Friday, 25 December 2009

The Staffordshire Hoard : Anglo-Saxon Epigraphy and the Manuscript Tradition

The British archaeological discovery of the year must be the Staffordshire Hoard (which perhaps should better be known as the Hammerwich Hoard), which is a hoard of more than 1,500 Anglo-Saxon gold and silver items (tentatively dated to the 7th or 8th centuries) that were discovered on 5th July by a metal detectorist in a field just south of Watling Street, within the parish of Hammerwich, near the Roman staging post of Letocetum (the modern village of Wall in Staffordshire), within the bounds of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

The majority of items are martial in nature, including sword fittings, such as hilt collars, hilt plates and pommel caps, as well as scabbard bosses and helmet cheek pieces. There appear to be no items of feminine jewellery, and only two or three religious pieces, including a folded gold cross, which has led Professor Nicholas Brooks to conclude that the contents of the hoard originally belonged to the Mercian court armourer. Others have suggested that the hoard is loot from from a battle (the valuable parts of swords and other pieces of armoury stripped off for ease of transport), speculatively loot taken by King Penda of Mercia after his defeat of King Edwin of Northumbria at the Battle of Hatfield Chase in 633 ... and for some reason buried next to the main road about twelve miles from the Mercian capital of Tamworth (see final paragraph for my theory that the hoard was buried in 757).


A Sword Hilt Fitting from the Staffordshire Hoard (NLM 449)


There are many beautiful pieces, but from my perspective the hoard might have been very much more interesting if it had included some sword blades, as Anglo-Saxon sword blades sometimes had Runic inscriptions engraved on them, but the hoard seems to have mostly comprised a collection of sword fittings.


The Thames Scramasax

ᚠᚢᚦᚩᚱᚳᚷᚹᚻᚾᛁᛄᛇᛈᛉᛋᛏᛒᛖᛝᛞᛚᛗᛟᚪᚫᚣᛠ

ᛒᛠᚷᚾᚩᚦ



1. An Enigmatic Gold Strip

Although, to my disappointment, there are no items with Runic inscriptions on them in the Staffordshire Hoard, there is one solitary piece, a gold strip folded in half (about 18 × 1.6 cm in size if unfolded), that has a biblical inscription in Latin letters engraved on both sides of it :


Gold Strip with a Biblical Inscription (NLM 550)

The only object from the Staffordshire Hoard with an inscription


It is not immediately obvious what this gold strip was used for, but the pin or rivet on the reverse of the empty jewel setting and the two holes (one in the middle and one at the other end from the jewel setting) indicate that it must have been attached to something else. It has been suggested that the gold strip might originally have been attached to a shield or to a sword belt, but Nicholas Brooks has advanced the theory that the gold strip is the arm of a cross: the jewel setting would have been at the terminal end, and the flat end would have been attached to the central, circular fitting of the cross. This is an interesting idea, but without seeing at least one other example of an Anglo-Saxon or Celtic cross with such a construction I do not find it wholy convincing. For one thing, if the end with the jewel setting is the terminal end of a cross-arm (perhaps the top arm, with the jewel at the top of the arm, as is the case with the folded gold cross), then what is the pin sticking out the back for ? (I present a different explanation for the gold strip at the bottom of this article.)

The inscription on the outside of the fold (what I will call the front side) can be read quite easily.


Inscription on the Front of the Gold Strip

Click on pictures for a high resolution image


SURGE DNE DISEPENTU || R INIMICI TUI ET

FUGENT QUI ODERUN || T TE A FACIE TU<I>A


This text is a quotation from the Vulgate Bible, where it occurs in the Book of Numbers 10:35 as Surge Domine et dissipentur inimici tui et fugiant qui oderunt te a facie tua, translated in the King James Version as Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee. There are a few minor differences between the text on the gold strip and the text in the Vulgate, of the sort commonly found in Medieval Latin texts :

  • the scribal abbreviation Dne is used for Domine;
  • the word et is omitted after Surge Domine;
  • the word dissipentur is misspelled as disepentur;
  • the word fugiant is misspelled as fugent;
  • the u in the word tua looks like a conjoined ui, which may just be a badly formed letter u, but I think it is more likely to be an engraving error influenced by the word tui immediately above it.

Based only on photographs of the object, Professor Elisabeth Okasha also suggests that surge is misspelled sirge, and that the final r of disepentur is written as an f; however the surge is clearly spelled with a u in the above image (albeit a little obscured by dirt), and the final letter of disepentur is in my opinion an r (cf. the f in facie and the r in oderunt).


Book of Numbers 10:35 (Codex Gigas folio 16v)

Surge Domine et dissipentur inimici tui et fugiant qui oderunt te a facie tua


Although the inscription on the inside of the fold is hidden in most of the officially released pictures, and even the visible parts are partially obscured by dirt, most of the text can still be made out if you look carefully.


Inscription on the Back of the Gold Strip

Click on pictures for a high resolution image


SURGE DNE DI... || ... ET FUGIŪT QUI ODE

RUNT TE A FA ... ||


Except for the spelling fugiūt ( = fugiunt), which is a common alternative for fugiant in Medieval Latin, the inscription on the reverse (at least as much as can presently be seen) would seem to be exactly the same as the inscription on the front. Oddly the inscription on the back is upsidedown with respect to the inscription on the front, which would not make sense if both sides were to be viewed, for example if it were one of the horizontal arms of a cross. In fact, if you look at the high resolution images, you can see that the reverse of the gold strip is covered in (what appear to be accidental rather than malicious) scratches and several deep gouges that deface the inscription. As the reverse should have been protected from damage because it is on the inside of the fold, it seems unlikely that these scratches and gouges were made after the object was added to the hoard.

My hypothesis is that only one side of the gold strip would have been visible in its original setting, and that the damage to the inscription on the reverse was done when the gold strip was attached to (and later detached from) its original setting. There is a pin or rivet sticking out of the strip under the jewel setting on the front side, as well as two holes (one in the middle, and one at the other end from the jewel setting), so it seems that the gold strip must have been attached to some object at these three points. This would discount the possibility that the gold strip was the arm of a processional cross or an altar cross, but would still allow for it to be the arm of a cross nailed into the structure of a church. But if the reverse side was not intended to be seen, why is there an inscription ? Well, given that the inscription appears to be identical to that on the front, I think that the simplest explanation is that it represents a first essay that proved unsatisfactory. Dissatisfied with his initial attempt at engraving the text, the engraver would have simply turned the strip over and started anew (with the result that the reverse inscription is upsidedown relative to the front inscription). This hypothesis is supported by two features of the inscription on the reverse :

  • The engraved letters on the front are filled with niello (a black composition of sulphur with silver, lead, or copper, for filling engraved designs on silver or other metals), but those on the back appear not to be, thus indicating that the reverse inscription is unfinished, and was not intended to be seen.
  • The letterforms of the reverse inscription are basically the same as the Insular half-uncial letterforms on the front, but lack the ornate, open serifs that are seen on many of the letters on the front inscription, which suggests that the reverse inscription was a trial engraving that did not meet with satisfaction.


2. The Context of the Biblical Inscription

The text on the gold strip is a direct quote from Numbers 10:35, but it also appears in a slightly different form in Psalm 67:2 of the Vulgate : exsurgat Deus et dissipentur inimici eius et fugiant qui oderunt eum a facie eius, which is translated as Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him (King James Version Psalm 68:1), and is glossed (word for word, in Latin word order) in Old English as a-rise god ⁊ sien to-strogdne feond his ⁊ flen from on-siene his ða fiodun hine (Vespasian Psalter Psalm 67). Unfortunately, I do not have access to an image of the psalm in the Vespasian Psalter, but here is an image of the psalm in the 12th century St. Albans Psalter :


St. Alban's Psalter page 198 (Psalm 67)


The version of the text in Psalm 67 (Psalm 68 in the modern Bible) is much more widely known and used than the version in Numbers 10. In the Eastern Orthodox Church it is known as the "Prayer to the Precious Cross", and is often engraved on crosses, and according to Professor Okasha it was used in the liturgy for the consecration of churches (but I have found no evidence to support this assertion — the Catholic Encyclopedia states that the Seven Penitential Psalms [6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143] are recited during the consecration liturgy). The details of Anglo-Saxon and early Celtic liturgy are not well-known, but it is quite possible that in Anglo-Saxon times the text of Numbers 10:35 and/or Psalm 67:2 was used in liturgical contexts, and so would have been a suitable text to be engraved on a cross or maybe on a chest used for storing the cross and/or other church items.

