Laurence Nowell’s Edition and Translation of the Laws of Alfred

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Laurence Nowell, a major figure in the sixteenth-century study of Old English law, laboriously gathered, transcribed, and edited Anglo-Saxon laws, eventually producing an Old English-Early Modern English edition and translation of the Laws of Alfred. Nowell's translation, examined in the context of comparable undertakings by his housemate Arthur Golding, reveals Nowell's strategies for making the Old English laws seem contemporary while still retaining their authoritative status as an object from the distant past. His manuscript's textual and visual emphasis on the royal origin of laws suggests that Nowell's presentation of Old English law as old and yet familiar also had political resonance for contemporary Elizabethan England.