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Old English Libraries, The Making, Collection, and Use of Books During the Middle Ages by Ernest A. Savage

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WITH the arrangement and equipment of
libraries this essay has little to do: the
ground being already covered adequately
by Dr. Clark in his admirable monograph on The
Care of Books. Herein is described the making,
use, and circulation of books considered as a means
of literary culture. It seemed possible to throw a
useful sidelight on literary history, and to introduce
some human interest into the study of bibliography,
if the place held by books in the life of the Middle
Ages could be indicated. Such, at all events, was
my aim, but I am far from sure of my success in
carrying it out; and I offer this book merely as
a discursive and popular treatment of a subject
which seems to me of great interest.

The book has suffered from one unhappy circumstance.
It was planned in collaboration with my
friend Mr. James Hutt, M.A., but unfortunately,
owing to a breakdown of health, Mr. Hutt was only
able to help me in the composition of the chapter
on the Libraries of Oxford, which is chiefly his work.
Had it been possible for Mr. Hutt to share all the
labour with me, this book would have been put
before the public with more confidence.

More footnote references appear in this volume
than in most of the series of "Antiquary's Books."
One consideration specially urged me to take this
course. The subject has been treated briefly, and
it seemed essential to cite as many authorities as
possible, so that readers who were in the mood might
obtain further information by following them up.

In a book covering a long period and touching
national and local history at many points, I cannot
hope to have escaped errors; and I shall be grateful
if readers will bring them to my notice.

I need hardly say I am especially indebted to
the splendid work accomplished by Dr. Montague
Rhodes James, the Provost of King's College, in
editing The Ancient Libraries of Canterbury and
Dover, and in compiling the great series of descriptive
catalogues of manuscripts in Cambridge and
other colleges. I have long marvelled at Dr. James'
patient research; at his steady perseverance in an
aim which, even when attained--as it now has been--
could only win him the admiration and esteem of
a few scholars and lovers of old books.

I have to thank Mr. Hutt for much general
help, and for reading all the proof slips. To Canon
C. M. Church, M.A., of Wells, I am indebted for
his kindness in answering inquiries, for lending me
the illustration of the exterior of Wells Cathedral
Library, and for permitting me to reproduce a plan
from his book entitled Chapters in the Early History
of the Church of Wells. The Historic Society of
Lancashire and Cheshire have kindly allowed me
to reproduce a part of their plan of Birkenhead
Priory. Illustrations were also kindly lent by the
Clarendon Press, the Cambridge University Press,
Mr. John Murray, Mr. Fisher Unwin, the Editor
of The Connoisseur, and Mr. G. Coffey, of the Royal
Irish Academy. A small portion of the first chapter
has appeared in The Library, and is reprinted by
kind permission of the editors. Mr. C. W. Sutton,
M.A., City Librarian of Manchester, has been in
every way kind and patient in helping me. So too
has Mr. Strickland Gibson, M.A., of the Bodleian
Library, especially in connexion with the chapter on
Oxford Libraries. Thanks are due also to the
Deans of Hereford, Lincoln, and Durham, to Mr.
Tapley-Soper, City Librarian of Exeter, and to
Mr. W. T. Carter, Public Librarian of Warwick;
also to my brother, V. M. Savage, for his drawings.
The general editor of this series, the Rev. J. Charles
Cox, LL.D., F.S.A., gave me much help by reading
the manuscript and proofs; and I am grateful to him
for many courtesies and suggestions.

















"What tyme pat abbeies were first ordeyned
and monkis were first gadered to gydre."
--Inscribed in MS. of Life of Barlaam and Josaphat,
Peterhouse, Camb.

Section I

To people of modern times early monachism must seem
an unbeautiful and even offensive life. True piety
was exceptional, fanaticism the rule. Ideals which
were surely false impelled men to lead a life of idleness and
savage austerity,--to sink very near the level of beasts, as
did the Nitrian hermits when they murdered Hypatia in
Alexandria. But this view does not give the whole truth.
To shut out a wicked and sensual world, with its manifold
temptations, seemed the only possible way to live purely.
To get far beyond the influence of a barbaric society, utterly
antagonistic to peaceful religious observance, was clearly the
surest means of achieving personal holiness. Monachism
was a system designed for these ends. Throughout the
Middle Ages it was the refuge--the only refuge--for the
man who desired to flee from sin. Such, at any rate, was
the truly religious man's view. And if monkish retreats
sheltered some ignorant fanatics, they also attracted many
representatives of the culture and learning of the time.
This was bound to be so. At all times solitude has been
pleasant to the student and thinker, or to the moody lover
of books.

By great good fortune, then, the studious occupations
which did so much to soften monkish austerities in the
Middle Ages, were recognised early as needful to the system.
Even the ascetics by the Red Sea and in Nitria did not
deprive themselves of all literary solace, although the more
fanatical would abjure it, and many would be too poor to
have it. The Rule of Pachomius, founder of the settlements
of Tabenna, required the brethren's books to be kept in a
cupboard and regulated lending them. These libraries are
referred to in Benedict's own Rule. We hear of St. Pachomius
destroying a copy of Origen, because the teaching in it was
obnoxious; of Abba Bischoi writing an ascetic work, a copy of
which is extant; of anchorites under St. Macarius of Alexandria
transcribing books; and of St. Jerome collecting a
library summo studio et labore, copying manuscripts and studying
Hebrew at his hermitage even after a formal renunciation
of the classics, and then again, at the end of his life, bringing
together another library at Bethlehem monastery, and
instructing boys in grammar and in classic authors. Basil
the Great, when founding eremitical settlements on the
river Iris in Pontus, spent some time in making selections
from Origen. St. Melania the younger wrote books which
were noted for their beauty and accuracy. And when
Athanasius introduced Eastern monachism into Italy, and
St. Martin of Tours and John Cassian carried it farther
afield into Gaul, the same work went on. In the cells
and caves of Martin's community at Marmoutier the
younger monks occupied their time in writing and sacred
study, and the older monks in prayer.[1] Sulpicius Severus
(c. 353-425), the ecclesiastical historian, preferred retirement,
literary study, and the friendship and teaching of
St. Martin to worldly pursuits. At the famous island
community of Lerins, in South Gaul, were instructed
some of the most celebrated scholars of the West, among
them St. Hilary. "Such were their piety and learning that
all the cities round about strove emulously to have monks
from Lerins for their bishops."[2] Another centre of studious
occupation was the monastery of Germanus of Auxerre;
while near Vienne was a community where St. Avitus
(c. 525) could earn the high reputation for holiness and
learning which won him a metropolitan see. Many other facts
and incidents prove the literary pursuits of the Gallic ascetics;
as, for example, the reputation the nuns of Arles in the
sixth century won for their writing; and the curious story
of Apollinaris Sidonius driving after a monk who was
carrying a manuscript to Britain, stopping him, and there
and then dictating to secretaries a copy of the precious
book which had so nearly escaped him.[3]