On the other hand, the text is very warlike in nature, and could have been adopted as a motto by an Anglo-Saxon or Celtic warrior (because the text is in Latin rather than the vernacular, it is hard to say whether this particular piece was originally Anglo-Saxon or Celtic), perhaps riveted to a shield as a motto or attached to a scabbard. In later centuries the opening words of Psalm 67:2 are often used as a motto, for example occuring on Scottish coins from the time of King James III (reigned 1460–1488) onwards, and below shown on the royal coat of arms of King James VI/I (with worse Latin than on the gold strip) :


Royal Coat of Arms at St. Mary's Church in West Bergholt

Exvrgat Devs Dissipenter Inimici


The most interesting use of the Exurgat Deus et dissipentur ... quotation from Psalm 67 in an Anglo-Saxon context is found in the life of St. Guthlac (673–714), who came from a noble Mercian family, and fought under King Æthelred of Mercia (reigned 675–704) before becoming a hermit in the year 699. According to the biography of Guthlac (Vita sancti Guthlaci), written in Latin by a certain Felix in the first half of the 8th century, Guthlac sang out the psalm Exurgat Deus et dissipentur ... "Let God arise, let [his enemies] be scattered ..." in order to exorcize some Brythonic-speaking ghosts that were haunting him :


VI.

Hu þa deofla on brytisc spræcon.

Ðæt gelamp on þam dagum Cenredes Mercna kyninges, þæt Brytta-þeod Angol-cynnes feond þæt hi mid manigum gewinnum and mid missenlicum gefeohtum þæt hi Angol-cynne geswencton. Ða gelamp hit sumre nihte þa hit wæs hancred, and se eadiga wer Guðlac his uht-gebedum befeal, þa wæs he sæmninga mid leohte slǽpe swefed. Þa onbrǽd he Guðlac of þam slǽpe, and eode þa sona út and hawode and hercnode ; þa gehyrde he mycel werod þara awyrgedra gasta on bryttisc sprecende ; and he oncneow and ongeat heora gereorda for þam he ǽr hwilon mid him wæs on wráce. Ða sona æfter þon he geseah eall his hus mid fyre afylled, and hi hine æfter þon ealne mid spera ordum afyldon, and hi on þam sperum up on þa lyft áhengon. Þa ongeat sona se stranga Cristes cempe þæt þæt wǽron þa egsan and þa wítu þæs awyrgedan gastes ; he þa sona unforhtlice þa strǽle þara awerigdra gasta him fram asceaf, and þone sealm sang : Exurgat deus et dissipentur, et reliqua. Sona swá he þæt fyrmeste fers sang þæs sealmes, þa gewiton hi swa swa smíc fram his ansyne. Mid þy se eadiga wer Guðlac swa gelomlice wið þam awerigedum gastum wann and campode, þa ongeaton hi þæt heora mægn and weorc oferswyþed wæs.


VI.

How the devils spake in British.

It happened in the days of Cenred, king of the Mercians, that the British nation, the enemy of the Angle race, with many battles and various contests annoyed the English. It happened one night, when it was the time of cock-crowing, and the blessed man Guthlac fell to his morning prayers, he was suddenly entranced in light slumber. Then Guthlac woke from his sleep, and went immediately out and looked and hearkened ; there he heard a great host of the accursed spirits speaking in British ; and he knew and understood their words, because he had been erewhile in exile among them. Soon after that he saw all his house filled with fire, and they next struck him quite down with the points of spears, and hung him up in the air on the spears. Then understood the strong warrior of Christ that these were the terrors and the torments of the cursed spirits ; he then soon fearlessly thrust from him the weapon of the accursed spirits, and sang the psalm : Exurgat Deus et dissipentur, et reliqua. As soon as he had sung the first verse of the psalm, they departed like smoke from his presence. When the blessed man Guthlac thus frequently fought and contended against the cursed spirits, they perceived that their power and work was overcome.


The Anglo-Saxon Version of the life of St. Guthlac [British Library Cotton MS Vespasian D.XXI] (London, 1848) pages 42–45.


Guthlac Roll [British Library Harley MS Roll Y.6] frame 7

St Bartholomew giving a scourge to Guthlac as he is tormented by demons

(probably a set of designs for stained glass windows)


The fact that this quotation from Psalm 67 plays an important role in the story of a famous Mercian saint may well have a direct bearing on the inscription on the Staffordshire Hoard gold strip. Felix's Life of Saint Guthlac must have been written some time after the death of Guthlac in the year 714 and some time before the death in the year 749 of King Ælfwald of East Anglia (reigned c.713–749), to whom the work is dedicated. The cult of Guthlac flourished very soon afer his death, and once his Life had been written, the story of Guthlac's exorcism of British ghosts by singing Psalm 67:2 would probably have become very well known throughout Mercia, and the text of the psalm may well have gained special currency throughout the region, especially given that Mercia had a long and troubled border with the Welsh kingdom of Powys to its west. It is entirely plausible that under the influence of Guthlac's story, a piece of precious metalwork may have been engraved with the quotation from Psalm 67:2 (but mistakenly copied from the similar passage in Numbers 10:35) in order to ward off evil, or as a warning against Mercia's Welsh neighbours. Thus, on the basis of text of its inscription we can posit an 8th century Mercian origin for the gold strip. The next step is to look at the epigraphy and decoration of the gold strip, and see what they can tell us about the date and purpose of this mysterious object.



3. Epigraphy of the Gold Strip

The letters of the inscription are in the Insular half-uncial (or Insular majuscule) script, which was used in Britain and Ireland during the 7th through 9th centuries. This script is transitional between the earlier Uncial and Half-uncial scripts and the later Insular minuscule (or Insular pointed) script, and this is reflected in some of the letterforms (n may be written as a half-uncial 'ɴ' form or as an insular 'n' form; r is usually written as an uncial 'ʀ' form, but may sometimes be written as a half-uncial or insular 'r' form; s is usually written as an uncial 'short s' form, but may sometimes be written as an insular 'tall s' (ſ) form; d may be written as a half-uncial 'd' form with a straight back or as an insular 'ꝺ' form with a bent back).

The Insular half-uncial script that is used on the gold strip is a script that we normally associate with 7th and 8th century Celtic and Anglo-Saxon religious manuscripts such as the Book of Kells (circa 800) and the Lindisfarne Gospels [British Library Cotton MS Nero D.IV] (circa 715-720).


Book of Kells folio 200r

A beautiful example of Insular half-uncial script


MS Sloane 1044 folio 2 (Fragment of John 21 from an 8th-century Gospel book)

Insular half-uncial script (showing a mixture of 'short s' and 'tall s' letterforms)


Cotton MS Tiberius C.II (Bede's History of the English Church and People) folio 5v

An early 9th century manuscript showing a higher proportion of Insular minuscule letterforms (such as 's', 'r' and 'e') than most 7th and 8th century manuscripts


The Book of Armagh (early 9th century) folio 32v : Symbol of John the Evangelist

aquila in Insular half-uncial script (showing the distinctive 'oc' form of the letter a)


However, this script is only rarely used on stone and metal inscriptions of the same period, and Professor Okasha notes only five epigraphic inscriptions with a similar style of script to the Staffordshire Hoard gold strip (the first three on stone, and the last two on lead plates) :


The Kirkdale Lead Plate with an Inscription in Old English

...[T]ER✝ || ... ✝BANC[E/YST]... || ...[Þ]ISBREFDER...

