The manuscript in which Beowulf survives was written around the year 1000, in England. British Library, MS Cotton Vitellius A.xv, was actually created in the 17th century, when two originally separate books were bound together. The “Nowell Codex,” as the part containing Beowulf is known, contains several other texts, including the illustrated Wonders of the East, which depicts a variety of fantastic and peculiar creatures, and Judith, an adaptation of the Biblical story of Judith beheading Holofernes.
Beowulf is famous as an early example of Old English heroic poetry. It is a poem that celebrates heroism, but worries deeply about the tensions between the ambitions of individuals and the needs of communities. The poem exposes the pagan roots of early medieval English society, but also concerns itself with some of the ideas at the heart of Christianity.