[1] Healy, 46.

[2] Healy, 50.

[3] Sandys, i. 245

Section II

Monachism of this Eastern type came from Gaul to
Ireland.[1] St. Patrick received his sacred education at
Marmoutier; under Germanus at Auxerre; and possibly
at Lerins. His companions on his mission to Ireland, and
the missionaries who followed him, nearly all came from
the same centres. Naturally, therefore, the same practices
would be observed, not only in regard to religious discipline
and organisation, but in regard to instruction and study.
Even the mysterious Palladius, Patrick's forerunner, is said
to have left books in Ireland.[2] But the earliest important
references to that use of books which distinguishes the
educated missionary from the mere fanatical recluse are in
connexion with Patrick. Pope Sixtus is said to have
given him books in plenty to take with him to Ireland.
Later he is supposed to have visited Rome, whence he
brought books home to Armagh.[3] He gave copies of
parts of the Scriptures to Irish chieftains. To one Fiacc
he gave a case containing a bell, a crosier, tablets, and a
meinister, which, according to Dr. Lanigan, may have been
a cumdach enclosing the Gospels and the vessels for the
sacred ministry, or, according to Dr. Whitley Stokes,
simply a credence-table.[4] He sometimes gave a missal
(lebar nuird). He had books at Tara. On one occasion
his books were dropped into the water and were "drowned."
Presumably the books he distributed came from the Gallic
schools, although his followers no doubt began transcribing
as opportunity offered and as material came to hand.
Patrick himself wrote alphabets, sometimes called the
"elements"; most likely the elements or the A B C of the
Christian doctrine, corresponding with the "primer."[5]

[1] On the connection between Eastern and Celtic monachism, see
Stokes (G.T.).

[2] Stokes (W.), T. L., i. 30; ii. 446.

[3] Ib. ii. 421; ii. 475.

[4] D. N. B., xliv. 39; Stokes (W.), T. L., i, 191.

[5] Abgitorium, abgatorium; elementa, elimenta. Stokes (W.), T.
L., i. cliii.; also). 111, 113, 139, 191, 308, 320, 322, 326,
327, 328.

This was the dawn of letters for Ireland. By disseminating
the Scriptures and these primers, Patrick and
his followers, and the train of missionaries who came
afterwards,[1] secured the knowledge and use of the Roman
alphabet. The way was clear for the free introduction of
schools and books and learning. "St. Patrick did not do
for the Scots what Wulfilas did for the Goths, and the
Slavonic apostles for the Slavs; he did not translate the
sacred books of his religion into Irish and found a national
church literature.... What Patrick, on the other hand, and
his fellow-workers did was to diffuse a knowledge of Latin
in Ireland. To the circumstance that he adopted this line
of policy, and did not attempt to create a national
ecclesiastical language, must be ascribed the rise of the
schools of learning which distinguished Ireland in the
sixth and seventh centuries."[2]

[1] In 536, fifty monks from the Continent landed at
Cork.--Montalembert, ii. 248n. Migrations from Gaul were frequent
about this time.

[2] Bury, 217; cp. 220.

Mainly owing to the labours of Dr. John Healy, we
now know a good deal about the somewhat slow growth
of the Irish schools to fame; but for our purpose it will do
to learn something of them in their heyday, when at last
we hear certainly of that free use of books which must
have been common for some time. From the sixth to the
eighth century Ireland enjoyed an eminent place in the
world of learning; and the lives and works of her scholars
imply book-culture of good character. St. Columba was
famed for his studious occupations. Educated first by
Finnian of Moville, then by another tutor of the same
name at the famous school of Clonard, he journeyed to
other centres for further instruction after his ordination.
From youth he loved books and studies. He is represented
as reading out of doors at the moment when the murderer
of a young girl is struck dead. In later life he realized
the importance of monastic records. He had annals
compiled, and bards preserved and arranged them in the
monastic chests. At Iona the brethren of his settlement
passed their time in reading and transcribing, as well as in
manual labour. Very careful were they to copy correctly.
Baithen, a monk on Iona, got one of his fellows to look
over a Psalter which he had just finished writing, but
only a single error was discovered.[1] Columba himself
became proficient in copying and illuminating. He could
not spend an hour without study, or prayer, or writing, or
some other holy occupation.[2] He transcribed, we are told,
over three hundred copies of the Gospels or the Psalter--a
magnification of a saint's powers by a devout biographer,
but significant as it testifies to Columba's love of
studious labours, and shows how highly these ascetics
thought of work of this kind. On two occasions, being a
man as well as a saint, he broke into violence when crossed
in his love of books. One story tells how he visited a holy
and learned recluse named Longarad, whose much-prized
books he wished to see. Being denied, he became wroth
and cursed Longarad. "May the books be of no use to
you," he cried, "nor to any one after you, since you withhold
them." So far the tale is not improbable, but a little
embroidery completes a legend. The books became unintelligible,
so the story continues, the moment Longarad
died. At the same instant the satchels in all the Irish
schools and in Columba's cell slipped off their hooks on to
the ground.