...ter, ban-cyst ..., þis brefde R... (reading by Elisabeth Okasha)

"... coffin (lit. bone chest), ... R. wrote this"


According to Professor Okasha, the closest epigraphic analogy with our gold strip is a lead plate from Flixborough that has the names of seven individuals inscribed on it, which was probably attached to a box containing the bones of these individuals, as must also have been the case with the Kirkdale lead plate. As both the Flixborough and Kirkdale lead plates would have been attached to an ecclesiastical 'bone-chest' containing the bones of monks and abbots, it can reasonably be assumed that the inscriptions on the plaques were engraved by monks who were accustomed to writing and copying manuscripts, and so used the same Insular half-uncial letters for the lead plate inscription as they did for manuscript writing. Of the stone inscriptions, at least the Trumbert Shaft from Yarm was also carved by a monk. Clearly the Staffordshire Hoard gold strip would not have been attached to a coffin, but these examples do suggest to me that it would have had an ecclesiastical origin, an impression that is strengthened when look more closely at the gold strip inscription.

The letterforms of the gold strip inscription are quite typical of surviving Insular half-uncial manuscripts of the late 7th through early 9th centuries, and although the letters are not so neat as those found in fine Gospel manuscripts, and lacking rule lines they tend to undulate somewhat, they are still very much comparable to the Insular half-uncial letters used in the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels. The only slightly untypical feature of the letters is the use of an 'open e' letter rather than the normal 'closed e' letterform, but this is not necessarily diagnostic as it may either hark back to the earlier uncial 'open e' letterform or look forward to the later insular 'open e' letterform. Other features of the inscription are the letter n which occurs in both 'ɴ' and 'n' forms; the letter d which is always written with a straight back; the letter s which is written as a 'short s' except for in the partially obscured word surge where it overhangs the letter u and so must be a 'tall s' (ſ) letterform; and the word et which is written with the typical et ligature. The letters on the reverse inscription are quite similar to those on the front, although it uses the insular 'r' letterform rather than the uncial 'ʀ' letterform found on the front inscription. It is difficult to precisely date the inscription based on these features, but it does not have the high propertion of insular minuscule letters that is found in 9th century manuscripts, so it seems most likely to date to the 7th or 8th century.

The most distinctive feature of the inscription (a feature that is not present in the inscription on the reverse) is that many of the letters have open 'wedge serifs', as can be seen in the letters d, n, i, p, u, q and f :

Detail of Inscription with Wedge Serifs Coloured In

dne disepen[tur] ... qui oderu[nt] ...


Wedge serifs are a feature of the display scripts used in the highest quality manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels (look at the ascenders of the letters b, d, h and l, and the letter u) :


Lindisfarne Gospels folio 143 (Gospel of St. Luke)

Insular half-uncial display script with wedge serifs


Some of the letters on the Kirkdale lead plate shown above also have open wedge serifs (b, f and r), but they are smaller and less conspicuous than those on the gold strip (I have not been able to find an image of the Flixborough lead plate, but Okasha notes that the letters of the Flixborough inscription do not have the same 'open serifs' that our gold strip has). The open wedge serifs on the Kirkdale lead plate and the Staffordshire Hoard gold strip appear to deliberately mimic the wedge serifs in manuscript letters, but the gold strip inscription exaggerates the serifs so that they are far more prominent than the wedge serifs seen in manuscripts. The reason for this could be that they copy a manuscript model that had enlarged open serifs that were coloured in for use as decorative display letters, similar to the coloured-in letters seen on the incipit pages of Gospel manuscripts (see Lindisfarne Gospels folio 211 below). However, I cannot find any manuscript examples that show coloured-in wedge serifs, so another possibility may be that they are an epigraphic innovation, and were intended to be inlaid with coloured enamel. Either way, the epigraphic style of the letters on the gold strip are based on and show an understanding of the manuscript tradition, and in my opinion would have been engraved by a monk at a monastic centre.



4. An Ornamental Initial from the Cover of a Gospel Book ?

The key to understanding the purpose of the gold strip is, I believe, a curious and very distinctive design that is engraved at one the end of the strip (on the reverse side as well as on the front side) :


Design at the End of the Gold Strip


At first sight this design appears quite mystifying, but in fact we can see the same basic design in the ornate incipit pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels, at the tops and bottoms of the large, decorated initial letters :


Lindisfarne Gospels folio 95 (Incipit of the Gospel of St. Mark)

INITIUM in decorative capitals, with ligatured INI


Lindisfarne Gospels folio 211 (Incipit of the Gospel of St. John)

IN PRINCIPIO in decorative capitals, with ligatured INP


Although the design on the Staffordshire Hoard gold strip is very much simpler and cruder than that seen in the Lindisfarne Gospels, it shares the same stylized design of what I see as a dragon's head, with two horns, a pair of large eyes, and a forked tongue (the twirls protruding to each side of the mouth may perhaps represent smoke emanating from the nostrils) :


Comparison of Design on Gold Strip with Decorated Initials in Anglo-Saxon Gospels

Lindisfarne Gospels on the left, Lichfield Gospels on the right


The layout of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Gospel books of this period follows the same general pattern, and so very similar examples of decorated incipit pages can be seen on several other examples of early Gospel manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells (circa 800), the Hereford Gospels (8th century) and the Lichfield Gospels (circa 730) :


Book of Kells folio 292r (Incipit of the Gospel of St. John)


Hereford Gospels (Incipit of the Gospel of St. John)

(Modern Replica)


Lichfield Gospels [The St Chad Gospels] (Incipit of the Gospel of St. Mark)

Turn the Page


Otho-Corpus Gospels [Cotton MS Otho C.V folio 28r] (Incipit of the Gospel of St. Mark)

Burnt fragment showing INITIUM with serpentine INI


The rectagular shape of the gold strip can be seen as a reflection of the column-shaped body of the stylized dragon-creature that forms the large, decorative initial letter 'I' on the incipit pages of the Gospels of St. John and St. Mark in these books. The form of the creature that adorns the initial letters varies somewhat from book to book. Whereas the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Lichfield Gospels show a stylized dragon-like head at either end of the letter 'I', in the 8th century Hereford Gospels we see lifelike representations of a dog-like head sprouting from one end of the letter, and a lizard-like head with a pair of clawed feet emerging from the other end of the letter.

In the incipit page of the Gospel of St. Matthew in the Lindisfarne Gospels we see much more sinuous, snake-like creatures, with a head and a tail rather a double-headed body, forming the initial three letters of the word Liber, although they have the same red eyes and forked tongue that we see on the incipit pages of St. John and St. Mark. In contrast, on the corresponding page in the Book of Kells (written about a hundred years later than the Lindisfarne Gospels) the zoomorphic designs have been tranformed into purely geometric shapes, with none of the animal features seen in the Lindisfarne Gospels (four lifeless circles now take the place of the fiery eyes). The same abstraction of the original zoomorphic designs on the incipit to the Gospel of St. John can also be seen in the Book of Kells (see above).


Comparison of the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells (Incipit of the Gospel of St. Matthew)

Liber in decorative letters


Comparing these various examples, the gold strip seems closest in design and execution to the stylized dragon heads on the initial letters 'I' and 'P' in the incipit pages of St. John and St. Mark in the early 8th century Lindisfarne Gospels and the Lichfield Gospels. We can perhaps see an evolution in the design over time, from a lifelike animal head (as seen in the 8th century Hereford Gospels) to a stylized animal head (as seen in the early 8th century Lindisfarne Gospels and Lichfield Gospels) to a purely geometric design (as seen in the late 8th century or early 9th century Book of Kells). This would tentatively suggest that the Staffordshire Hoard gold strip was based on an early 8th century manuscript model.

