The THORKELIN Transcripts

The unique Beowulf manuscript preserves special problems in addition to the ones caused by the monsters in the poem. In particular, the manuscript was severely damaged along its outer edges in a fire in 1731, and about 2,000 letters subsequently crumbled away along these edges. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, after the fire but before the brittle edges of the manuscript had fallen away, two complete transcripts of Beowulf were made, one by G.J. Thorkelin, the first modern editor and translator of the poem, and one by his hired scribe.

The Scribe's Transcript

Today the transcripts, now in the Royal Library of Denmark, are essential for restoring the lost letters and for helping to confirm the identity of many of the covered ones, which are still visible to varying degrees in the manuscript when illuminated from behind the paper mounts.

Thorkelin's Transcript

In the summer of 1994 the Royal Library of Denmark allowed Kevin Kiernan and David French, a conservator in the Department of Manuscripts of the British Library, to digitize the two eighteenth-century Thorkelin transcripts in Copenhagen.