomington : Indiana U P, 1994.

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