I am trying to find information on the punctuation of the Beowulf Manuscript, but not getting much. I found an image online of what appears to be a front page of an old looking book, but I'm not sure to what it is. The etexts online of the manuscript have ! exclamation marks, commas, large gaps to signify the meter or whatever it is... etc. There is a lot of "modern" stuff in this "old" English.

What I would like to know is what punctuation and formatting features were present in the original manuscript. If no original manuscript exists today, then theoretically what would've been present. If one does exist, then would be cool to know the museum it is at, but also what punctuation and other formatting features it has. Did it use the period? Commas appear to be an Italian invention (from a quick Google), so that seems to recent to have been in the original document. But "sentence stops" like periods might have been. Did they use all lowercase letters, or were there a mix of capital / lowercase letters like we write Beowulf words today? Did they have quotes? Did they have ellipses?

That's about it, thank you so much for your help!

  • 1
    You seem to assume we have the original manuscript of Beowulf, but (while some scholars have different opinions), the earliest existing text we have is almost certainly a copy of an earlier text. So probably we have no idea of the punctuation as it was originally written down. If you're still interested in the punctuation in the Nowell Codex, maybe edit your question to make that clear.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 11:15
  • There are various dots and marks, but one of the writing features is the use of spaces of varying width to isolate phrases and indicate metrical pauses (which tend to coincide with syntactic breaks). Search the web for "Robert Stevick graphotactics" and you'll find your way to an internet archive of scholarly works and a tar.gz file. Stevick, who died in 2018, was an Old English scholar and a professor at University of Washington. digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/handle/1773/1974
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 12:33

1 Answer 1


Most of them are certainly editorial - as is at least some of the word division.

This image of the start of a manuscript shows little punctuation, but there does appear to be a point after "fremedon".

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