[1] Joyce, i. 478

[2] Adamnan, lib. ii. c. 29, iii. c. 15 and c. 23.

A quarrel about a book, we are told, changed his
career. He borrowed a Psalter from Finnian of Moville,
and made a copy of it, working secretly at night. Finnian
heard of the piracy, and, as owner of the original, claimed
the copy. Columba refused to let him have it. Then
Diarmid, King of Meath, was asked to arbitrate. Arguing
that as every calf belonged to its cow, so every copy of a
book belonged to the owner of the original, he decided in
Finnian's favour. Columba thought the award unjust, and
said so. A little later, after another dispute with Diarmid
on a question of monastic immunity, he called together his
tribesmen and partisans, and offered battle. Diarmid was
defeated. For some reason, not quite clear, these quarrels led
to Columba's voluntary exile(c. 563). He sailed from Ireland,
and landed upon the silver strand of Iona, and to the end of
his days his work lay almost entirely amid the heather-covered
uplands and plains of this little island home.[1] Iona became
a renowned centre of missionary work, quite overshadowing
in importance the earlier "Scottish" settlement
of Whitherne or Candida Casa. Pilgrims went thither
from Ireland and England to receive instruction, and
returned to carry on pioneer work in their own homeland.
Thence went forth missionaries to carry the Christian
message throughout Scotland and northern England.
Perhaps, too, here was planned the expedition to far-off
Iceland. "Before Iceland was peopled by the Northmen
there were in the country those men whom the Northmen
called Papar. They were Christian men, and the people
believed that they came from the West, because Irish
books and bells and crosiers were found after them, and
still more things by which one might know that they were
west-men, i.e. Irish."[2]

[1] Dr Skene says the Psalter incident "bears the stamp of
spurious tradition"; so does the Longarad story; but it is
curious how often sacred books play a part in these tales.

[2] Henderson, Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland, 5-6.

Not only to the far north, but to the Continent, did the
Irish press their energetic way. In Gaul their chief missionary
was Columban (c. 543 - 615), who had been educated at
Bangor, then famous for the learning of its brethren. His
works display an extensive acquaintance with Christian
and Latin literature. Both the Greek and Hebrew
languages may have been known to him, though this
seems improbable and inconceivable.[1] In his Rule he
provides for teaching in schools, copying manuscripts, and
for daily reading.[2]

[1] Moore, Hist. of Ireland, i. 266.

[2] Healy, 379; Stokes (M.) 2, 118. Ergo quotidie jejunandum
est, sicut quotidie orandum est, quotidie laborandum, quotidie
est legendum.

The monasteries of Luxeuil, Bobio, and St. Gall,
founded by him and his companions on their mission in
Gaul and Italy, became the homes of the most famous
conventual libraries in the world--a result surely traceable
to the example set by the Irish ascetics, and to the tradition
they established.[1]

[1] A ninth century catalogue of St. Gall mentions thirty-one
volumes and pamphlets in the Irish tongue--Prof. Pflugk-Harttung,
in R. H. S. (N. S.), v. 92. Becker names only thirty, p. 43. At
Reichenau, a monastery near St. Gall, also famous for its
library, there were "Irish education, manuscripts, and
occasionally also Irish monks." "One of the most ancient
monuments of the German tongue, the vocabulary of St. Gall,
dating from about 780, is written in the Irish character."

Other Irish monks are better known for their literary
attainments than for missionary enterprise. St. Cummian,
in a letter written about 634, displays much knowledge of
theological literature, and a good deal of knowledge of a
general kind.[1] Another monk named Augustine (c. 650)
quotes from Eusebius and Jerome in a work affording many
other evidences of learning.[2] Aileran (c. 660), abbot of
Clonard, wrote a religious work which proves his acquaintance
with Jerome, Philo, Cassian, Origen, and Augustine.[3]

[1] D.C.B. sub nom.

[2] Stokes (G. T.), 221.

[3] Ib. 220.

An Englishman supplies valuable evidence of the state of
Irish learning. Aldhelm's (c. 656-709) works prove him to
have had access in England to a good library; while in one
learned letter he compares English schools favourably with
the Irish, and declares Theodore and Hadrian would put Irish
scholars in the shade. Yet he is on his mettle when communicating
with Irish friends or pupils; he clearly reserves
for them the flowers of his eloquence.[1] The Irish schools
were indeed successful rivals of the English schools, and
Irish scholars could use libraries as good, or nearly as good,
as that at Aldhelm's disposal. At this time the attraction
which Ireland and Iona had for English students was extra-
ordinary. English crowded the Irish schools, although
the Canterbury school was not full.[2] The city of Armagh
was divided into three sections, one being called Trian-
Saxon, the Saxon's third, from the great number of Saxon
students living there.[3]

[1] Haddan, 267.

[2] Hyde, 221.

[3] Joyce, Short Hist of I., 165.

In 664 many English, both high and low in rank, left
their native land for Ireland, where they sought instruction
in sacred studies, or an opportunity to lead a more ascetic
life. Some devoted themselves faithfully to a monkish
career. Others applied themselves to study only, and for
that purpose journeyed from one master's cell to another.
The Irish welcomed all comers. All received without
charge daily food: barley or oaten bread and water, or
sometimes milk--cibus sit vilis et vespertinus--a plain meal,
once a day, in the afternoon. Books were supplied, or
what is more likely, waxed tablets folded in book form.
Teaching was as free as the open air in which it was
carried on.[1]

[1] Bede, H. E., iii. 27; Healy, 101; Stokes (G. T.), 230.

