The Exeter Book is one of the most important pieces of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) literature, containing a wide variety of works including riddles, elegies, a so-called bestiary, etc. Wikipedia says that:

the precise dates that it was written and compiled are unknown, although proposed dates range from 960 to 990.

The Exeter Cathedral website says it was written "in about 970"; the Encyclopedia Britannica says it was "Copied c. 975"; the British Library says it was "made in c. 960–80". The dating is more or less consistent, but I'm curious what evidence this is based on, and with what degree of certainty it can be set within a specific period of time.

What do we know exactly about the dating of the Exeter Book, and how (based on what evidence)?

  • I lack a subscription, but this page has the promising line "The details of dating its script are covered in [the section titled] Palaeography."
    – bobble
    Jul 30, 2021 at 16:38

1 Answer 1


I just edited that Wikipedia page and added sources. Here are some that might address your question regarding how we know or at least lead you in the right direction:

"Its script suggests that the manuscript must have been written in its present form before 1000 CE and possibly as early as a point near the middle of the 10th century. The details of dating its script are covered in Palaeography."

-Conner, Patrick W. (2019). "The Exeter Book". Oxford Bibliographies Online. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/OBO/9780195396584-0094.

"Muir notes that "the combined codicological and literary evidence indicates that the anthology was designed and copied out circa 965—75, making it perhaps the oldest surviving book of vernacular poetry from Anglo-Saxon England""

-Shippey, Tom (2017). The Complete Old English Poems. Translated by Williamson, Craig. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. x-xi, 299-302. ISBN 978-0-8122-9321-0.

"The accepted date of the Exeter Book's compilation is based on the date of its script. This has been most completely studied by Robin Flower ('The Script of the Exeter Book', The Exeter Book of Old English Poetry, ed. R.W. Chambers, Max Förster and Robin Flower [London, 1933], pp. 83-90) who dates the hand 970-990; Neil Ker (Neil R. Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon [Oxford, 1957], p. 153) concurs in dating the manuscript... My own investigations of the hand suggest that it is not likely to have been written later than 975."

-Conner, Patrick W. (2015). "The Structure of the Exeter Book Codex". In Richards, Mary P. (ed.). Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: Basic Readings. Routledge. pp. 301–302. ISBN 978-1-317-75890-7

  • Good info and sources, but I'd still be interested in more detailed info on exactly how the dating is deduced ("codicological and literary evidence" and "dates the hand" are still a bit vague).
    – Rand al'Thor
    Aug 8, 2021 at 9:40
  • @Randal'Thor Did you look up the sources? IIRC, I believe at least one of the sources seemed to go into further detail, (but I wasn't going to copy past entire pages of text).
    – user262055
    Aug 14, 2021 at 20:42

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