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Saxons Origins

Aelfredi regis res gestae

Pseudo-Asser, Bishop of Sherbourne, Alfredi regis res gestae, with Pastorales (London, [1574])

An Elizabethan production by Archbishop Parker’s circle, this biography of the 9th-century West Saxon king Alfred the Great, was made to appear as authentic as possible by the printer John Day, right down to his commissioning the first known set of Old English type. Day distributed the characters both in the original Old English and Latin versions to help readers develop greater facility in the archaic language. Alfred’s exploits as a warrior, philosopher king, and devout Catholic were unquestionably larger than life, and it is uncertain whether Asser really wrote his account just after Alfred’s death, or whether it was a later 11th-century pretended eyewitness account. It remains an open question as the manuscript source for this edition was destroyed in a fire in 1731.