Lapidge, Michael 1942-

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LAPIDGE, Michael 1942-


Born February 8, 1942; son of Rae H. and Catherine Mary (Carruthers) Lapidge. Education: University of Calgary, B.A., 1962; University of Alberta, M.A., 1965; University of Toronto, Ph.D., 1971. Hobbies and other interests: Mountaineering.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016. E-mail—[email protected].


Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, lecturer, 1974-88, reader in insular Latin literature, 1988-91, Elrington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and fellow of Clare College, 1990—. Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, correspondent fellow, 1997.


(Translator with Michael Herren) Aldhelm, the Prose Works, Rowman & Littlefield (Towota, NJ), 1979.

(Translator with Simon Keynes) Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1983.

(Editor with P. Hunter Blair) Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, Variorum Reprints (London, England), 1984.

(Editor with David Dumville) Gildas: New Approaches, Boydell and Brewer (Dover, NH), 1984.

(With Richard Sharpe) A Bibliography of Celtic-Latin Literature, 400-1200, Royal Irish Academy (Dublin, Ireland), 1985.

(Editor with Helmut Gneuss) Learning and Literature in Anglo-Saxon England: Studies Presented to Peter Clemoes on the Occasion of His Sixty-fifth Birthday, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1985.

(Translator with James L. Rosier) Aldhelm, the Poetic Works, D. S. Brewer (Dover, NH), 1985.

(Contributor) A New Critical History of Old English Literature, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Abbreviations for Sources and Specification of Standard Editions for Sources, Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies (New York, NY), 1988.

(Editor) Latin Learning in Mediaeval Ireland, Variorum Reprints (London, England), 1988.

(Editor) Irish Books and Learning in Mediaeval Europe, Variorum Reprints (Hampshire, England), 1990.

(Editor and translator with Michael Winterbottom) Wulfstan of Winchester: The Life of St. Aethelwold, Clarendon Press (New York, NY), 1991.

(Editor) Anglo-Saxon Litanies of the Saints, Boydell Press (Rochester, NY), 1991.

Anglo-Latin Literature, 900-1066, Hambledon Press (Rio Grande, TX), 1993.

Bede the Poet, St. Paul's Church (England), 1993.

(Editor with Bernhard Bischoff) Biblical Commentaries from the Canterbury School, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1994.

(Editor) Archbishop Theodore: Commemorative Studies on His Life and Influence, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

(Editor with Peter S. Baker) Byrhtferth's Enchiridion, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

(Editor) Studies in Early Mediaeval Latin Glossaries, Variorum Reprints (Brookfield, CT), 1996.

Anglo-Latin Literature, 600-899, Hambledon Press (Rio Grande, TX), 1996.

(Editor) Columbanus: Studies on the Latin Writings, Boydell Press (Rochester, NY), 1997.

(Editor) The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England, Blackwell (Oxford, England), 1999.

The Cult of St. Swithun, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2003.

(Editor) Interpreters of Early Medieval Britain, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2003.


Michael Lapidge has spent much of his career as a literary gatekeeper for medieval studies. As a professor of Anglo-Saxon literature, his primary focus is on the religious figures of medieval times and their influences gained from other civilizations. Lapidge meticulously collects and produces inventories of works from medieval times and tries to dissect not only their meanings, but also their influence on present-day authors.

Lapidge was born on February 8, 1942, the son of Rae H. Lapidge and Catherine Mary Carruthers. He attended the University of Calgary and graduated with a B.A. in 1962. He went on to receive his master's degree at the University of Alberta in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1971. During the years from 1974 to 1988 he lectured at Cambridge University and later served as a reader of insular Latin literature from 1988 to 1991. He has been an Elrington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and a fellow of Clare College, Cambridge since 1990.

In his 1985 Learning and Literature in Anglo-Saxon England, Lapidge, along with Helmut Gneuss, presents documents from Anglo-Saxon libraries, including wills and inventories. In his essay "Surviving Booklists from Anglo-Saxon England," Lapidge provides a commentary on each piece mentioned and the significance of its place in Anglo-Saxon literary history. Critics praised this essay, calling it concise and easy to read. The book was also reviewed as an important volume. "The editors have provided students of Old English literature with a volume which contains both invaluable works of reference and significant insights into letters and the culture of the period," maintained Joseph B. Trahern, Jr. in the Journal of English and Germanic Philosophy. "It is a much needed book which will be used for years."

