The rubrics of the laws of Eadric and Hlothere indicate that they should be dated to the period of their joint rule 679-685. However, it is possible that the text represents a conflation of laws issued separately by the two kings (Hlothere r. 673-685; Eadric r. ca. 679-686). The text as known to us through the Textus Roffensis has been updated at some point in its transmission, because the language is more modern than that in the laws of either Æthelberht or Wihtred. It is also possible that the laws of Hlothere and Eadric were based on written originals.

Digital edition

Edited by Lisi Oliver

Manuscripts

Introduction

by Lisi Oliver

The striking trait of the laws of Hlothere and Eadric is that the language of the text as it appears in the Textus Roffensis (the only copy remaining to us) is more modern than that employed in the existing copy of either Æthelberht or Wihtræd. There are both fewer archaic elements and more late Old English features. Furthermore, the laws differ in scribal style from those of the other two texts in that they employ abbreviation much more frequently. While we do not have access to any of the earlier manuscripts of Kentish law used by the Textus Roffensis scribe in making his compilation, it is clear that even if Æthelberht’s and Wihtræd’s texts had followed the same route of transmission – and there is nothing to argue for or against this possibility – the manuscript of Hlothere and Eadric ultimately arrived at the desk of the Textus Roffensis compiler by a different course, during the process of which the language was updated by an intermediate scribe to a greater extent than was the case for the other Kentish laws that have come down to us. (Whether the texts were ultimately reunited before or at the time of the compilation of the Textus Roffensis is impossible to determine.) One might hypothesize that the procedural rulings of Hlothere and Eadric remained relevant longer than the stipulations laid out in the other laws, causing them to be recopied later and linguistically modernized in the process. This is a dangerous argument from silence, however, because there may also have been more modernized copies of the others for which we have simply lost any evidence.