hist-games: alea evangelii

Damian Walker damian at snigfarp.karoo.co.uk
Wed Aug 16 01:11:30 PDT 2006

Quoting webmaster at historicgames.com's message of Yesterday:

> According to David Parlett in his Oxford History of Board Games, An English 
> manuscript from the reign of Athelstan (924-40) describes a form of Hnefatafl 
> which it calls "alea evangelii." and if I remember, the manscript included a 
> diagram of a 18 x 18 board with the pieces set on the intersections of the 
> squares.

On the subject of this manuscript, I'll just dredge up something that I 
mentioned on this list in November last year: "Just a point of interest 
about the alea evangelii.  I wrote to the people at Corpus Christi 
College library, Oxford, where the manuscript source for this game is 
kept.  The archivist told me that the manuscript is dated to 1140, some 
200 years after the game it depicts.  The idea that the manuscript is a 
Saxon one, contemporary with the game, seems to have arisen in Bell's 
book 'Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations'.  Murray before 
him, in 'A History of Board-Games Other Than Chess', didn't give a date 
for the manuscript, and it seems that Bell assumed that it was 
contemporary with the game.  Historians studying the manuscript have 
never considered it to date before the eleventh century, but game 
scholars have copied Bell's assumption across later books and a number 
of web sites."

This manuscript (Corpus Christi College Manuscript 122) has been 
digitised and is available for you to look at yourself, somewhere on the 
following site:


I can't remember the precise URL, but it isn't too difficult to find if 
you make your way to the Corpus Christi College section.  The account of 
alea evangelii begins on folio 5.v. and the diagram is on this page or 
on one of the pages following soon after.

Damian - http://damian.snigfarp.karoo.net/

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