It can be argued that there are very few great works of literature in the history of English that were never published. It is possible that the Ormulum is one of them (at least for the first 700 years of its existence). If copies were made of the final text, or even if it was ever finished, is unknown. The manuscript available to modern scholars is Orrm's own handwritten notebook (technically "holograph"). Made from inferior parchment (probably goatskin) and much modified by Orrm himself and complemented by two other, unknown scribes (Hands B & C), the manuscript isn't even complete. The table of contents suggests that at least 242 homilies were originally planned. The existing manuscript contains only 30 and fragments of number 31. The scale and scope of the original must have been enormous. The edition text of those 31 homilies amounts to nearly 700 pages. That manuscript is known as "Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Junius 1", as manuscripts are archived with the order "(city), (library), MS (owner) (number)". The owner is whoever the owner was when the manuscript was donated. In this case it was the Dutch philologist Fransiscus Junius the younger. The number 1 indicates that its significance was understood even when it was bought by the Bodleian along with much of Junius' library after his death in 1677. There is a fair bit of damage to the manuscript, and many missing folios. We have recorded which ones are missing, and it seems like most of them were removed before Orrm started writing on the ones around them. However, it is also obvious that sections of the text are missing. Fortunately, in the late 1930s, N.P. Ker was invited to inspect another of Junius' manuscripts, known as "London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS Junius 783", so a long way down the pecking order from number 1. Ker was able to identify not only that some of the text was copied from now lost parts of the Ormulum manuscript, but also exactly where they should go, and that they were copied by Jan van Vliet, who owned the manuscript before Junius. Our edition incorporates standardised versions these lines. I shall probably deal with them in a separate article, as interpolated data adds an extra level of complexity which deserves particular attention.   

- Andrew