The similarity between the design on the gold strip and the designs on the Gospel incipit pages is to my mind evidence that the engraver of the gold strip was deliberately reworking in metal the designs used in manuscript illustration. Taken with the manuscript forms of the letters engraved on the gold strip, I think this is strongly suggestive that the gold strip was engraved by a monk who used manuscript text and illustration as his models. However, I believe that the similarity goes beyond mere stylistic influence, and points to the gold strip being actually part of the decorative tradition for Gospel book production. Manuscript books of great value, such as the Gospels, were bound with thick wooden end boards (made of a hardwood such as oak) covered in leather, and decorated with precious metalwork and jewels, emulating the decoration found inside the book.


Front Cover of the Stonyhurst Gospel (late 7th century)


This tiny Gospel book (only 12.5 cm high) was found in the tomb of St. Cuthbert in 1104, and is one of the very few surviving examples of an insular Gospel book with an intact binding. It has decorative tooled leatherwork reminiscent of manuscript decoration, but because of its size, and as it may have been the personal book of St. Cuthbert, it has none of the jewels and precious metalwork that would be expected to have adorned the covers of the great display Gospel books such as the Lindisfarne Gospels.

The colophon to the Lindisfarne Gospels indicates that the book originally had a binding created by Billfrið the anchorite that was adorned with gold and gems, but as is the case with almost all early insular Gospel books, the binding has not survived (the current silver-wrought and bejewelled treasure binding was made in 1853). The description accompanying the St Chad Gospels at Lichfield Cathedral describes its lost binding thus :

The original binding may have carried plates of metalwork, perhaps based upon the design of its carpet pages or depicting the Crucifixion and adorned with solver, gold and gems. It would have given the book an iconic function even when closed. This treasure binding was probably ripped from the book for its bullion value.


I believe that the gold strip from the Staffordshire Hoard was originally part of the ornamentation on the cover of a richly decorated Gospel book, as described above. The gold strip would have been rivetted onto the wooden end boards, with a large jewel at the top end, and the serpent's head pointing down, forming a large decorative letter I. Given the size of the gold strip (18 × 1.6 cm) relative to the size of finely-decorated Gospel books (the Lindisfarne Gospels are 37.2 × 26.5 cm, and the Lichfield Gospels are 30.8 × 23.5 cm), the gold strip would have taken up a significant portion of the front cover, and so there would be little room for a long text attached to this golden letter 'I'. On the incipit pages of Gospel books, the large decorative letters with serpentine heads usually come in groups of three (INITIUM, IN PRINCIPIO, LIBER, QUONIAM), so it seems possible that the golden letter I may have been part of a group of three such decorated and jewelled metalwork letters. My guess is that the gold strip formed the decorative initial capital letter 'I' of the Christogram IHS at the centre of the front cover of a large Gospel book.



5. Conclusion

Summarising the contextual, epigraphic and stylistic evidence, I think that an early 8th century date and Mercian provenance for the gold strip is most likely :

  • The text of the inscription may reflect the popularity of a story about the Mercian saint, Guthlac (673–714), who is said to have exorcised British demons by singing the words from Psalm 67:2;
  • The Insular half-uncial letterforms used on the inscription are typical of manuscripts and inscriptions dating from the 7th and 8th centuries;
  • The decorative serpent's head on the gold strip is stylistically comparable to the manuscript decoration in the Lindisfarne Gospels (circa 715-720) and Lichfield Gospels (circa 730).

The gold strip may have formed the initial letter I of a golden, bejewelled Christogram, IHS, at the centre of the front cover of a large Gospel book. The biblical inscription on the gold strip may reflect the importance of the cult of Saint Guthlac in 8th century Mercia, and have been engraved onto the golden I on the front cover of the Gospels in order to protect the holy book and ward off evil, directly influenced by the story of Saint Guthlac's singing of Psalm 67:2 to exorcize demons.

The fact that the hoard was discovered by the side of Watling Street just a few miles outside Lichfield, the religious centre of Mercia, makes me think that the gold strip was probably wrenched from the cover of a precious Gospel book held at the cathedral at Lichfield during the 8th century by marauding soldiers or raiders, and that they buried it and other loot when they met with opposition on the road out of Lichfield. It is even tempting to imagine that the book that the gold strip was despoiled from was the early 8th century St. Chad Gospels that has been in Lichfield Cathedral since at least the time of Bishop Wynsige (Bishop of Lichfield circa 963 to 972–5).

Given the early 8th century date of the gold strip posited above, I would suggest that a likely date for the burial of the hoard is the year 757, at which time Mercia was in a state of civil war between Offa (reigned 757–796) and the usurper Beornred following the assassination of Offa's uncle, Æthelbald (reigned 716–757).



6. Other Interesting Blog Posts about the Gold Strip and its Inscription


[First published 2009-12-25, revised 2010-04-07, last modified 2010-04-10]


Sunday, 13 December 2009

BabelPad Version 5.2.0.0

A new and improved version of BabelPad that supports Unicode 5.2 has just been released, and can be downloaded directly by clicking here (simply unzip the file BabelPad.exe and run it from wherever you like). BabelPad will run on Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7 systems, but I no longer provide a build that will run under Windows 95/98/Me (an unsupported build of Version 1.9.3 for Windows 95, 98 and Me is available at here for anyone who needs it).

This is the first official release of a new version of BabelPad since June 2008, and the first that to be announced here in over four years (BabelPad Version 1.9.3), because due to other commitments it has taken me nearly four years to get it into a fit state for release. As so many features have been added since the last official release, and as I have not yet got round to updating the help system, I think that it might be helpful to provide an overview of all the features and functions in the latest version of BabelPad.


Screenshot of BabelPad version 5.2.0 showing complex rendering with a virtual composite font

Click on the descriptions below to see different views of BabelPad

Complex rendering with a single font

Simple rendering with a virtual composite font

Complex rendering with a single font

Simple rendering with a single font

Complex rendering with a virtual composite font with colour highlighting of scripts

Browser view

Creative Commons License
All screenshots of BabelPad on this page are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA-3.0) by Andrew West.


In summary, BabelPad is a plain text Unicode editor for Windows with standard text editing functionality (such as drag-and-drop editing, find/replace, and unlimited undo/redo of changes), as well as many enhanced features for working with multilingual and multiscript documents. As a "plain text" editor, you can edit the raw text that a document comprises, but you cannot apply styles such as Font, Font Size, Bold/Underline/Italics and Colour to arbitrary sections of text in the document. As a Unicode editor you can read, edit and write documents encoded in Unicode, and manipulate Unicode text at the character level (this is different from editors such as Notepad that allow you to edit at the Grapheme Cluster level). The code point value and character name of the character at the current caret position is indicated on the status bar, and pressing Ctrl+= brings up a summary of most of the defined properties of the character.

To ensure optimum display of a document you can either apply a single font to the entire document, or use a virtual composite font that maps different actual fonts to different Unicode blocks as configured by the user (font mapping is at the block level rather than the script level for various reasons, not least of which is that there are technical constraints that mean that it is currently impossible for a single font to individually cover all 75,000+ characters that are defined as belonging to the Han script). Unlike Notepad and other Windows applications, BabelPad does not perform any secret font substitutions that are outside the control of the user, and the font that is selected or configured will always be the font that is used to render the text. You can enable a single font as selected from a dropdown box on the main toolbar by pressing Ctrl+1, and enable the currently configured composite font by pressing Ctrl+2. Multiple composite fonts can be configured, and loaded as required.

By default BabelPad uses Microsoft's Uniscribe rendering engine to ensure complex scripts are rendered correctly, with appropriate joining and shaping behaviour where required, or for non-complex scripts where requested by OpenType features in the font (e.g. for ligatures of Latin letters). However, in order to visualize the underlying characters that the text comprises it is possible to turn off complex rendering, and display all characters as individual, spacing characters in logical order (e.g. Arabic characters will be displayed in their isolated forms, laid out left-to-right in Left-to-Right Layout or right-to-left in Right-to-Left Layout; and decomposed, accented Latin text will be laid out with individual diacritic marks following their base character in their coding sequence). You can enable simple rendering mode by pressing Ctrl+0 (Ctrl plus zero), and re-enable complex rendering mode by pressing Ctrl+9.

