Aldred the Scribe

Aldred the Scribe (also known as Aldred the Glossator) is the name by which scholars identify a tenth-century priest, otherwise known only as Aldred, who was a provost of the monastic community of St. Cuthbert at Chester-le-Street in 970.[1]

He is best known for his gloss of the Lindisfarne Gospels in the late tenth century. His word for word translation of the Latin texts into the vernacular of Old English made the gospels more accessible to his Old English speaking community. The translation was not just a mechanical transcription, but translated difficult Latin concepts into a clearer Old English context.[2] Aldred also added a colophon to the text that indicates many important details about this copy of the gospels.[3][4] Scribes generally added colophons to indicate the circumstances of their work; sometimes including the place, date, price of the manuscript, and client for whom it was copied.[5] Aldred's colophon indicates that the Gospels were written by Eadfrith, a bishop of Lindisfarne in 698, the original binding was supplied by Ethelwald, Eadfrith's successor in 721, and the outside ornamentation was done by Billfrith, an anchorite of Lindisfarne. He also states that the Gospels were created for God and St Cuthbert.[6]

Apart from the Lindisfarne Gospels, Aldred also glossed the Durham Ritual, the two sets of glosses being the most substantial textual remnants of the tenth-century Northumbrian dialect of Old English.[7]

In a note at the end of the manuscript Aldred calls himself the son of Alfred and Tilwin—‘Alfredi natus Aldredus vocor; bonæ mulieris (i.e. Tilwin) filius eximius loquor.’ It has been maintained that he wrote with his own hand only the glosses to St. John, and that the rest were penned by other scribes under his direction; but there is reason to believe that he wrote the whole of them himself.[8]


  • Ealdred 1 at Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England
  • "Aldred the Glossator (10th cent.)" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Aldred the Glossator (10th cent.)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.


  1. ^ N.R. Ker, "Aldred the Scribe", Essays and Studies 28 (1942), pp. 7-12.
  2. ^ Sara María Pons Sanz Aldred's Glosses to Numismatic Terms in the Lindisfarne Gospels. Department de Filologia Inglesa y Alemana.
  3. ^ Jane Roberts, "Aldred Signs Off from Glossing the Lindisfarne Gospels", in Writing and Texts in Anglo-Saxon England, edited by Alexander R. Rumble (D. S. Brewer: Cambridge, 2006), pp. 28-43.
  4. ^ Lawrence Nees, "Reading Aldred's Colophon for the Lindisfarne Gospels", Speculum 78 (2003), pp. 333-377.
  5. ^ Dictionary of Middle Ages, ed. Joseph R. Strayer. p. 283. ISBN 0-684-18278-5
  6. ^ Medieval England: An Encyclopedia, ed. Paul E. Szarmach, M. Teresa Tavormina, Joel T. Rosenthal, New York, Garland Pub., 1998. p. 424. ISBN 0-8240-5786-4
  7. ^ T. Hoad, "Aldred" in The Blackwell encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England, edited by Michael Lapidge, John Blair, Simon Keynes and Donald Scragg (Blackwell: Oxford, 2001), p. 27.
  8. ^ It has been suggested (Bibl. MS. Stowensis, 1818–19, vol. ii. p. 180) that Aldred may have been the bishop of Durham (Chester-le-Street) of that name, 957–68. He has also been wrongly identified with Aldred the Provost, the writer of a few collects inserted at the end of a manuscript known as the ‘Durham Ritual’ (Durham Chapter Library, MS. A. iv. 19). The body of this manuscript contains glosses which, from a certain resemblance, have been erroneously thought to be in the same handwriting as those of the Lindisfarne Gospels. The writing of the above-mentioned collects is quite different. But when once it was assumed that the glosses in the two manuscripts were the work of one writer, it was only a step further to confuse the two Aldreds; and this, although the provost had no hand even in the glosses of the Ritual.

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