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A step-by-step guide to using the Fontes Anglo-Saxonici database on the web

The aim of the Fontes Project is to identify all written sources which were incorporated, quoted, translated or adapted anywhere in English or Latin texts which were written, or are likely to have been written, in Anglo-Saxon England, including those by foreign authors. It will also identify the written sources used by authors of texts written abroad if those authors are certainly or arguably Anglo-Saxons, and by foreigners who were drawing mainly on materials which they had obtained, or are likely to have obtained, in Anglo-Saxon England. Anglo-Saxon England is defined as England up to 1066, but a text will be sourced whether it is extant in a pre-1066 copy or only in a later one. A text written after 1066 will be included in the project only if it is of a type characteristic of England before 1066. An identifiable source will be recorded whether or not it is extant. Oral sources and booklists are excluded, but analogues are included; an analogue is recorded if it indicates that a written source, which is now unknown or lost, once existed.

Acknowledging the Database

The records for each text were compiled by the individual contributors named in the general information for that text, using either their own unpublished research or published work by themselves or others as noted in the bibliographical information provided with the records, or a combination of the two. Any user wishing to employ material drawn from the database in their own publications should acknowledge the Fontes database and, where appropriate, the individual contributor and the published work cited in the bibliographies.

Querying the database

Searching by Anglo-Saxon author
Searching by Source author
Browsing bibliographies

To enter the database, click on Search the Fontes Databaseon the Fontes home page or on the link provided at the top of any page in the Fontes web site. This link will take you directly to the screen where you can begin your search:

Figure 1

Methods of Querying the Database

Searching by Anglo-Saxon Author
Searching by Source Author
Browsing the Bibliographies

You can query the online register by Anglo-Saxon author or by source author. These interactive searches are supplemented by a third resource, which is a static tool comprised of three bibliographies that may be browsed. The bibliographies provide details of the Anglo-Saxon texts being sourced, and the primary and secondary works cited.

NAVIGATION: Any items that are highlighted and underlined on the screens (e.g. Fontes Home, Online Database Home, Anglo-Saxon Author, Return to Form, Show Records, Show Sources, etc.) can be used to navigate back to the project's home page and between various parts of the database. These links also enable you to discover further information about the individual records in your search results.

SEARCH RESULTS: When querying the database, you are given a choice of looking at 25, 50 or 'all' the results of a search at a time. The default option is set at 25 results at a time, so to look at either 50 or 'all', click on the appropriate button before submitting your query.

I. Searching by author of an Anglo-Saxon text

If you click on Anglo-Saxon Author (Figure 1 above), you will get the screen pictured at Figure 2. Click on the downward arrow to get the list of Anglo-Saxon authors in the database as in Figure 3 (you will need to scroll down to get the full list).

Figure 2

If you wish to discover what sources a particular Anglo-Saxon author used to compose his text, you may select the author's name, or for anonymous authors, ANON (Lat.) or ANON (OE), from the drop-down list:

Figure 3

Once the name of the author has been highlighted, click on the author's name and then click on the Submit Query button.

You are then presented with an alphabetical list of all the texts written by the author that have been entered into the Fontes register to date. Thus, for the example above, using Ælfric as a model, the search results in 160 records (see Figure 4 below). The resulting list is organised in four columns or fields: show records, source summary, title and edition. You will see that the information in the first three columns is underlined and highlighted in colour, indicating that if you place the browser on any of these three items and click on the left mouse button, you can activate a further search on that particular item. The fourth column, or Edition field, provides you with an abbreviated form of the text edition that has been used to produce the entries for the register. In order to discover the full details of this edition, you may browse the bibliography of Anglo-Saxon Texts, which is accessible via the link Online Database Homepage at the top of each screen.

(NOTE: It is also possible to keep a second navigator window open, in which you can browse the bibliographies, whilst performing the searches on the database in another navigator window.)

Figure 4

From this point, you may request three types of information:

Information about the Anglo-Saxon text and the contributor
A summary list of sources drawn upon by the Anglo-Saxon author
A list of all the Anglo-Saxon text passages for which a source or analogue has been identified

Information about the Anglo-Saxon text and the contributor

If you click on the title of one of the texts, the result will provide further details such as the Cameron or Lapidge number assigned to the text, the contributor's name, a note on the textual transmission of the item in question and a bibliography of secondary works drawn on by the contributor in compiling the entries for the register. (NOTE: the resulting details are variable, depending upon the text; for example, there may not always be a transmission note or a bibliographical entry.)

At Figure 5 below, we see the result of the query when we choose to look at Ælfric's Catholic homilies, 1.10.

Figure 5

The 'Text Transmission' field and the 'Bibliography' field include information that is relevant to several passages in the Anglo-Saxon text. Thus the transmission records brief information about the transmission of an immediate source to the author who drew on it, or on the possible relationship of alternative sources, or about the likely relationship of an antecedent source to an immediate one. The bibliography includes secondary works drawn on by the contributor, which have provided new information about the identification of sources or analogues.