Below is a detailed list of features, ordered by menu position (yes I know, menus are out and ribbons are in, but personally I find a well-ordered menu system way more usable than a ribbon full of random icons).


File Menu

  • New (Ctrl+N) : Closes the current document and creates a new, blank document. By design BabelPad has a single document interface, so if you want to work with multiple documents you need to open multiple instances of BabelPad. However, you can tile multiple instances of BabelPad using the Window menu options, which helps when working on two or more documents simultaneously.
  • Open... (Ctrl+O) : Opens a new document. BabelPad can open documents encoded in a wide range of Uniocde and legacy encodings. By default BabelPad will auto-detect the document's encoding, which usually works for Unicode-encoded documents or for HTML/XML documents with a correct encoding declaration. The encoding that has been used to open the file )or later to save the file) is displayed in brackets after the file name on the title bar. With BabelPad it is possible to open and edit huge-sized text files (I recently opened the 230 MB UK database of post codes in about 40 seconds on my new laptop). Huge documents can be edited with little or no degradation in performance, but search operations may take a long time, and you should disable undo/redo if you want to make global changes to a very large document.
  • Reopen As... : Reopens the current document with the option to select a different encoding, which is useful if you have inadvertently opened the docunent with the wrong encoding or if auto-detect gets the encoding wrong.
  • Merge Files... : Allows you to select multiple documents (they must all be in the same folder) and open them as a single merged document.
  • Save (Ctrl+A) : Saves the current document. If the document was opened as Read Only, or if it was not encoded as Unicode this will bring up the Save As dialog box. BabelPad can open documents in many different encoding, but by design it only saves documents in standard Unicode encodings (UTF-8, UTF-16 and UTF-32), or Unicode-compatible encodings (GB18030), or as ASCII text with non-ASCII characters represented using escape sequences or character entities.
  • Save As... (Ctrl+Shift+S) : Save the current document with a new name, or in a different location, or with a different encoding. If you select a word or a short piece of text in the document (not going beyond a single line) and then Save As, the selected word or text (truncated to 64 characters) will be used as the default name for the document to be saved.
  • Page Setup... : Sets the page size, orientation and margins to use for printing.
  • Printer Setup... : Selects a printer to use for printing.
  • Print... (Ctrl+P) : Prints the document.
  • List of Recently Opened Files : Open (with auto-detect encoding) a recently opened document.
  • Exit : Closes BabelPad.

Edit Menu

  • Undo and Redo
    • Undo (Ctrl+Z) : Undo the last edit action.
    • Redo (Ctrl+Y) : Redo the last undone edit action.
    • Undo All (Ctrl+Shift+Z) : Undo all edit actions made to the document.
    • Redo All (Ctrl+Shift+Y) : Redo all undone edit actions to the document.
  • Cut and Paste
    • Cut (Ctrl+X) : Delete the selected text and copy it to the clipboard.
    • Copy (Ctrl+C) : Copy the the selected text to the clipboard.
    • Patse (Ctrl+V) : Paste any Unicode format or ASCII format text in the clipboard into the document at the current cursor position (replacing any selected text).
    • Delete (Del) : Delete the selected text.
  • Find and Replace
    • Find... (Ctrl+F) : Opens the Find/Replace/Count dialog box with the Find button in focus (so that you can simply type a search term and hit Enter to start searching). You can make case-sensitive or case-insensitive searches (works for all Unicode characters with simple casing behaviour, including Armenian, Latin, Coptic, Cyrillic, Deseret, Georgian, Glagolitic and Greek letterss), and restrict matches by word boundary (whole word, start of word or end of word) or line boundary (whole line, start of line or end of line). Searching for a blank search term with the Whole Line option selected will find blank lines in the document.
    • Find Next (F3) : Finds the next occurence in the document of the search term previously searched for (using the same search restrictions as previously used). If a piece of text not spanning more than one line is selected then the selected text will be used as a new search term, so in order to search for a particular word, all you need to do is simply double-click on it and hit F3.
    • Find Next (unrestricted) : Same as Find Next, but does not apply any of the search restrictions (case matching and word/line boundary matching) that may have been used in the previous search.
    • Find Previous (Shift+F3) : As for Find Next, but finds the previous occurence in the document of the search term previously searched for or the currently selected piece of text.
    • Find Previous (unrestricted) : Same as Find Previous, but does not apply any of the search restrictions (case matching and word/line boundary matching) that may have been used in the previous search.
    • Replace... (Ctrl+H) : Opens the Find/Replace/Count dialog box with the Replace All button in focus (so that you can simply type in a search term and replacement text and hit Enter to make a global replacement throughout the document or the selected text). If the Whole Line option selected with a blank search term, blank lines will be replaced by the replacement text; if the Start of Line option is selected with a blank search term, the replacement text will be prepended to the start of all lines in the document or in the selected lines of text; and if the End of Line option is selected with a blank search term, the replacement text will be appended to the end of all lines in the document or in the selected lines of text.
    • Count... : Opens the Find/Replace/Count dialog box with the Count button in focus (so that you can simply type a search term and hit Enter to start counting). You may also count the occurences of a word or phrase by selecting the piece of text to be counted, and selecting Count from the right-click menu.
  • Insert Lines... : Opens a dialog box that lets you enter the number of blank lines to insert at the current caret position.
  • Join Lines... (Ctrl+J) : Opens a dialog box that lets you join together any two adjacent lines in the document where the first line ends with a given text string (if no text is given all lines will match) and the following line starts with a given text string (if no text is given all lines will match). If no text is given for the end of the first line text and for the start of the second line text then all lines in the document (or the selected lines of the document) will be joined into one long line.
  • Break Lines... (Ctrl+K) : Opens a dialog box that lets you insert one or more line breaks into all occurences of a given text string (type a circumflex character at all required line break positions).
  • Replicate Character (Ctrl+R) : Reduplicates the character before the caret.
  • Reverse : Reverses the selected text at the grapheme cluster level (i.e. a decompsed sequence of a base letter and one or more diacritic marks will be treated as a single unit).
  • Transcode... : Opens a dialog box that allows you to perform a custom transcoding of the document, i.e. convert all occurences of characters in usr-defined List A to the corresponding character in user-defined List B. This feature could be useful when working with legacy or PUA encoded documents, as well as for encoding or deciphering a substitution cipher.
  • Auto Number... : Opems a dialog box that allows you to convert all occurences of "###" (triple hash) in the doument to numbers, starting from a given number and incrementing/decrementing by a given number, either in decimal or hexadecimal. For example, to add line numbering to a document, first replace the start of every line with "###" (use a blank search term and Start of Line checked), then open the Auto Number dialog box and hit Enter (using the default values).
  • Increase Indent (Tab) : Adds a tab character to the start of each selected line (a whole number of lines must be selected).
  • Decrease Indent (Shift+Tab) : Removes a tab character from the start of each selected line.
  • Select All (Ctrl+A) : Selects the entire document.
  • Go To... (Ctrl+G) : Opens a dialog box that allows you to enter a logical line number to go to.
  • Screenshot of BabelPad : Copies an image of the entire BabelPad window to the clipboard (for unknown reasons this may not always work correctly on Vista and 7).
  • Screenshot of Edit Pane : Copies an image of the BabelPad edit pane to the clipboard.