His work as a coeditor with Richard Sharpe produced A Bibliography of Celtic-Latin Literature, 400-1200. Authors of Roman Britain, Wales, Cornwall, Ireland, Brittany, and Scotland are divided into sections and each of their works are listed. From there, each author's works from that time are subdivided up into major works, manuscripts, and other forms of writing. Lapidge and Sharpe also provide commentary on each of the writers of the era. The work was at once praised and criticized. While the amount of work and detail that went into the book cause some critics to praise the achievement, others criticized certain editorial decisions by Lapidge and Sharpe. For example, some reviewers were upset that certain poems by Columbanos of Bobbio were reassigned by Lapidge to Columbanus of Saint-Trond. At the same time, while some expressed their concern over the assignment of certain works, most conceded that the work is concise and a valuable addition to Celtic studies.

Lapidge has focused much of his writing career on studying the works of religious figures in medieval times. Gildas: New Approaches, edited by Lapidge and David Dumville, explores the writings of the British author known as Gildas the Wise, who wrote during the late fifth and sixth centuries. The collection of essays by contributing writers delves into the background of Gildas and his influences, and one essay looks into the influence of Roman politics during Gildas's era. Lapidge contributed an essay to the book surveying the complexities of Gildas's education and the cultural influences that permeate his works. The problems with the chronology and geography concerning Gildas are also addressed within the book. Historians have had trouble in identifying exactly when Gildas wrote his works and have had little success in pinpointing the reigns of the kings Gildas attacks in his writings. Gildas's use of such vernacular as "dragon" and "lion" are also addressed within the book as an attempt to date his chronology and to explore the effects of the Celtic and Latin influences on his works. Lapidge's "paper unquestionably supplies the major contribution of the book, and his analysis of Gildas's style and vocabulary sheds a flood of new light on our understanding of this author," remarked Alfred P. Smyth in the English Historical Review.

"Lapidge is a superb tracer of sources and influences," noted Eric John in the Catholic Historical Review, in regards to Lapidge's 1991 translation of Wuflstan of Winchester: The Life of St. Aethelwold. Little is known about Wulfstan, a monk at Old Minister. He was appointed the biographer of St. Aethelwold, a move that Lapidge argues proves that Aethelwold foresaw his canonization. Lapidge delves into the way Aethelwold taught and mastered Latin. He notes that the saint's Latin study was progressive and that his writing style made him one of the greater contributors to English prose.

Lapidge studies another religious figure in his 1995 work Archbishop Theodore: Commemorative Studies on His Life and Influence. The consecrated archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus is viewed as the second founder of Augustine's mission to the English. Archbishop Theodore reorganized the English dioceses and established a Cathedral School in Canterbury. The collection of essays within the book attempt to discover what influence Archbishop Theodore had on the Anglo-Saxon church. While the book was praised for its contribution to seventh-century Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical history, it was not without criticism. Alfred P. Smyth in the Albion opined, "Lapidge's account of Theodore's career reads like a summary, but it includes an incongruous digression on the 'stunning sights' of Istanbul, which entertains the reader to a Fodor-type exposition on the marvels of the Late Antique city."

Lapidge offers an examination of another religious figure's work in Columbanus: Studies on the Latin Writings. For this volume, Lapidge collected various essays on the studies of the writings of the Irish monk Columbanus, who lived in voluntary exile and corresponded regularly with popes as well as preaching sermons. In addition, Columbanus founded the Luxeuil and Bobbio monasteries. The collection of essays includes studies on the Irish monk's sermons as well as the authenticity of his work. In addition to essays on the Irish monk's work, the collection includes a study on the monastic rules and poetry produced by Columbanus. Arthur G. Holder of Church History found the essays "represent a significant contribution to the study of this important early medieval figure."

Through his literary accomplishments, Lapidge has gained recognition for his translations of works of literature by Anglo-Saxon writers and saints as well as writings on medieval authors. His books and essays have repeatedly been praised by critics as important contributions to the world of medieval history and literature.



Albion, fall, 1996, pp. 459-460.

American Historical Review, June, 1986, pp. 641-642.

Catholic Historical Review, July, 1994, p. 575; July, 1996, pp. 514-515.

Church History, December, 1996, pp. 671-73; March, 1998, pp. 128-129.

English Historical Review, October, 1986, pp. 927-930; January, 1988, pp. 162-163.

History Today, February, 1987, pp. 57-58.

Journal of English and Germanic Philosophy, July, 1988, pp. 433-437.

Speculum, October, 1987, p. 1030; April, 1989, pp. 461-462.

Times Literary Supplement, March 12, 1999, p. 28.*