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COMPLETE edition of the works of Venerable Bede has long been a desideratum in English literature. That want is now likely to be supplied, and the publication of this volume, containing the First
Part of the Ecclesiastical History, announces that the whole works of England's first and most valuable writer will, ere long, be laid before the public. Another volume, containing the last part of the same important historical record, will speedily appear : after which, a series of volumes will be published, which, when finished, will comprise all that is known to have proceeded from Bede's pen; and the first volume of the series will contain a Memoir of the Author and his Works, wherein will be collected together all that we know of the life and character of this remarkable man.
The Ecclesiastical History was first published on the Continent: the following is a list of the editions which were there printed :
1. Una cum Petri Trecensis (alias Comestoris) Historia Scholastica, et Eusebii Historia Ecclesiastica, per Rufinum et cum additione Rufini, Argentinensi, 1500.
2. Ead. ed. repet. Hagenau, 1506.
5. In “Britannicarum rerum Scriptores, Heidelbergæ, fol. 1587."
6. Lugduni, 1587. 7. Coloniæ, 1601.
8. In “Bedæ Opera, &c. Parisiis, per Jametium, 1544."
9. Ead. ed. repet. 1554. 10. In “ Bedæ Opera, &c. Basil., per Joannem Hervagium, 8 tom. fol. 1563." 11. Ead. ed. repet. Coloniæ, 1612. 12. Ead. ed. repet. 1688.
It was first published in England by Wheloc, fol. Cantab. 1643-4, with an Appendix containing the Anglo-Saxon translation by King Alfred the Great, under the following title, “Historiam Ecclesiasticam gentis Anglorum, una cum adnotatione et analectis, e publicis veteris ecclesiæ Anglicanæ homiliis aliisque MSS. Saxonicis excerptis, nec antea Latine editis; ut et Saxonicam Chronologiam, seriem hujus imprimis historicam complectentem, e Bibl, publica Cantab. ; accedunt Anglo-Saxonicæ leges, et ultimo leges Henrici I., edidit A Whelocus. Cantab. 1644.
The next critical edition was that of Chifflet, together with Fredegarius Scholasticus, under this title:
- Bedæ Presbyteri et Fredegarii Scholastica Concordia ad senioris Dagoberti definiendam monarchiæ periodum, atque ad primæ totius Regum Francorum stirpis Chronologiam stabiliendam, in duas partes divisa, quarum prior continet Historiam Ecclesiasticam Gentis Anglorum, cum notis et Dissertatione de auctore hujus Historiæ, posterior Dissertatio de annis Dagoberti Francorum Regis, eo nomine primi. Auctore P. F. Chiffletio, Soc. Jesu Presbyt. Parisiis, 1681.
To this succeeded the edition of Smith, which superseded all the preceding. It is thus entitled : Bedæ Venerabilis Hist. Eccl. gentis Anglorum, una cum reliquis ejus Operibus Historicis in unum volumen collectis, cura Johannis Smith S. T. P. et Eccl. Dunelmensis non ita quidem Canonici. Cantabrigiæ, 1722. The basis of this edition was a MS. formerly belonging to More, Bishop of Ely, and now deposited in the public library at Cambridge. [Kk, 5, 16.] At the end of the volume, which is written in AngloSaxon letters, are the following notes in a somewhat later handwriting.
ANNO DXLVII Ida regnare cæpit a quo regalis Nordanhymbrorum prosapia originem tenet et XII annos in regno permansit. Post hunc Glappa I annum, Adda VIII, Ædilric IV, Theodric VII, Fridwald VI, Hussa VII, Aldfrid XX, Osred XI, Coinred I, Osric XI, Ceolwulf VIII.
Baptizavit Paulinus ante an. CXI.
By calculating these dates it would appear that the volume was copied in the year 737, i. e. two years after Bede's death, and probably from the author's original manuscript.
In addition to More's MS., Smith collated two others from the Cottonian Library [Tib. C, II and A, XIV], and one in the King's Library, besides referring to a large number of others. His text, however, appears to be almost a fac-simile of More's MS., and he has given the readings of the other copies, which he collated, at the bottom of the page.
The last edition of this celebrated and valuable work is that of Stevenson, published by the English Historical Society, Lond. 8vo. 1838. The editor professes to have used the same MS. of Bishop More, and to have occasionally collated four others [Cotton. Tib. C, II, Tib. A, XIV., Harl. 4978, and King's MS. 13 C, V.]. Prefixed to the volume is a copious and valuable notice of the author and his work, from which we take the liberty of making the following long extract, as containing the most judicious account of this our author's greatest work, and of the aids which he enjoyed in executing it.
“ The scope of the Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum is sufficiently indicated by its title. After some observations upon the position, inhabitants and natural productions of Britain, the author, gives a rapid sketch of its history from the earliest period until the arrival of Augustine in A.D. 597, at which æra, in his opinion, the Ecclesiastical History of our nation had its commencement. After that event, he treats, as was to be expected, for a time exclusively of the circumstances which occurred in Kent; but, as Christianity extended itself over the other kingdoms into which England was then divided, he gradually includes their history in his narrative, until he reaches the year 731. Here he concludes his work, which embraces a space of one hundred and thirty-four years,