Convert Menu

  • Contextual Convert... (Ctrl+Shift+X) : Opens a dialog box that allows you to apply any of the other conversions on the conversion menu (casing, normalization, etc.) to only that text that occurs between two user-defined delimiters. For example, you could use this feature to convert to upper case all text that occurs between <h1> and </h1>. Or you could convert from Wylie Transliteration to Unicode Tibetan all text that occurs between lang="bo"> and </.
  • Case
    • To Upper Case (Ctrl+U) : Converts the selected text to upper case.
    • To Lower Case (Ctrl+L) : Converts the selected text to lower case.
    • To Title Case (Ctrl+T) : Converts the selected text to upper case at word-start and to lower case elsewhere.
  • Normalization Form
    • To NFD : Converts the selected text to Normalization Form D (i.e. canonical decomposition of the text).
    • To NFC : Converts the selected text to Normalization Form C (i.e. canonical decomposition of the text followed by recomposition of all decomposed sequences).
    • To NFKD : Converts the selected text to Normalization Form KD (i.e. compatibility decomposition of the text).
    • To NFKC : Converts the selected text to Normalization Form KC (i.e. compatibility decomposition of the text followed by recomposition of all decomposed sequences).
  • HTML Entities
    • HTML Entities to Unicode : Converts all occurences of HTML character entity references (e.g. &eacute; for é) in the selected text to their corresponding Unicode characater.
    • Unicode to HTML Entities : Converts all occurences of Unicode characters outside the Basic Latin block in the selected text to their corresponding HTML character entity reference where possible.
  • Numeric Character References (NCR)
    • NCR to Unicode : Converts all occurences of numeric character reference in either decimal format (e.g. &#43981;) or hexadecimal format (e.g. &#xABCD;) in the selected text to their corresponding Unicode character.
    • Unicode to NCR (Hex) : Converts all occurences of Unicode characters outside the Basic Latin block in the selected text to their corresponding hexadecimal format numeric character reference where possible.
    • Unicode to NCR (Decimal) : Converts all occurences of Unicode characters outside the Basic Latin block in the selected text to their corresponding decimal format numeric character reference where possible.
  • Universal Character Names (UCN)
    • UCN to Unicode : Converts all occurences of Unicode character name escape codes (e.g. \uABCD; or \U00013055) in the selected text to their corresponding Unicode character.
    • Unicode to UCN : Converts all occurences of Unicode characters outside the Basic Latin block in the selected text to their corresponding universal character name where possible.
  • To Unicode Name : Converts all occurences of Unicode characters outside the Basic Latin block in the selected text to their official Unicode name (e.g. U+ABCD converts to MEETEI MAYEK LETTER HUK).
  • To U+XXXX : Converts all occurences of Unicode characters outside the Basic Latin block in the selected text to the U+XXXX notation (e.g. U+ABCD or U+13055).
  • Chinese
    • To Traditional Characters (Ctrl+Shift+F) : Converts all occurences of simplified Chinese characters in the selected text to the appropriate corresponding traditional character, based on context (e.g. 干净 converts to 乾淨, but 能干 converts to 能幹).
    • To Simplified Characters (Ctrl+Shift+J) : Converts all occurences of traditional Chinese characters in the selected text to the appropriate corresponding simplified character, based on context (e.g. 乾淨 converts to 干净, but 乾坤 remains as 乾坤).
    • HKSCS PUA Ideographs : Converts all occurences of Private Use characters defined in the Hong Kong Special Character Set (HKSCS) in the selected text to their corresponding Unicode character.
  • Japanese
    • Hiragana to Katakana : Converts all occurences of Hiragana characters (3040..309F) in the selected text to the corresponding Katakana character.
    • Katakana to Hiragana : Converts all occurences of Katakana characters (30A0..30FF) in the selected text to the corresponding Hiragana character.
  • Korean
    • Hangul Syllables to Hangul Letters : Converts all occurences of precomposed Hangul syllables (AC00..D7A3) or decomposed Hangul Jamo (1100..11FF) sequences in the selected text to the corresponding spacing Hangul letters (3131..318E).
    • Hangul Letters to Hangul Syllables : Converts all occurences of spacing Hangul letters (3131..318E) in the selected text to the corresponding precomposed Hangul syllables (AC00..D7A3) or decomposed Hangul Jamo (1100..11FF) sequences.
  • Tibetan
    • Extended Wylie to Tibetan : Converts Tibetan transliteration (Extended Wylie Transliteration Scheme) to Unicode Tibetan.
    • Unicode to Precomposed Tibetan (Set A) : Converts standard Unicode Tibetan text to the Private Use precomposed Tibetan Set A characters defined by the PRC.
    • Precomposed Tibetan (Set A) to Unicode : Converts Private Use precomposed Tibetan Set A characters to standard Unicode Tibetan.
  • Uyghur
    • Arabic to Latin (ULY) : Converts Uyghur text written in Arabic characters to the Uyghur Latin Yéziqi (ULY) orthography.
    • Latin (ULY) to Arabic : Converts Uyghur text written in the Uyghur Latin Yéziqi (ULY) orthography to Arabic characters.
  • Vietnamese
  • Yi (Nuosu)
    • Yi Romanization to Yi Syllables : Converts Nuosu Yi text written in Romanization to Yi syllables (A000..A48C).
    • Yi Syllables to Romanization : Converts Nuosu Yi text written in Yi syllables (A000..A48C) to Romanization.
    • Yi Syllables to IPA : Converts Nuosu Yi text written in Yi syllables (A000..A48C) to IPA transcription.
  • Other
    • Fullwidth and Halfwidth to Normal Width : Converts all occurences of fullwidth and halfwidth Latin, Katakana and Hangul letters (FF00..FFEF) in the selected text to the corresponding normal width characters.
    • Control Codes to Control Pictures : Converts all occurences of control characters (0000..001F and 007F) in the selected text to the corresponding control picture (2400..243F).
    • ASCII to Tag Characters : Converts all occurences of Basic Latin characters (0020..007E) in the selected text to the corresponding tag characters (E0000..E007F).
    • ASCII to Typographic Characters : Converts ASCII apostrophe and quotation mark to opening/closing single and double quotation marks as appropriate, converts two consecutive ASCII hyohen-minus characters to an em dash, and converts occurences of number-slash-number to the corresponding fraction characters.
    • Strip Diacritics : Removes diacritic marks from all occurences of letters with diacritic marks in the selected text.

Insert Menu

  • File... : Opens a File Open dialog box in order to select a file to insert into the document at the current caret position. This operation cannot be undone, and clears any existing undo operations.
  • Bidirectional Control Characters : Inserts a bidirectional control charater (LRM, RLM, LRE, RLE, LRO, RLO, PDF) into the document at the current caret position.
  • Interlinear Annotation Control Characters : Inserts an interlinear annotation control charater (interlinear annotation anchor/separator/terminator) into the document at the current caret position.
  • Deprecated Format Characters : Inserts a deprecated format charater (ISS, ASS, IAFS, AAFS, NADS, NODS) into the document at the current caret position.
  • Zero Width Joiner (ZWJ) (Alt+=) : Inserts a Zero Width Joiner charater into the document at the current caret position.
  • Zero Width Non-Joiner (ZWNJ) (Alt+Shift+=) : Inserts a Zero Width Non-Joiner charater into the document at the current caret position.
  • Combining Grapheme Joiner (CGJ) : Inserts a Combining Grapheme Joiner charater into the document at the current caret position.
  • Word Joiner (WJ) : Inserts a Word Joiner charater into the document at the current caret position.
  • Object Replacement Character : Inserts an object replacement charater into the document at the current caret position.
  • Replacement Character : Inserts a replacement charater into the document at the current caret position.
  • Variation Selectors : Inserts a variation selector charater into the document at the current caret position.
  • Spaces : Inserts one of a variety of space charaters into the document at the current caret position.
  • Dashes and Hyphens : Inserts one of a variety of dash and hyphen charaters into the document at the current caret position.

