Most texts from the classical and medieval period don't come with pre-established titles. In general, manuscripts just start without ceremony. Later editors then pick an appropriate title, like On Rhetoric, Beowulf or Letter to the Corinthians, and so on. As usual, the Ormulum is an exception to this. Orm writes, with classic clarity and authorial authority "This book is named Ormulum, because Orrm wrote it" (see picture).

Folio 9r Ormulum Names
From MS Junius 1, folio 9 recto, translates "This book is named Orrmulum because Orrm wrote it." To the left, a modern hand has written Ormulum and Orm in Latin capitals.

But note! I have edited even that little snippet! Not only have I translated it into modern English, adding capitals to the proper nouns and punctuation according to today's conventions, but I have changed the spelling of the proper nouns as well. According to Orrm's spelling system, both words should always be spelled with double r, orrm och orrmulum. However, there has been a strong tradition of presenting these words with latinised spelling, Orm and Ormulum, as Latin spelling conventions don't allow for a double r in this position. Indeed, written into the manuscript by one of the owners are the words ormulum and orm in block capitals, indicating a modern hand with some training in classical languages (see picture).


This is compounded by the fact that Orrm also has long form of his name, Orrmin, including a North Germanic definitive marker. This means that his name can be spelled Orm or Orrm ('snake'), Ormin or Orrmin ('the snake'). The -ulum ending itself is Latin, technically a derivational suffix, turning Orm's name into a "noun of instrument." Ormulum might be pleasingly translated therefore as 'the thing that does Orm's work.'

For the editor or publishing scholar, this gives a wide range of options. Writers throughout the years have combined all of these forms arbitrarily, sometimes giving Orrm his long name, sometimes short, and mixing freely between double and single r. Since Nils-Lennart worked on the project for such a long time, even he mixed the double and single r. However, this liberty makes computer searches more complicated than they need to be, as well as making publishers nervous.

To make things easier for everyone, I've established a practice at the Ormulum project to use the Latin name of the book, Ormulum, and the short form English name Orrm, both with modern capitalisation. The main reason for choosing the English version of the name is the principle that a chap knows how to spell his own name, but it also helps that no other word is spelled this way. Orm is still the usual Scandinavian word for 'snake', so when it comes to Internet searches, Orrm is much more likely to bring people to where they want to be. The same goes for Ormulum, which has a unique spelling, used in previous editions and in most modern English-language publications.