Among the English at one time or another taking advantage
of Irish hospitality were Gildas (c. 540), first native
historian of England;[1] Ecgberht, presbyter, a Northumbrian
of noble birth; Ethelhun, brother of Ethelwin, bishop
of Lindsay; Oswald, king of Northumbria; Aldfrith,
another Northumbrian king, who was educated either in
Ireland or Iona; Alcuin, who received instruction at
Clonmacnoise;[2] one named Wictberht, "notable . . . for his
learning and knowledge, for he had lived many years as
a stranger and pilgrim in Ireland"; and St. Willibrord, who
at the age of twenty journeyed to Ireland for purposes of
study, because he had heard that learning flourished in
that country.[3]

[1] Camb. Lit., i. 66.

[2] Healy, 272.

[3] Alcuin, Willibrord, c. 4.

Section III

Most of the references we have made above belong to
the sixth and seventh centuries, usually regarded as the
best age of Irish monachism. But the Irish enjoyed their
reputation unimpaired for a long time. Just before and
after the Northmen descended on their land in 795, we find
them making their mark abroad, not so much as missionaries
but as scholars and teachers.[17]

[1] See full account, R. H. S. (N. S.), v. 75.

A few instances will suffice. "The Acts of Charles,
written by a monk of St. Gallen late in the ninth century,
tells us of two Scots from Ireland,' who lighted with the
British merchants on the coast of Gaul,' and cried to the
crowd, If any man desireth wisdom, let him come unto us
and receive it, for we have it for sale.' They were soon invited
to the court of Charles. One of them, Clement, partly
filled the place of Alcuin as head of the palace school."[1]
His reputation soon became widespread, and the abbot of
Fulda sent several of his most capable monks to him to
learn grammar.[2] His companion, Dungal, went on to Italy.
He enjoyed a full share of the learning of his time; was a
student of Cicero and Macrobius; knew Virgil well; and
had some Greek.[3] A few fine books were bequeathed
by him to the Irish monastery of Bobio, where copies
were written and distributed through Italy. According
to the learned Muratori, in one of these manuscripts
is an inscription proving Dungal's ownership.[4] One
of the books so bequeathed was the famous Antiphonary
of Bangor, now in the Ambrosian library at Milan.

[1] Sandys, i. 480.

[2] R. H. S. (N. S.), v. 90.

[3] Sandys, i. 480; Stokes (M.) 2, 210.

[4] "Sancte Columba tibi Scotto tuns incola Dungal
Tradidit hunc librum, quo fratrum corda beentur.
Qui leges ergo Deus pretium sit muneris, org."--Healy, 392.

Clement and Dungal were not the only Irishmen of
note on the Continent. One, Dicuil, was an exponent of
geography. He founded his treatise (c. 825) on Caesar,
Pliny, and Solinus; he quotes and names many other
writers, including fourteen Greek; and generally impresses
us with his earnest studentship. An Irish monk named
Donatus wandered to Italy and became bishop of Fiesole
(c. 829); he, too, was a scholar acquainted with Virgil, a
teacher of grammar and prosody, and a lecturer on the
saints.[1] Sedulius, the commentator, an Irish monk of
Liege, copied Greek psalters, wrote Latin verses, knew
Cicero's letters, the works of Valerius Maximus, Vegetius,
Origen, and Jerome; was well acquainted with mythology and
history, and perhaps had some Hebrew.[2] Another Irishman,
John the Scot (Joannes Scotus Erigena), became the most
eminent scholar of his time: he alone, among all the learned
men Charles the Bald had about him, was able to translate
from Greek (c. 858-860). Well might Eric of Auxerre, writing
to Charles, express his astonishment at this train of
philosophers from Ireland, that barbarous land on the
confines of the world.[3] All these wanderers, and many
more, must have been responsible for the dissemination of
the books produced by Irish hands; and, in fact, many
manuscripts of Celtic origin and early in date, are still on
the Continent, or have been found there and brought to

[1] Stokes (M.)2, 206-7, 247.

[2] Sandys, i. 463.

[3] Moore, Hist. of I., i. 299; Boll. Iul. t. vii. 222.

[45] The following, among others, are still on the Continent:
Gospels of Willibrord (Bibl. Nat. Lat. 9389, 739), Gospel of St.
John (Cod. 60 St. Gall c. 750-800); Book of Fragments (No. 1395,
St. Gall, c. 750-800); The Golden Gospels (Royal library,
Stockholm, 871); Gospels of St. Arnoul, Metz
(Nuremberg Museum, 7th c.).--Cp. Maclean, 207-8; Hyde, 267.

In some respects the evidence of book-culture in
Ireland in these early centuries is inconsistent. The jealous
guard Longarad kept over his books, the quarrel over
Columba's Psalter, and the great esteem in which scribes
were held,[1] suggest a scarcity of books. The practice of
enshrining them in cumdachs, or book-covers, points to a
like conclusion. On the other hand, Bede tells us the
Irish could lend foreign students books, so plentiful were
they. His statement is corroborated by the number of
scribes whose deaths have been recorded by the annalists,
the Four Masters, for example, note sixty-one eminent
scribes before the year 900, forty of whom belong to the
eighth century.[17] In some of the monasteries a special
room for books was provided. The Annals of Tigernach
refer to the house of manuscripts.[3] An apartment of this
kind is particularly mentioned as being saved from the
flames when Armagh monastery was burned (1020).
Another fact suggesting an abundance of books was the
appointment of a librarian, which sometimes took place.[4]
Although a special book-room and officer are only to be
met with much later than the best age of Irish monachism,
yet we may reasonably assume them to be the natural
culmination of an old and established practice of making
and using books.

[1] Adamnan, 365n.

[2] Hyde, 220; Stokes (M.), 10, "Connachtach, an Abbot of Iona
who died in 802, is called in the Irish annals a scribe most
choice.' "--Trenholme, Iona, 32.

[3] Tech-screptra; domus scripturarum.

[4] Leabhar coimedach. Adamnan, 359, note m.

