ABOUT THE LORSCH RIDDLES

The Lorsch riddles, also known as the Aenigmata Laureshamensia and Aenigmata Anglica, are a collection of twelve Latin riddles of anonymous authorship. Just like the riddles in The Exeter Book, they do not provide solutions. They are found in a single manuscript, the late 8th/early 9th century Vatican Bib. Ap., Pal. Lat. 1753. This manuscript is widely considered to have been produced at the monastery of St Nazarius in Lorsch, Southern Germany, based on an inventory of books found in another Lorsch manuscript (Vatican Bib. Ap., Pal. Lat. 1877, fol. 30v). The manuscript also includes riddles of Symphosius and Aldhelm, as well as grammatical and metrical treatises by Marius Victorinus, Aldhelm and Boniface, and an epitaph to Boniface’s pupil, Domberht.

The riddles are sandwiched between a poem attributed to Boniface, the Caesurae versuum. Riddles 1-4 (on folio 115) are divided from the others (on folio 117) by the epitaph to Domberht. As a result, the riddles have occasionally been attributed to Boniface. More plausibly, the manuscript’s numerous English connections could suggest an English origin for the riddles. Certainly, the riddles have things in common with the riddles of Aldhelm, Tatwine, and Eusebius.

It is not clear whether the riddles were composed by an individual, a single community, or disparate individuals. Patrizia Lendinara suspects that it is not a homogenous collection, but rather an anthology by different authors, which may have been reworked by a single composer (Lendinara, page 76-7). What we can say with certainty is that the opening and closing riddles have some themes in common, including an interest in the various fates of things.

Editions:

  • Glorie, Fr., ed. Variae collectiones aenigmatum Merovingicae aetatis. Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina 133A. Turnhout: Brepols, 1968, pages 345-358. Available online here. (with German translation by Karl J. Minst)
  • Dümmler, Ernst, ed. Poetae Latini aevi Carolini, Volume 1. Berlin, MGH/Weidmann, 1881, pages 20-3. Available online here.
  • Orchard, Andy, ed. and trans. The Old English and Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2021, pages 266-77; and A Commentary on The Old English and Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2021 pages 289-99.

Studies of the Lorsch Riddles:

  • Ebert, Adolf. “Zu den Lorscher Ratseln.“ Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur, Volume 23. (1879). Pages 200-202. [In German.] Available online here.
  • Lendinara, Patrizia. Gli “Aenigmata Laureshamensia.” Pan, Studie dell’Istuto di Filogia Latina, Volume 7 (1981). [In Italian.] Pages 73-90.
  • Salvador-Bello, Mercedes. Isidorean Perceptions of Order: The Exeter Book Riddles and Medieval Latin Enigmata. Morgantown, West Virginia University Press, 2015. Pages 264-74 and 468.

Additional critical works on individual riddles can be found as the bottom of the relevant riddle commentary.

 

High-resolution photographs of the manuscript are available on the Vatican Library’s DigiVatLib website.


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