Bodmin manumissions

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The Bodmin manumissions or Bodmin Gospels is a manuscript containing writing in Latin, Saxon and Cornish which is thus of interest to language scholars.

Recorded in the Old Cornish language, in the margins of a book of the Gospels,[1] are the names and details of slaves freed in Bodmin (the then principal town of Cornwall, an important religious centre) during the 9th or 10th centuries.[2] There is also an Old Cornish Vocabulary, an English – Latin vocabulary from around AD 1000 to which was added about a century later a Cornish translation. Some 961 Cornish words are recorded, ranging from celestial bodies, through church and craft occupations, to plants and animals.[3]

This, it is believed, is the only original record relating to Cornwall, or its Bishopric, which predates the Norman Conquest. The volume is in quarto, of rather an oblong form, and is very neatly written, though evidently by a scribe not well informed, or of great learning, even for those times. The entries seem to be contemporaneous with the manumissions which they record. The practice of manumitting slaves in the church, as recorded in the entries, appears to have existed from the early 4th century.[4]


  1. Cornish (and Other) Personal Names from the 10th Century Bodmin Manumissions by Heather Rose Jones
  2. Cornish (and Other) Personal Names from the 10th Century Bodmin Manumissions by Heather Rose Jones
  3. Price, Glanville (2000) Languages in Britain and Ireland ISBN 0-631-21580-8
  4. Polsue, Joseph A Complete Parochial History of the County of Cornwall

Further reading

  • Ellis, P. Berresford (1974) The Cornish Language and Its Literature
  • Förster, Max (1930) Die Freilassungsurkunden des Bodminevangeliars, in A Grammatical Miscellany Offered to Otto Jespersen. London: Allen & Unwin
  • Wakelin, Martyn F Wakelin (1975) Language and History in Cornwall. Leicester University Press.

External links