Such statements, however, are not necessarily contradictory.
Manuscripts over which the cleverest scribes
and illuminators had spent much time and pains would be
jealously preserved in cases or shrines; still, when we
remember how many precious fruits of the past must have
perished, the number of beautiful Irish manuscripts extant
goes to prove that books even of this character could not
have been extraordinarily rare. "Workaday" copies of
books would be made as well, in comparatively large
numbers, and would no doubt be used very freely. Besides
books properly so called, the religious used waxed tablets
of wood, which were sometimes called books. St. Ciaran,
for example, wrote on staves, which are called in one place
his tablets, and in two other places the whole collection of
his staves is called a book.[1] Such tablets were indeed
books in which the fugitive pieces of the time were
written.[2] Considering all things, Bede was without doubt
quite correct in saying the Irish had enough books to lend
to foreign students.

[1] Joyce, i. 483

[2] At vero hoc audiens Colcius tempus et horan in tabula
describers.--Adamnan, 66. Columba is said to have blessed one
hundred polaires or tablets (Leabhar Breac, fo. 16-60; Stokes
(M.), 51). The boy Benen, who followed Patrick, bore tablets on
his back (folaire, corrupt for polaire).--Stokes (W.), T. L., 47.
Patrick gave to Fiacc a case containing a tablet. Ib. 344. An
example of a waxed tablet, with a case for it, is in the Museum
of the Royal Irish Academy. The case is a wooden cover, divided
into hollowed-out compartments for holding the styles. This
specimen dates from the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Slates
and pencils were also in use for temporary purposes.--Joyce, i.

Section IV

Our account of the work accomplished by the Irish
monks would be incomplete without reference to their
writing, illuminating, and book-economy, the relics of which
are so finely rare.

The old Irish runes gave place slowly to the Roman
alphabet, which came into use, as we have already observed,
after St. Patrick's mission. This new writing was in two
forms--round and pointed--but both were derived from the
Roman half-uncial style. The clear and beautifully-shaped
Irish round hand is closely akin to the half-uncial character
of fifth and sixth century Latin writings found on the
Continent. The Book of Kells, written probably at the end
of the seventh century, is the finest example of the
ornamental Irish round hand. St. Chad's Gospels, now at
Lichfield, written about the same time, is a manuscript of
like character, but not so good. A later manuscript, the
Gospels of MacRegol, which dates from the beginning of
the ninth century, shows marked deterioration in the writing.

The Irish pointed style, used for quicker writing, is but
a modified, pointed variety of the round hand, the letters
being laterally compressed. This hand appears in some
pages of the Book of Kells, but the best example is in the
Book of Armagh.[1]

[1] See Thompson, 236, where Irish calligraphy is fully dealt
with; Camb. Lit., i, 13.

Although the Roman alphabet was introduced by
Augustine at the Canterbury school, it wholly failed to
have any effect on the native hand from that source. On
the other hand, when, in the seventh century, Northumbria
was converted by Irish missionaries, the new Christians
copied the Irish writing, so well, indeed, that the earliest
specimens extant can hardly be distinguished from the
beautiful penmanship of the Irish. The Book of Durham,
generally called the Lindisfarne Gospels, of about 700,
is an exquisite Northumbrian example of the Irish round
hand, in the characteristic broad, heavy-stroke letters.
Another good specimen of this style is the eighth century
manuscript of Bede's Ecclesiastical History, in Cambridge
University Library.

Irish illumination is as characteristic as the writing.
Pictures and drawings of the human figure are not so
common as in the work of other schools, and when they
do appear are not often good. Still, some of them, as the
scenes from the life of Christ in the Book of Kells, are quite
unlike the illuminations of any other school; while the
portraits of the Evangelists in the same book, in the Book
of MacRegol, and in the Lindisfarne Gospels, are singularly
interesting. Floral work is also rare. But in geometrical
ornament, beautifully symmetrical--diagonal patterns, zigzags,
waves, lozenges, divergent spirals, intertwisted and
interwoven ribbon and cord work--and in grotesque
zoological forms,--lizards, snakes, hounds, birds, and dragons'
heads,--the Irish school attained their highest artistic
development. Their art is striking, not for originality, not
for its beauty, which is nevertheless great, but for painstaking.
Knowing but one style of making a book beautiful,
they lavished much time and loving care to achieve their
end. The detail is extraordinarily minute and complicated.
"I have counted," writes Professor Westwood, "[with
a magnifying glass] in a small space scarcely three-quarters
of an inch in length by less than half an inch in width, in
the Book of Armagh, no less than 158 interlacements of a
slender ribbon pattern formed of white lines edged with
black ones." But, this intricacy notwithstanding, the designs
as a whole are usually bold and effective. In the best kind
of Irish illumination gold and silver are not used, but the
colours are varied and brilliant, and are employed with
taste and discretion; while the occasional staining of a leaf
of vellum with a fine purple sometimes adds beauty and
much distinction to an excellent design.

Of intricate geometrical ornament and grotesque figures,
the illumination representing the symbols of the Four
Evangelists (fo. 290) of the Book of Kells is perhaps the
best example. Of divergent spirals and interlaced ribbon
work the frontispiece of St. Jerome's Epistle in the Book of
Durrow affords notable examples. Two of the peculiar
features of Irish decoration--the rows of red dots round a
design and the dragon's head--appear in the earliest, or
nearly the earliest, Irish manuscript extant, namely, the
Cathach Psalter, now in the Museum of the Royal Irish
Academy. Whether the essential and peculiar features of
this ornamentation are purely indigenous, as Professor
Westwood contends, or whether they are of Gallo-Roman
origin, as Fleury argues, is a moot point, calling for
complicated discussion which would be out of place

The amount of illumination in the existing manuscripts
varies, but the pages chosen for illuminating are nearly
always the same. In the Book of Kells the illuminations
consist of three portraits of the Evangelists, three scenes
from the life of Christ, three combined symbols of the four
Evangelists, eight pages of the Eusebian canons, and many
initials. The Book of Durham contains four portraits of
the Evangelists, six initial pages, one ornamental page
before each Gospel, and before St. Jerome's Epistle, and
eight pages of the Eusebian canons. The Book of Durrow
has sixteen illuminated pages: four of the symbols of the
Evangelists, six pages of initials, one ornamental page at
the frontispiece, one before the letter of St. Jerome, and
one before each Gospel.

