Exeter Book, or the Codex Exoniensis, is a 10th Century book, or codex, that contains most of the surviving Anglo-Saxon poetry. Only four collections of Old English verse exist, out of which the Exeter Book is the largest and most impressive. Leofric, the first Bishop of Exeter, originally donated it to the library of Exeter Cathedral. Today, the original Exeter Book is held in the cathedral library in the town of Devon. It was thought to originally have had one hundred thirty-one leaves, but the first eight pages were lost and eight new pages were bound into it during the Early Renaissance period. It was handwritten by one scribe in dark brown ink on vellum but has no illustrations, although each poem begins with a large capital letter with the rest of the first line in small capital letters. Each page is 12.5 inches by 8.6 inches. Despite the marks of a damp cup, scorch marks, and cuts on its pages, Exeter Book has survived for over a thousand years.
Although it is impossible to know the precise date of Exeter Book's inscription, scholars believe it was authored between 960-990 CE. It was definitely written during the English Benedictine revival, when monasteries once again assumed a heightened level of power and artistic output. When Leofric was made Bishop at Exeter, someone made a record of "a large English book of poetic works about all sorts of things" entering the library. Since Leofric died in 1072, it is at least certain that everything within Exeter Book was composed before that date.
Exeter Book contains elegies, laments, animal poems, gnomic verses, and religious works, including "The Wanderer," "The Seafarer," "The Ruin," "Deor," "The Wife's Lament," "The Husband's Message," and over ninety riddles.
Exeter Book is available to view in person at the Cathedral in Devon, but facsimile and DVD copies have also been made. All of the poetry has been anthologized dozens, if not more, times in literary anthologies and history books. The major elegies and laments have received a massive amount of critical attention, and are justly considered to be some of the most important poems ever written in English.