Annales Rerum Gestarum Alfredi Magni


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Alfred’s Handbook


In the year 887 Alfred, by the inspiration of God, began first to read and to interpret at the same time on one and the same day. But that the matter may be quite clear to those who know it not, I will take care to explain the reason for this late beginning.

When we were one day sitting together in the royal chamber and were holding converse upon various topics, it chanced that I repeated to him a quotation from a certain book. And when he had listened attentively to this and had carefully pondered it in his mind, suddenly he showed me a little book, which he carried constantly in the fold of his cloak. In it were written the Daily Course, and certain psalms, and some prayers, which he had read in his youth, and he commanded that I should write that quotation in this same little book.

When I heard this and knew in part his zealous devotion toward the study of the wisdom of God, I raised my hands to heaven and gave great thanks, though in silence, to God, who had put such zeal for the study of wisdom in the royal heart. But I found no empty space in the book where I might write that quotation, since it was altogether filled with many matters. Therefore I hesitated for a little while, especially because I was eager to provoke the excellent understanding of the king to a greater knowledge of the witness of God.

And when he urged me to write as quickly as possible, I said to him, "Are you willing for me to write that quotation apart by itself on some small leaf? For we may find at some future time another quotation which will please you; and if it should so turn out unexpectedly, we shall rejoice that we have kept this apart from the rest."

When he heard this, he said, "Your counsel is good." And I, hearing this and being glad, made ready a book of several leaves, and at the beginning of it I wrote that quotation according to his command. On the same day, by his order, I wrote in the same book no less than three other quotations pleasing to him, as I had foretold. And afterwards, day by day, in the course of the talk between us, as we kept our attention on this, other quotations, just as pleasing, were found and were written in the book. . . .

Now from the time of the writing of that first quotation, he strove earnestly to read and to translate into the Saxon tongue, and after that to teach many others. . . .

He began to learn the outlines of the Holy Scripture on the sacred feast of St. Martin. And after that he learned, as far as he might, the flowers which his masters had gathered on all sides, and he brought them all into the compass of a single book, until it became almost as large as a psalter. This volume he used to call his Enchiridion, that is, his Handbook, because with the utmost care he kept it at his hand day and night, and in it he found no small solace.

1 Asser, , chs. 87–89.


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Chicago: "Alfred’s Handbook," Annales Rerum Gestarum Alfredi Magni in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 337. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023,

MLA: . "Alfred’s Handbook." Annales Rerum Gestarum Alfredi Magni, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, page 337. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , 'Alfred’s Handbook' in Annales Rerum Gestarum Alfredi Magni. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.337. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from