The oldest Irish manuscript in existence is probably
the Domnach Airgrid, or manuscript of the Silver Shrine,
also called St. Patrick's Gospels. Dr. Petrie believed the
Domnach to be the identical reliquary given by St. Patrick
to St. Mac Cairthinn, when the latter was put in charge of
the see of Clogher, in the fifth century. "As a manuscript
copy of the Gospels apparently of that early age is found
with it, there is every reason to believe it to be that identical
one for which the box was originally made."[1] But both
case and manuscript are now held to be somewhat later in
date. Another very early manuscript is the sixth century
fragment of fifty-eight leaves of a Latin Psalter, styled the
Cathach or "Battler." For centuries this fragment has been
preserved in a beautiful case as a relic of Columba; as, indeed,
the actual cause of the dispute between Columba and
Finnian of Moville.

[1] Trans. R. I. Acad., vol. xviii. 1838,

Section V

Two features of book-economy, although not peculiar
to Ireland, are rarely met with outside that country. The
religious used satchels or wallets to carry their books about
with them. We are told Patrick once met a party of
clerics and gillies with books in their girdles; and he gave
them the hide he had sat and slept on for twenty years to
make a wallet.[1] Columba is said to have made satchels,
and to have blessed them. When these satchels were not
carried they were hung upon pegs set in the wall of the
cell or the church or the tower where they were preserved.[2]
We have already noted the legend which tells how all the
satchels in Ireland slipped off their pegs when Longarad
died. A modern writer visiting the Abyssinian convent
of Souriani has seen a room which, when we remember the
connection between Egyptian and Celtic monachism, we
cannot help thinking must closely resemble an ancient
Irish cell.[3] In the room the disposition of the manuscripts
was very original. "A wooden shelf was carried in the
Egyptian style round the walls, at the height of the top of
the door.... Underneath the shelf various long wooden pegs
projected from the wall; they were each about a foot and
a half long, and on them hung the Abyssinian manuscripts,
of which this curious library was entirely composed. The
books of Abyssinia are . . . enclosed in a case tied up
with leathern thongs; to this case is attached a strap for
the convenience of carrying the volume over the shoulders,
and by these straps the books were hung to the wooden
pegs, three or four on a peg, or more if the books were
small; their usual size was that of a small, very thick
quarto. The appearance of the room, fitted up in this style,
together with the presence of long staves, such as the
monks of all the Oriental churches lean upon at the time of
prayer, resembled less a library than a barrack or guardroom,
where the soldiers had hung their knapsacks and
cartridge boxes against the wall." The few old Irish
satchels remaining are black with age, and the characteristic
decoration of diagonal lines and interlaced markings is
nearly worn away. Two of them are preserved in England
and Ireland: those of the Book of Armagh, in Trinity
College, Dublin, and of the Irish Missal in Corpus Christi
College, Oxford. The wallet at Oxford looks much like
a modern schoolboy's satchel; leather straps are fixed to
it, by which it was slung round the neck. The Armagh
wallet is made of one piece of leather, folded to form a case a
foot long, a little more than a foot broad, and two and a half
inches thick. The Book of Armagh does not fit it properly.
Interlaced work and zoomorphs decorate the leather. Remains
of rough straps are still attached to the sides.

[1] Stokes (W.), T. L., 75. The terms used for satchels are
sacculi (Lat.), and tiag, or tiag liubhair or teig liubair (Ir.).
There has been some confusion between polaire and tiag, the
former being regarded as a leather case for a single
book, the latter a satchel for several books. This distinction is
made in connection with the ancient Irish life of Columba, which
is therefore made to read that the saint used to make cases and
satchels for books (polaire ocus tiaga), v. Adamnan, I l 5. Cf.
Petrie, Round Towers, 336-7. But the late Dr. Whitley Stokes
makes polaire or polire, or the corruption folaire, derive from
pugillares = writing tablets.--Stokes (W.), T. L., cliii. and
655. This interpretation of the word gives us the much more
likely reading that Columba made tablets, and satchels for books.

[2] Stokes (M.), 50.

[3] Curzon, Monasteries of the Levant, 66.

The second special feature of Irish book-economy
was the preservation of manuscripts in cumdachs or rectangular
boxes, made just large enough for the books they
were intended to enshrine. As in the case of the wallet,
the cumdach was not peculiar to Ireland, although the
finest examples which have come down to us were made
in that country.[1] They are referred to several times in
early Irish annals. Bishop Assicus is said to have made
quadrangular book-covers in honour of Patrick.[2] In the
Annals of the Four Masters is recorded, under the year 937,
a reference to the cumdach of the Book of Armagh, or the
Canon of Patrick. "Canoin Phadraig was covered by
Donchadh, son of Flann, king of Ireland." In 1006 the
Annals note that the Book of Kells--"the Great Gospel of
Columb Cille was stolen at night from the western erdomh
of the Great Church of Ceannanus. This was the principal
relic of the western world, on account of its singular cover;
and it was found after twenty nights and two months, its gold
having been stolen off it, and a sod over it."[3] These cumdachs
are now lost; so also is the jewelled case of the Gospels
of St. Arnoul at Metz, and that belonging to the Book of Durrow.

[1] Mr. Allen, in his admirable volume on Celtic Art, p. 208, in
this series, says cumdachs were peculiar to Ireland. But they
were made and used elsewhere, and were variously known as capsae,
librorum coopertoria (e.g.... librorumque coopertoria; quaedam
horum nuda, quaedam vero alia auro atque argento gemmisque
pretiosis circumtecta.--Acta SS., Aug. iii. 659c), and thecae.
Some of these cases were no doubt as beautifully decorated as the
Irish cumdachs. William of Malmesbury asserts that twenty pounds
and sixty masks of gold were used to make the coopertoria
librorum Evangelii for King Ina's chapel. At the Abbey of St.
Riquier was an "Evangelium auro Scriptum unum, cum capsa argentea
gemmis et lapidibus fabricata. Aliae capsae evangeliorum duae ex
auro et argento paratae."--Maitland, 212. In 1295 St. Paul's
Cathedral possessed a copy of the Gospels in a case (capsa)
adorned with gilding and relics.--Putnam, i. 105-6.

