'Outstanding' Old English poetry book granted Unesco status

The Exeter Book
Image caption The Exeter Book is one of four surviving major poetic manuscripts in Old English

A poetry book written in Old English has been granted Unesco status for its "outstanding significance" to British history.

The Exeter Book, kept at Exeter Cathedral's library, is an anthology of poetry and riddles written in 970 AD.

The book was the gift of Exeter's first bishop, Leofric, in the 11th Century and contains 40 poems.

It is now one of 50 items on the UK register of important historical documents.

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Associate professor of medieval literature at Exeter University, Professor Emma Cayley, said: "This recognition now puts the Exeter Book in the same category as the Magna Carta, the Bayeux Tapestry, the Book of Kells and the Diary of Anne Franks in terms of significance."

She added: "It's so important it stays in Exeter."

Riddle 44 - from the Exeter Book Riddles

A wondrous thing hangs by a man's thigh,

under its lord's clothing. In front there is a hole.

It stands stiff and hard. It has a good home.

When the servant raises his own garment

up over his knee, he wants to greet

with his dangling head that well-known hole,

of equal length, which he has often filled before.

Q. What am I?

The anthology was granted Unesco's Memory of the World status at a ceremony at the National Assembly building for Wales in Cardiff on Monday night.

Unesco described the book as "the foundation volume of English literature, one of the world's principal cultural artefacts".

Prof Cayley is working with the cathedral and academics at Stanford University in the United States to develop a mobile app of the Exeter Book to make it more accessible to school children and students around the world.

Image caption The book has been housed at Exeter Cathedral for almost a millennium

A. A key

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