(Return to types of information)

A summary list of sources drawn upon by the Anglo-Saxon author

If, from the screen pictured in Figure 4 above, you point the browser on Show Sources for the same Ælfric text, you get a result of 11 records, listing alphabetically all the different texts that Ælfric drew on to compile his Homily 1.10. Thus we can see in Figure 6 below that the sources and analogues ranged from Biblical books, some patristic texts and an earlier anonymous homily to two of Ælfric's own texts.

Figure 6

From this point, you may find out where in his homily Ælfric uses a particular source by selecting Show Records. Thus, if you wish to know where Ælfric uses Alcuin's De Animae Ratione, you select Show Records for this particular source and the result indicates that he used it once in this homily (see Figure 7 below).

Figure 7

The immediate result provides the location in Ælfric's text and the incipit and explicit of his own rendering of the passage from the source-text. To discover more details about how Ælfric used the source in his homily, click on the text location.

Figure 8

The result provides the incipit and explicit of the passage he used from the source-text and some bibliographical details about this source-text. If the passage is brief, it is cited in full (see, for example, the Latin passages cited at Figure 16). To obtain fuller details about the source edition, you can click on the abbreviation given for the edition. Each source or analogue is ascribed a sigil, which indicates the status of that particular source in the view of the contributor. Thus the example shown in Figure 8 above indicates that the passage from Alcuin's De Animae Ratione used by Ælfric was 'probably an antecedent source'. To see an explanation of the sigil ascribed to each record, you can click on the highlighted sigil. If the contributor wishes to provide the user with further information relating to a particular source passage, for example, on the transmission of an immediate source to the author, or about the likely relationship of an antecedent source to an immediate one, this is provided in the 'Comment' field. Secondary works drawn on by the contributor, again relating only to a particular source passage, rather than to the entire text, are cited in the 'Bibliography' field. If the contributor has evidence that a manuscript preserves a reading closer to the edited version of a text that he is using in a particular instance, he provides the relevant reference in the 'Manuscript' field.

(Return to types of information)

A list of all the Anglo-Saxon text passages for which a source or analogue has been identified

To discover where a particular quotation from Ælfric comes from, you would select Show Records from the screen pictured in Figure 4 above. Thus, if you select Show Records for Ælfric's Catholic homilies 1.10, you get a result of 35 records. This list is arranged in order of the passages in the Ælfric homily, for which immediate or antecedent sources or analogues have been identified. For each passage, we are given the location, incipit and explicit of the passage, the source author and title and, if it is a part of a larger collection, an item number, which facilitates identifying the text within the collection. Thus in this example, item number 2 next to Greg.Mag. Hom.euang., refers to homily 2 in Gregory the Great's Homiliae xl in euangelia.

If it is clear to the contributor that more than one source was used by the author to compose a single passage of his text, the same passage is repeated, giving the details of the different sources. Thus we see that Ælfric drew on both Gregory the Great and Haymo to compose lines 51-59 of this homily.

Figure 9

From this point, to discover more details about how Ælfric used his sources in this homily, click on the relevant text location you are interested in. This will also take one to the fuller details for that particular source, an example of which we have seen already at Figure 8.

(Return to query methods)

II. Searching by author of a text used as a source

Figure 10

If you wish to find out what evidence there is for the knowledge of a particular author in Anglo-Saxon England, you would select 'Search by: Source Author' at the database home page (see Figure 1 above) to reach the screen pictured above at Figure 10. At this point, select the name of the author you are interested in from the drop-down list (pictured at Figure 11). If the abbreviated forms of the author's names are not clear, click on Online Database Home at the top of the screen and then consult the Primary bibliography.

Figure 11

Figure 12

Once the author's name has been selected, you have the option to choose one of two possible ways to search the records:

By list of titles used as sources
By all records used as sources

Select an option and click on the Query Author button.

Searching by list of titles used as sources

If you choose this option, the result will be a list of all those works by a particular author that have been identified as sources or analogues for texts composed by one or more Anglo-Saxon author. For example, if we search on Prudentius, the result yields 7 records (see Figure 13 below), indicating that, to date, seven works written by him have been identified as known to the Anglo-Saxons.

Figure 13

At this stage, if you wish to know further bibliographic details about the particular edition of Prudentius's text being cited, click on the highlighted edition for that text (see result at Figure 14 below).

Figure 14

If you wish to see a list of which Anglo-Saxon authors used one of Prudentius's texts, you should select Show Records next to the relevant text from the screen pictured at Figure 13 above. The result (see Figure 15), informs you how many times the text has been used by Anglo-Saxon authors and invites you to sort the result either by source location, text title or text author.

Figure 15

Thus in this example, if you choose to see the records, sorted by text title, of Prudentius's Liber Apotheosis, you get the result pictured at Figure 16 below.

Figure 16

The result gives you the location and text of the Prudentius passage in question, the name of the Anglo-Saxon author who used it and the work(s) in which he used the passage. Thus we see that Prudentius's Liber Apotheosis was used by Aldhelm in composing at least three of his works. If you wish to know where and how Aldhelm used a particular passage in his compositions, you should click on the relevant source location.