[2] Leborchometa chethrochori, and bibliothecae
qruadratae.--Stokes (W.), T. L., 96 and 313.

[3] Stokes (M.), 90.

By good hap, several cumdachs of the greatest interest
are still preserved for our inspection. One of them, the
Silver Shrine of the so-called St. Patrick's Gospels, is a
very peculiar case. It consists of three covers. The first
or inner, is of yew, and was perhaps made in the sixth or
seventh century. The second, of copper, silver-plated, is
of later make. The third, or outermost, is of silver, and
was probably made in the fourteenth century. The
cumdach of the Stowe Missal (1023) is a much more
beautiful example. It is of oak, covered with plates of
silver. The lower or more ancient side bears a cross
within a rectangular frame. In the centre of the cross is a
crystal set in an oval mount. The decoration of the four
panels consists of metal plates, the ornament being a
chequer-work of squares and triangles. The lid has a
similar cross and frame, but the cross is set with pearls and
metal bosses, a crystal in the centre, and a large jewel at
the end of each arm. The panels consist of silver-gilt
plates embellished with figures of saints. The sides, which
are decorated with enamelled bosses and open-work designs,
are imperfect. On the box are inscriptions in Irish, such
as the following: "Pray for Dunchad, descendant of Taccan,
of the family of Cluain, who made this"; "A blessing of
God on every soul according to its merit"; "Pray for
Donchadh, son of Brian, for the king of Ireland"; "And
for Macc Raith, descendant of Donnchad, for the king of
Cashel."[1] Other cumdachs are those in the Royal Irish
Academy for Molaise's Gospels (c. 1001-25), for Columba's
Psalter (1084), and those in Trinity College, Dublin, for
Dimma's book (1150) and for the Book of St. Moling.
There are also the cumdachs for Cairnech's Calendar and
that of Caillen; both of late date. The library of St. Gall
possesses still another silver cumdach, which is probably Irish.

[1] Stokes (M.), 92-3.

These are the earliest relics we have of what was
undoubtedly an old and established method of enshrining
books, going back as far as Patrick's time, if it be correct
that Bishop Assicus made them, or if the first case of the
Silver Shrine is as old as it is believed to be. The
beautiful lower cover of the Gospels of Lindau, now in
Mr. Pierpont Morgan's treasure-house, proves that at least
as early as the seventh century the Irish lavished as much
art on the outside of their manuscripts as upon the inside.[1]
It is natural to make a beautiful covering for a book which
is both beautiful and sacred. All the volumes upon which
the Irish artist exercised his talent were invested with
sacred attributes. Chroniclers would have us believe they
were sometimes miraculously produced. In the life of
Cronan[2] is a story telling how an expert scribe named
Dimma copied the four Gospels. Dimma could only
devote a day to the task, whereupon Cronan bade him
begin at once and continue until sunset. But the sun did
not set for forty days, and by that time the copy was
finished. The manuscript written for Cronan is possibly
the book of Dimma, which bears the inscription: "It is
finished. A prayer for Dimma, who wrote it for God, and
a blessing."[3]

[1] See La Bibliofilia, xi. 165.

[2] Acta SS. Ap., iii. 581c.

[3] Healy, 524.

It was believed such books could not be injured. St.
Ciaran's copy of the Gospels fell into a lake, but was
uninjured. St. Cronan's copy fell into Loch Cre, and remained
under water forty days without injury. Even fire
could not harm St. Cainnech's case of books.[1] Nor is it
surprising they should be looked upon as sacred. The
scribes and illuminators who took such loving care to make
their work perfect, and the craftsmen who wrought beautiful
shrines for the books so made, were animated with the
feeling and spirit which impels men to erect beautiful
churches to testify to the glory of their Creator. As
Dimma says, they "wrote them for God."

[1] Other instances are cited in Adamnan, book ii., chap 8.


"There are delightful libraries, more aromatic than stores of
spicery; there are luxuriant parks of all manner of volumes;
there are Academic meads shaken by the tramp of scholars; there
are lounges of Athens; walks of the Peripatetics; peaks of
Parnassus; and porches of the Stoics. There is seen the surveyor
of all arts and sciences Aristotle, to whom belongs all that is
most excellent in doctrine, so far as relates to this
passing sublunary world; there Ptolemy measures epicycles and
eccentric apogees and the nodes of the planets by figures and
numbers...." Richard De Bury, Philobiblon, Thomas' ed. 200

Section I

The Benedictine order established monastic study on
a regular plan. Benedict's forty-eighth rule is clear
in its directions. "Idleness is hurtful to the soul.
At certain times, therefore, the brethren must work with
their hands, and at others give themselves up to holy
reading." From Easter to the first of October the monks
were required to work at manual labour from prime until
the fourth hour. From the fourth hour until nearly the
sixth hour they were to read. After their meal at the
sixth hour they were to lie on their beds, and those who
cared to do so might read, but not aloud. After nones
work must be resumed until evening. From October the
first until the beginning of Lent they were to read until
the ninth hour. At the ninth hour they were to take their
meal and then read spiritual works or the Psalms.
Throughout Lent they were required to read until the
third hour, then work until the tenth. Every monk was
to have a book from the library, and to read it through
during Lent. On Sundays reading was their duty throughout
the day, except in the case of those having special
tasks. During reading hours two senior brethren were
expected to go the rounds to see that the monks were
actually reading, and not lounging nor gossiping. But
the brethren were not allowed to have a book or tablets
or a pen of their own.

