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Is both the first English literary masterpiece and one of the earliest written in the vernacular, or native language, instead of literary Latin. The survives in one fragile manuscript copied by two scribes near the end of the 10th or the first quarter of the 11th century. Until quite recently, most scholars thought that this surprisingly complex and poignant poem was written in the 8th century or earlier, but stirred up controversy in by asserting that the work was composed in the 11th century, and that the manuscript itself may have even been the author's working copy.
The manuscript was badly damaged by fire in 1731, and its charred edges crumbled over time, losing words on the outer margins of the leaves. Finally, each leaf was carefully pasted into a frame to stop this process. Of course the frames and the paste holding them in place obliterated a little more of the text! Fortunately, many of the lost words were recovered from a copy made before the manuscript deteriorated. Today, ultraviolet light and other technologies reveal , and characteristics of the manuscript that were previously undetectable.

The Beowulf manuscript is now in the site for a treat!) but has been made accessible to all by . It was once owned by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton, an "antiquary" or collector of Anglo-Saxon Charters and manuscripts, whose library was among three foundation collections brought together by the creation of the **British Museum** in 1753.

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The last revision was Apr 13, 2011 8:00 am by michellebozeman.