Figure 17

The result provides the details for the source passage again, indicating with the ascribed sigil the status of the source in the view of the contributor. In the record pictured here, M2o tells us that the Prudentius passage was probably a direct source used by Aldhelm at line 679 of his Carmen de virginitate, but the contributor also cites alternative sources that Aldhelm may have drawn on for the same passage. The corresponding details for the Anglo-Saxon text, including Aldhelm's rendering of the source passage and its location in his text, appear below the source details. Beneath these two tables is a drop-down list, which provides further relevant details: source comment, source bibliography, text transmission and text bibliography (see Figure 18).

Figure 18

If you wish to know if there are further details relating to this text, select the relevant information and, once highlighted, click the display button. In this particular example, there is no further comment on the source, nor on the transmission of the text. In some cases there may not be a relevant comment, textual transmission note or bibliography for a particular record; in such instances, you will simply get the record number and the category of information you might expect to find; for example: 'Comment for Source Text reference L.A.1.3.405.03.' The bibliographies, however, yield the following results:

Figure 19

Figure 20

These results list publications used by the contributor, which have provided new information, either about the particular source passage in question (Figure 19) or more generally about the sources of the Anglo-Saxon text (Figure 20).

(Return to searching records)

Searching all records used as sources

If you wish to search for all instances where a particular author's work has been used by an Anglo-Saxon author, after selecting the name of the author (see Figure 12 above), you should select 'All records' and specify a sort order (the options are to sort by source location, source title, text title or text author). For example, to discover which Anglo-Saxon texts show evidence of drawing on works by Athanasius, select the source author Athanasius (abbreviated ATHAN.), choose 'all records' and sort by 'source location'; then click on 'Query Author'.

Figure 21

Our search yields 16 records (see Figure 22 below), giving us the source location, title and edition and the name of the Anglo-Saxon author and the text in which it is used. If you wish to find out more about how a particular passage from Athanasius's Vita Antonii was used by an Anglo-Saxon author, clicking on the relevant source location will produce further details about the passage (as at Figure 17 above).

Figure 22

(Return to query methods)

III. Browsing the Bibliographies

The database contains three bibliographies, which can be browsed: Primary, Anglo-Saxon Texts and Secondary. The bibliography of Anglo-Saxon Texts and the Primary bibliography can be sorted by author, title or edition (see Figure 23 below).

Figure 23

The main function of the bibliographies is to provide fuller details of the abbreviated works cited in the database. The bibliography of Anglo-Saxon texts includes details of all the Anglo-Saxon works that have been sourced to date. The primary bibliography provides details of any editions cited as sources or analogues and the secondary bibliography records details of source-studies cited by contributors. Since source-studies may take the form of an introduction, apparatus or notes to an edition and the Anglo-Saxon works being sourced may also have been used as sources or analogues, there is, inevitably, some overlap between the three bibliographies.

A search on the bibliography of Anglo-Saxon Texts ordered by 'author' produces a result giving the name of the Anglo-Saxon author, titles by him (listed alphabetically) and the abbreviated edition information used in the database (see Figure 24 below). To discover the full publication details of the edition, you should click on 'show' next to the relevant text (see result at Figure 25 below).

Figure 24

Figure 25

The secondary bibliography simply supplies the full publication details for the abbreviated form of the reference used by contributors for secondary works cited in the 'bibliography' fields of the database.

Figure 26

The bibliography of Primary texts begins with a list of commonly used abbreviations of series of texts, such as CCSL, EETS, MGH, used in citing the source editions and this is followed by a full listing of the source editions themselves. Like the bibliography of Anglo-Saxon texts, a search on the bibliography of Primary texts, ordered by author, title or edition, results in a list giving the author's name, title and the abbreviated edition information cited in the database. To discover the full publication details and the reference system used to cite a particular source edition, you should click on Show next to the relevant text. For example, if you wish to find out what the source location 70.3.1-3 signifies for the passage from ABBO.FLOR., Pass.Eadmund., Winterbottom 1972, 65-87, you should click on the highlighted 'show' in the 'more details' field to obtain the result pictured at Figure 27 below. The 'location example' indicates what form the 'source location' takes and the 'reference comments' provides an explanation for the system used. Thus, 70.3.1-3 refers to page 70, section 3, lines 1 to 3.

Figure 27

Though the main function of the bibliography of Primary texts is to provide the fuller publication details for source editions, it can also be used to get a quick look at the range of particular types of sources that were known to Anglo-Saxons. For instance, if you wish to know which Biblical commentaries were known to the Anglo-Saxons, you would request that the Primary bibliography be ordered by title and then browse through the titles beginning 'Comm.', 'Exp.' and 'Expos.'. The example shown at Figure 28, which captures only some of the many commentaries on the database, reveals the range of authors and Biblical commentaries known to the Anglo-Saxons.

Figure 28


The current version of the web-mounted database is the first to be on general access, and both the database structure and the forms of citation are inevitably provisional. We need feedback to make the project more useful. Please contact Dr Rohini Jayatilaka if there are things you want to learn from it which the structure does not allow at present or if you find errors or inconsistencies in locations, quotations, references, etc. The project would also be delighted to accept new material for the register and encourage you to contact us if you would like to contribute material to the project.

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Page created 24 May 2001