Hakluyt, II. 38.
Geography of the Known World, in the Ninth Century as described by King Alfred.
Though not strictly conformable to our plan, as being neither a journey or voyage, it yet seemed incumbent to present our readers with this curious British production of the great Alfred King of England, which gives a singular record of the geographical knowledge of the world in the ninth century. It was originally written by Orosius, a Spanish Christian, who flourished in the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth century, and who published a kind of History of the World, down to A. D. 416, which remained in good repute among the learned till about an hundred years ago, but is now much neglected. Near a thousand years ago, the work of Orosius was translated into Anglo-Saxon, by Alfred King of England, but, with great freedom and much licence, often using his author merely as a foundation for a paraphrase; omitting most of the introductory chapters to each book, sometimes leaving out considerable passages, and often inserting new matter. This is peculiarly the case with the first chapter of the first book, containing the whole of the geography, and which is all that has any reference to the nature of our work.
The Honourable Daines Barrington, who published the Anglo-Saxon version, with an English translation, informs us that the original MS. is in the Cotton Library, Tiberius I., and is supposed to have been written in the ninth or tenth century; but that, in making his translation, he used a transcript, made by Mr Elstob, occasionally collated with the Cotton MS. and with some other transcripts. But, before publishing a work of such curiosity and interest, he ought to have made sure of possessing a perfect copy, by the most scrupulous comparison of his transcript with the original MS.
In the following republication of the geographical chapter, much care has been taken to correct errors, chiefly in regard to direction, as east, west, north, and south, are often used interchangeably in the translation by Mr Barrington. Most of the notes are from that edition, or from J.R. Forster, who reprinted so much of this chapter as referred to northern geography, and who appears to have studied that part of the subject with great care.
As a specimen of the Anglo-Saxon, or the language of England near a thousand years ago, we have given the first sentence of this geographical chapter in the ordinary Roman letters, with a literal translation.