The Exeter Book is a collection of Anglo-Saxon Poetry, including a number of riddles. The earliest history of the book remains obscure, but we do know that it was bequeathed to the library of Exeter Cathedral by Leofric, Exeter's first Bishop, in 1072. The manuscript itself has been paleographically dated to the 10th Century, though it is thought to have been copied from a collection compiled as early as the 8th Century. The manuscript has taken a battering over the years, having been scarred by cuts, mug stains and in some places fire, which have rendered portions unreadable.
There are 95 riddles contained in The Exeter Book, although some of these are incomplete, and others are yet to be solved.
Although there are several riddles translated directly from popular versions in Latin, the riddles seem to be mainly of Anglo-Saxon origin. They can be divided into three classes of riddles: Religious (Exeter Riddle 26), Obscene (Exeter Riddle 25) and Mundane. The obscene riddles seem to describe something distasteful, but are in fact innocent. The mundane riddles may describe natural (Exeter Riddle 9), domestic (Exeter Riddle 34) or military (Exeter Riddle 5) objects.
The first poems of the Exeter Book tend to be longer religious ones, while later poems tend to be shorter, and cover both religious and secular themes. Notable poems include The Phoenix, Deor and The Ruin.