Online Medieval Sources Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography of Printed and Online Primary Sources for the Middle Ages

Source Details

Chase, Colin, ed., Two Alcuin Letter-Books (Toronto: Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies)

Text name(s): Letters for Daily Correspondence; Epistles to the English

Number of pages of primary source text: 61


Dates: 770 - 810

Archival Reference: This edition works from a single manuscript, in which all of the letters appear together: British Museum MS Cotton Vespasian A XIV.

Original Language(s): 

  • Latin


  • Original language included.

Translation Comments: 

Geopolitical Region(s): 

  • Europe
  • England


Record Types: 

  • Formulary
  • Letter

Subject Headings: 

  • Carolingians
  • Clergy - Monks, Nuns, Friars
  • Clergy - Priests, Bishops, Canons
  • Education / Universities


  • Index
  • Bibliography
  • Introduction


Alcuin of York, often nicknamed Albinus or Flaccus (after Horace) because of his mastery of Latin literature and learning, was an illustrious scholar, poet, and teacher summoned from England by Charlemagne to crown his already impressively erudite court in Aachen. The most identifiable figure behind the so-called Carolingian Renaissance, Alcuin also served Charlemagne in important advising functions, especially in ecclesiastical matters, from the 780’s until his death in 804. This edition consists of twenty-four letters, organized in two collections, from a single manuscript copied in the eleventh century for the library of Archbishop Wulfstan of York. One collection (called here the “Epistles to the English”) contains ten didactic and exhortatory letters of Alcuin to English bishops and congregations, dealing with general subjects and reading like oratorical pieces. The other collection (the “Letters for Daily Correspondence”) contains letters that have been reshaped to stand as a useful compilation of epistolary formulae, providing model letters for common situations (e.g., a “get well” to a friend, a “thank you” to a lady, or an “arrived safely” to a bishop). Three of the letters from this second collection are in fact not ascribed to Alcuin, but to others enjoying his acquaintance. An index of scriptural citations is incorporated into this volume. This is the most recent edition of these letters.

Introduction Summary: 

In his introduction (11 pp.), Chase provides provides an overview of the form and purpose of these letters (he supposes that the formulary letters were intended for use in an educational setting), historical background necessary for understanding the letters sent to the English, and manuscript details.

Cataloger: WLL