Input Menu

  • Default (Ctrl+D) : Uses the currently selected Windows keyboard layout or input method for text input.
  • Unicode (Ctrl+I) : Uses the BabelStone Unicode input method to enter Unicode characters by scalar value. Enter any Unicode character by typing its Unicode code point value terminated by hitting the space key or the Enter key. You can also enter a single Unicode character in any other input mode by hitting Ctrl+Q followed by the code point value of the character terminated by space or Enter.
  • Manchu (Ctrl+Shift+A) : Uses the BabelStone Manchu phonetic input method to enter Manchu text.
  • Mongolian (Ctrl+Shift+M) : Uses the BabelStone Mongolian phonetic input method to enter Mongolian text.
  • Tibetan (Ctrl+Shift+B) : Uses the BabelStone Tibetan Extended Wylie input method to enter Tibetan text.
  • Uyghur (Ctrl+Shift+U) : Uses the BabelStone Uyghur input method to enter Uyghur text (this is the same as the Microsoft Uighur keyboard layout for Vista, except that it maps F to U+0641 ARABIC LETTER FEH rather than U+06A7 ARABIC LETTER QAF WITH DOT ABOVE as Microsoft incorrectly does).
  • Yi (Nuosu) (Ctrl+Shift+N) : Uses the BabelStone Yi romanization input method to enter Nuosu Yi text.

Tools Menu

  • Character Map... (Ctrl+M) : Opens the character map tool that allows you to select any Unicode character. This is a simplified version of the BabelMap application.
  • Advanced Character Search... : Opens the Advanced Character Search tool that allows you to search for all characters that match certain criteria (for example, a particular formal property of the character or the version of Unicode that the character was introduced in).
  • Document Analysis... (F7) : Opens the Document Analysis tool that provides statistics for the current document, and reports any warnings or errors.
  • Character Frequency... : Opens the Character Frequency tool that lists the frequency of all characters in the document (useful for deciphering substitution ciphers).
  • Font Analysis... : Opens the Font Analysis tool that lists the character coverage of all fonts in the system.
  • Font Coverage... : Opens the Font Coverage tool that allows you to list all fonts that cover a particular character, or a given piece of text, or all the characters in the current document.
  • Font Information... : Opens the Font Information tool that shows information about the currently selected font.
  • Export Font Glyphs... : Opens the Font Glyph Export tool that allows you to save to file in BMP, GIF, JPG or PNG format any glyphs from a given font (selected by code point value or glyph index).
  • Unicode Summary... : Opens the Unicode Summary tool that provides a summary of the planes, blocks and scripts defined in the current version of Unicode.
  • Unicode Version History... : Opens the Unicode Version History tool that provides summary details about each version of Unicode.
  • Mandarin (Pinyin) Lookup... (F12) : Opens the Mandarin Lookup tool that allows you to find a Chinese character by Pinyin pronunciation.
  • Cantonese (Jyutping) Lookup... (Shift+F12) : Opens the Cantonese Lookup tool that allows you to find a Chinese character by Jyutping pronunciation.
  • Han Radical Lookup... (F11) : Opens the Han Radical Lookup tool that allows you to find by radical and residual stroke count any of the 74,394 characters in the CJK, CJK-A, CJK-B and CJK-C blocks.
  • Yi Radical Lookup... (Shift+F11) : Opens the Yi Radical Lookup tool that allows you to find any Yi syllable by radical and residual stroke.
  • Character Properties... (Ctrl+=) : Opens the Character Properties dialog box that shows additional information about the character at the current caret position.

Options Menu

  • Single Font (Ctrl+1) : Renders the document with a single font (as selected from the dropdown list on the main toolbar).
  • Composite Font (Ctrl+2) : Renders the document using a user-defined composite font, with a font mapping for each Unicode block of characters.
  • Simple Rendering (Ctrl+0) : Renders text as spacing characters in logical order with no shaping or joining behaviour, and with format characters displayed with visible glyphs if available in the font.
  • Complex Rendering (Ctrl+9) : Renders text using Microsoft's Uniscribe rendering engine, which normally gives the best shaping and joining behaviour for complex scripts (BabelPad accesses the Uniscribe API directly, so avoids automatic font substitution and other potentially unwanted behaviour found in Notepad, etc.).
  • User Interface Language : Changes the language used for menus and other user interface items. Currently only supports English, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.
  • CJK Readings : Selects which language to display readings of Han ideographs in on the main status bar and on the character map status bar. Available languages are Mandarin (pinyin), Cantonese (jyutping), Korean and Vietnamese.
  • Dialogue Boxes : Allows you to select whether to display small-sized or medium-sized dialog boxes (if your system has a small screen resolution small-sized is best).
  • Display Colours : Selects the text and background colours for the main edit pane : default system colours; black text on white background; white text on blue background; or each Unicode-defined script displayed in a different colour.
  • Font Options
    • List Unicode Fonts Only : By default BabelPad lists all TrueType and OpenType fonts, even those that have no Unicode character-to-glyph mapping, and so are not fully supported by BabelPad. Checking this option will cause any such fonts to be filtered out of the font list.
    • List Rotated Fonts : By default BabelPad does not list vertical forms of CJK fonts. Checking this option causes BabelPad to include in the font list vertical versions of fonts where available (i.e. fonts that appear with an @ sign in front of their names).
    • List All Styles of Fonts : By default BabelPad only lists the regular style of fonts with more than one sttyle. Checking this option causes BabelPad to list all available styles of each font (e.g. Bold, Italic, Bold-Italic).
  • File Options
    • Save New Files with a BOM : Selects whether to save new files with a Byte Order Mark (BOM) or not. For existing files, the default is to save with a BOM if the file had one when it was opened, and without a BOM if it did not have one when it was opened.
    • Set Maximum Line Size... : BabelPad's one weakness is that it does not cope with very long lines very well. If you are having problems with documents with very long lines, you can use this option to soecify a maximum line size, and when opening files BabelPad will automatically insert one or more line breaks in any lines that are longer.
  • Edit Options
    • Enable Undo/Redo : If you are making global changes to a very large document you should disable the undo/redo functionality, otherwise text replace and conversion operations make take an excessively long time.
    • Enable Auto-Indent : If this option is selected tab character will be automatically inserted at the start of a new line when Enter is entered if required (mainly intended for C/C+/C# code editing, but also useful for editing XML documents).
    • Enable Smart Quotes : If this option is selected ASCII apostrophe and quotation marks will be automatically converted to opening or closing single/double quotation marks as necessary, as you type (press Ctrl-Z to revert to the original character typed).
    • Enable Smart Fractions : If this option is selected ASCII sequences of a digit followed by a slash followed by a digit (e.g. 3/4) will be automatically converted to the corresponding fraction character (e.g. ¾) as you type (press Ctrl-Z to revert to the original sequence of characters typed).
    • Enable Smart Dashes : If this option is selected two consecutive ASCII hyphen-minus characters will be automatically converted to an em dash character as you type (press Ctrl-Z to revert to the original characters typed).
    • Convert Basic Latin : By default the various conversions of Unicode characters to escape codes or character entities (NCR, UCN, U+XXXX, etc.) are only applied to characters beyond the Basic Latin block (0000..007F). If this option is selected, all characters will be subject to such conversion operations.
  • Casing Rules
    • Turkish/Azeri (dotted/dotless i) : Checking this option will apply Turkish /Azeri casing rules for dotted i and dotless i when performing casing operations to text.
    • Lithuanian (accented dotted i/j) : Checking this option will apply Lithuanian rules for preserving the dot on accented lower case i and j when performing casing operations to text.
    • German (eszett) : Allows you to choose which rules to use for casing eszett (ß) and SS : None (eszett is uppercased to SS,but SS is never lowercased to eszett); Traditional (eszett is uppercased to SS, and medial/final SS is lower cased to eszett); or modern (eszett is uppercased to capital eszett, and capital eszett is lowercased to eszett).
    • Long S : Allows you to choose which rules to use for lowercasing capital S to short s or long s when converting upper case text to to lower case : None, Early 18th Century English rules; Late 18th Century English rules; 18th Century French rules; 18th Century Italian rules; or 18th Century Spanish rules.
  • Other Options
    • Help Window on Top : As recommended by Microsoft, by default the Help window is always on top of the BabelPad window. If you find this annoying, select this option.
  • Composite Font Mappings... : Opens a dialog box that allows you to configure which Unicode blocks are mapped to which fonts in the virtual composite font. Multiple virtual composite fonts can be defined and saved to file.

