The University of Wisconsin Press

Medieval Studies / German Studies / History / Literature and Criticism


The Saxon Genesis
An Edition of the West Saxon Genesis B and the Old Saxon Vatican Genesis
A. N. Doane

In the middle of the ninth century, an unknown poet composed a version of Genesis in the Old Saxon tongue. For centuries its existence was surmised, but only in the late nineteenth century, with the discovery of a fragment of the Old Saxon original in the Vatican Library, did scholars realize for certain that the Old English fragment known as Genesis B formed the core of a longer, lost Saxon poem.

A. N. Doane’s edition of the two texts, the Old English and the Old Saxon, brings them together for the first time as witnesses of a remarkable and important poem, one of the most original and striking vernacular productions of the early Middle Ages. This is the first edition to treat both texts on an equal footing and to integrate them historically and critically. The Genesis B text, Doane shows, represents not a “translation” of the Saxon original into Old English (the two languages are mutually intelligible), but an end point in a process of reworking, recopying, and anglicization. The result is a poem partly Saxon, partly English. Viewed together, the two texts tell us a great deal about the preoccupations and attitudes of their composers and audiences.

To complement the two poems, Doane provides extensive notes, a glossary, and a critical introduction to the history, language, meter, and sources of the texts. His general literary introduction sets the theological and cultural context of the poems. Doane’s edition and commentary will help to bridge the gap between Germanicists and Anglicanists in the consideration of the original Saxon Genesis.


A. N. Doane is professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the author of the critical edition of the Old English Genesis A text, Genesis A: A New Edition, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press.

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December 1991
LC: 90-050641 PR
416 pp.   6 x 9
2 halftones, 10 line drawings

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Cloth $55.00 s
ISBN 978-0-299-12800-8
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