Judith, Esther, and the Maccabees represent three Old Testament translations by the Old English homilist, Ælfric. Of the three texts Judith and Esther were published originally by the German Anglo-Saxonist, Bruno Assmann at the end of the last century (Assmann, 1889(1)). In the introduction to the 1964 reprint of the original editions Peter Clemoes addresses the scope of Assmann's work and points out that in all but a few cases it still offers the only printed text of the pieces it contains (Clemoes, 1964, p. xi). Similarly, Ælfric's lengthy version of Maccabees has only been edited the one time, i.e. as part of W. W. Skeat's invaluable Ælfric's Lives of Saints(2). A revision of all three texts is, by any standards, long overdue.
The focal point of this study is the three editions themselves, namely complete studies of Judith, Esther, and the Maccabees. For the first time these are available with full notes on manuscript variants, palaeographical comments, and a complete word list. There is a study of Ælfric's style, a discussion of authorship, and details of the author's manipulation of the source material. Preceding the editions themselves is a discussion of the themes and images apparent. Finally, at the end of the book there is a select bibliography for further reading.
The reasons for choosing to go 'electronic' with this publication are varied. Perhaps the most important reason is that the advantages of publishing electronically simply outweighed those of print. As my career now rests predominantly in IT and only partly in Old English the time that I could devote into getting this edition completed for a print publication was minimal (i.e. getting the glossary into an acceptable form, typesetting, and so on), this was not true for an e-version. Second, this format is a lot cheaper for people to get access to (and easier) and I hope by making this work available freely on the Internet students and the general public will be able to use it more readily (I suggest they use the money they would have spent on the print edition to treat themselves to a good dictionary of Old English!). Third, this edition can be altered. At the moment, for example, the hypertext linking is almost non-existent but that can be added to in the future. Furthermore any corrections needed will not result in future reprints and further costs for the end user. Fourth, this is more environmentally friendly; trees are nice, lets keep them. Fifth, in my more fanciful trances, I like to think I'm starting a trend here; of which Ælfric would have approved.
I should conclude that it has been suggested that one model for such editions would be to present them as shareware. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this concept it is an entirely voluntary scheme of contribution for the use of software (originally) but now perhaps could be transferred to electronic publications. I do not wish to make a big thing of this and my intention has always been to increase access to the texts, free of charge, especially to students and to members of the general public who would not normally be able to get hold of such material. However, if you do feel you would like to give something back then my snail-mail address is: Stuart Lee, OUCS, 13 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6NN, UK. Otherwise please donate an appropriate amount to the charity of your choice.
(1) B. Assmann, Angelsächsische Homilien und Heiligenleben, Bibliothek der angelsächsischen Prosa, 3 (Kassel, 1889). Esther was published as homily VIII (pp. 92101) and Judith as homily IX (pp. 10216). Reprinted with a supplementary introduction by Peter Clemoes (Darmstadt, 1964). Assmann's texts are drawn from his original thesis (B. Assmann, Abt. Ælfric's angelsächsische Bearbeitung des Buches Esther (Diss., Leipzig, 1885) and subsequent articles in Anglia (B. Assmann, Abt. Ælfric's angelsächsische Bearbeitung des Buches Esther, Anglia 9 (1886), pp. 2538; and B. Assmann, Abt. Ælfric's angelsächsiche Homilie über das Buch Judith, Anglia 10 (1888), pp. 76104). [To return to the appropriate part of the text click here.]
(2) W. W. Skeat, Ælfric's Lives of Saints, EETS, OS 76, 82, 94, 114, 4 vols (London, 188190), reprinted as 2 vols (London, 1966). Maccabees printed as homily XXV (pp. 66125). Saints' lives are hereafter referred to as LS, followed by the appropriate number. [To return to the appropriate part of the text click here.]