Layout Menu

  • Left to Right Layout (Ctrl+Shift+L) : Lays out the document in Left-to-Right page layout.
  • Right to Left Layout (Ctrl+Shift+R) : Lays out the document in Right-to-Left page layout.
  • Line Wrap (Ctrl+W) : Toggles between Line Wrap and No Line Wrap mode.

View Menu

  • Main Toolbar : Shows or hides the toolbar with buttons corresponding to the most common file, editing and display options, including a dropdown list of fonts on the system.
  • Input Toolbar : Shows or hides the toolbar with buttons corresponding to the BabelStone input methods and character lookup tools.
  • Convert Toolbar : Shows or hides the toolbar with buttons corresponding to general conversion functions.
  • Language Toolbar : Shows or hides the toolbar that has buttons corresponding to various language-specific functions.
  • Options Toolbar : Shows or hides the toolbar with buttons corresponding to common options.
  • Status Bar : Shows or hides the status bar. The status bar shows informational messages, the current keybaord layout or input method, the code point value and official character name of the character at the current caret position (as well as the Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean or Vietnamese reading for CJK ideographs), the current line number and the character position on the current line.
  • Edit View (Ctrl+E) : Exits Browser mode and re-enters Edit mode.
  • Browser View (Ctrl+B) : Enters Browser mode, where the current document is displayed in an Internet Exporer window.

Window Menu

  • Tile Windows : Tiles in an orderly fashion all non-minimized BabelPad windows.
  • Tile Horizontal : Tiles horizontally (left to right across the screen) all non-minimized BabelPad windows.
  • Tile Vertical : Tiles vertically (top to bottom down the screen) all non-minimized BabelPad windows.
  • Tile across all Monitors : Tiles all non-minimized BabelPad windows across all monitors attched to the system (the above three options only tile across a single monitor).
  • Cascade Windows : Cascades all non-minimized BabelPad windows.
  • Minimize Windows : Minimizes all instances of BabelPad.
  • Maximize Windows : Maximizes all instances of BabelPad.
  • Restore Windows : Restores all instances of BabelPad.
  • Close Windows : Closes all instances of BabelPad.

Help Menu

  • Help Topics (F1) : Opens the Help system (currently not up to date).
  • About BabelPad... : Opens a dialog box showing information about the current version of BabelPad.

Mouse Click Functions

  • Left Click on Margin (left margin in LTR mode or right margin in RTL mode) : selects the adjacent physical line
  • Double Left Click on Margin (left margin in LTR mode or right margin in RTL mode) : selects the adjacent logical line (i.e. one or more physical lines in Line Wrap mode)
  • Right Click on Text : brings up a small menu with common edit and convert operations.

Mouse Scroll Wheel Functions

The mouse scroll wheel has the following functions that can be used to manipulate the dropdown lists (Font, Font Size and Line Spacing) on the main toolbar, even when the main toolbar is hidden :

  • Scroll : scrolls the text in the edit pane
  • Shift+Scroll : scrolls through the dropdown list of fonts if not using a composite font
  • Ctrl+Scroll : increases or decreases the font size
  • Ctrl+Shift+Scroll : increases or decreases the line spacing

Keystroke Navigation

The following keystroke combinations may be used to move the current caret position within a document (holding the Shift key down at the same time will select the text between the start and end caret positions) :

  • Home : moves the caret to the start of the current physical line (i.e. to the beginning of a wrapped line in line wrap mode)
  • Home+Home (in quick succession) : moves the caret to the start of the current logical line (i.e. in front of the first character of a logical line that spans several physical lines when in Line Wrap mode)
  • End : moves the caret to the end of the current physical line (i.e. to the end of a wrapped line in line wrap mode)
  • End+End (in quick succession) : moves the caret to the end of the current logical line (i.e. after the last character of a logical line that spans several physical lines when in Line Wrap mode)
  • Left : moves the caret one Unicode character to the left
  • Right : moves the caret one Unicode character to the right
  • Up : moves the caret to the same relative position in the physical line above (relative to the start of the physical line)
  • Down : moves the caret to the same relative position in the physical line below (relative to the start of the physical line)
  • Ctrl+Home : moves the caret to the start of the document
  • Ctrl+End : moves the caret to the end of the document
  • Ctrl+Left : moves the caret to the start of the previous word
  • Ctrl+Right : moves the caret to the start of the next word
  • Ctrl+Up : moves the caret to the same absolute position in the logical line above (relative to the start of the logical line)
  • Ctrl+Down : moves the caret to the same absolute position in the logical line below (relative to the start of the logical line)


BabelPad Version 5.2.0.1 [2009-12-14]

This update fixes a bug in the menu display that affects US English users only.



BabelPad Version 5.2.0.2 [2009-12-16]

This update has the following improvements and bug fixes:

  • Improves behaviour when pasting text or inserting a file.
  • Improves behaviour when selecting all text (Ctrl+A) and not in Line Wrap mode.
  • Fixes a bug that caused the horizontal scrollbar to not always be shown after exiting Line Wrap mode.
  • Improves Manchu input method (allows 'tsy' sequence and maps plus sign (+) to the syllable boundary marker).


BabelPad Version 5.2.0.3 [2009-12-21]

This update fixes two bugs in the Uyghur "Latin (ULY) to Arabic" conversion function.



BabelPad Version 5.2.0.4 [2009-12-23]

This update fixes a bug that causes BabelPad to get an incorrect glyph index for certain characters in certain fonts, which affects the "Copy CMAP Subtable" function.



BabelPad Version 5.2.0.5 [2009-12-31]

This update fixes a bug that causes BabelPad to crash if the tab key is pressed multiple times when the Character Map utility is open.



BabelPad Version 5.2.0.6 [2010-01-02]

This update improves character search in the Character Map utility, and displays the ISO/IEC 6429 names for control characters in the Character Map utility character description (these used to be displayed, but were inadvertently dropped somewhere along the line).



BabelPad Version 5.2.0.7 [2010-01-09]

This update fixes a bug with the Join Lines function that caused it to fail to join lines under certain circumstances.



BabelPad Version 5.2.0.8 [2010-06-06]

This update adds the following features :

  • Adds support for the 'Standard Compression Scheme for Unicode' (SCSU), using code kindly supplied by Doug Ewell. Documents can now be opened and saved as SCSU.
  • Adds conversion from Unicode text to UTF-8 hexadecimal and octal byte codes.
  • Add a new Batch Replace feature that allows you to execute multiple global replacements in a single operation.
  • Fixes bug in the Transcode utility that meant that long lists of characters could not be pasted into the edit boxes.
  • Adds a new 'HTML' character mode for the character map edit buffer.
  • Fixes a bug with rendering reserved supra-BMP ranges in Simple Rendering mode.
  • Corrects some CJK radical/stroke counts.


BabelPad Version 5.2.0.9 [2010-06-07]

This update fixes a bug that causes BabelPad to crash when displaying reserved character ranges under certain circumstances.



BabelPad Version 5.2.0.10 [2010-06-09]

Refixes a bug whereby some of the radicals in the Han Radical Lookup Utility were displayed as the wrong character.



BabelPad Version 5.2.0.11 [2010-06-18]

Fixes a bug with the block coverage statistics in the Composite Font Mappings dialog.



BabelPad Version 6.0.0.0 BETA [2010-07-04]

Beta releases of BabelPad and BabelMap suporting Unicode 6.0 are now available for download:


Caveat: The Unicode properties in BabelMap/BabelPad are based on the latest versions of the Unicode 6.0 Beta data files, and although the data is unlikely to change substantially before the release of Unicode 6.0 in late September, some properties may be subject to change, and should not be relied on. However, character names and code points are fixed, and may be relied on.


As usual, please send any bug reports or feature requests to me (see my profile for my email address).