Benedict's inclusion of these directions was of capital
importance in the advance of monkish learning. Being
milder and more flexible, communal instead of eremitical,
and so altogether more humane and attractive, his Rule
gradually took the place of existing orders. And as the
change came about, ill-regulated theological study gave
way to superior methods of learning, solely due to the
better organisation and greater liberality of the Benedictine

Benedictinism came to England with Augustine (597).
The Rule, however, does not seem to have been strictly or
consistently observed for a long time. But the studious
labours of the monks remained just as important a part of
their lives as they would have been had the monasteries
closely followed Benedict's directions. Especially would
this be the case in the seventh century, and afterwards,
during the time continental monachism was in rivalry
with the Celtic missionaries.

Section II

From the first we hear of books in connexion with Canterbury.
Gregory the Great gave to Augustine, either just
before his English mission, or sent to him soon afterward,
nine volumes, which were put in St. Augustine's monastery
--the monastery of SS. Peter and Paul, beyond the walls.
Being for church purposes, the books were very beautiful
and valuable. There was the Gregorian Bible in two
volumes, with some of its leaves coloured rose and
purple, which gave a wonderful reflection when held to
the light; the Psalter of Augustine; a copy of the
Gospels called the Text of St. Mildred, upon which a
countryman in Thanet swore falsely and, it is said, lost
his sight; as well as another copy of the Gospels; a
Psalter, with plain silver images of Christ and the four
Evangelists on the cover; two martyrologies, one adorned
with a silver figure of Christ, the other enriched with silver-
gilt and precious stones; and an Exposition of the Gospels
and Epistles, also enriched with gems.[1] Some of these
books were kept above the altar. Bede also records the
gift by Gregory to Augustine of "many manuscripts,"
and his authority is unimpeachable, as he derived his
knowledge of Canterbury affairs from written records and
information supplied by Albinus, first English abbot of
Augustine's house.[2] This monastery "was thus the mother-
school, the mother-university of England,... at a time when
Cambridge was a desolate fen, and Oxford a tangled forest
in a wide waste of waters. They remind us that English
power and English religion have, as from the very first, so
ever since, gone along with knowledge, with learning, and
especially with that learning and that knowledge which
those old manuscripts give--the knowledge and learning
of the Gospel."[3] Few books would be treasured more
carefully and treated with greater reverence by English
churchmen and book lovers than these "first books of the
English church," if any of them could be found. They are
referred to as existing when William Thorne wrote his
chronicle (c. 1397),[4] and Leland tells us he saw and
admired them; but after his time nearly all trace of them
is lost.[5]

[1] Hist. mon. S. Augustini, Cant., 96-99, "Et haec sunt
primitiae librorum totius ecclesiae Anglicanae," 99.

[2] H. E., i. 29.

[3] Stanley, Hist. Mem. of C. (1868), 42.

[4] Hist. mon. S. Aug., xxv.

[5] B. M. Reg. I. E vi. may be a part of the Gregorian Bible, or
the second
copy of the Gospels mentioned above, if this second copy is not
Corpus Christi,
Camb. 286. Corpus C. 286 is a seventh century book, certainly
from St. Augustine's;
it was probably brought to England in the time of Theodore, and
though it
may be one of the books referred to above, is, therefore, not
The Psalter bearing the silver images is "most likely" Cott.
Vesp. A. I, an
eighth century manuscript; it is, therefore, not Augustinian,
although it may be a
copy of the original Psalter given by Gregory.--James, lxvi.

No further hint of books occurs until Theodore became
Archbishop more than seventy years later. Theodore, who
had been educated both at Tarsus and Athens, where he
became a good Greek and Latin scholar, well versed in secular
and divine literature, began a school at Canterbury for the
study of Greek, and provided it with some Greek books.
None of these books has been traced with certainty. Some
may have existed in Archbishop Parker's time. "The Rev.
Father Matthew," says Lambarde, in his Perambulation of
Kent, . . . "showed me, not long since, the Psalter of David,
and sundry homilies in Greek, Homer also, and some other
Greek authors, beautifully written on thick paper with the
name of this Theodore prefixed in the front, to whose
library he reasonably thought (being led thereto by show
of great antiquity) that they sometime belonged." The
manuscript of Homer, now in Corpus Christi Library,
Cambridge, did not belong to Theodore, but to Prior
Selling, of whom we shall hear later. But possibly the
famous Graeco-Latin copy of the Acts, now in the Bodleian
Library, belonged either to Theodore or to his companion,

[1] Known as Codex E, or the Laudian Acts (Laud. Gr. 35). Bede
refers to a Greek manuscript of the Acts in his Retractationes;
possibly this is the actual copy. The last page of the book bears
the signature "Theodore"; did Archbishop Theodore bring the
volume to England?" It is at least safe to say that the presence
of such a book in England in Bede's time can hardly be
entirely independent of the influence of Theodore or of Abbot
Hadrian."--James (M. R.), xxiii.

Theodore, with Hadrian's help, not only started the
Canterbury School, but encouraged similar foundations in
other English monasteries. In southern England, however,
Canterbury remained the centre of learning, and many
ecclesiastics were attracted to it in consequence. Bede
amply proves its efficiency as a school. And forasmuch as
both Theodore and Hadrian were "fully instructed both in
sacred and in secular letters, they gathered a crowd of
disciples, and rivers of wholesome knowledge daily flowed
from them to water the hearts of their hearers; and, together
with the books of Holy Scripture, they also taught
them the metrical art, astronomy, and ecclesiastical arithmetic.
A testimony whereof is, that there are still living
at this day some of their scholars, who are as well versed in
the Greek and Latin tongues as in their own, in which they
were born."[1] Elsewhere he mentions some of these scholars
by name. Albinus, already referred to as the first English
abbot of St. Augustine's, "was so well instructed in literary
studies, that he had no small knowledge of the Greek tongue,
and knew the Latin as well as the English, which was his
native language."[2] "A most learned man" was another
disciple, Tobias, bishop of Rochester, who, besides having
a great knowledge of letters, both ecclesiastical and general,
learned the Greek and Latin tongues "to such perfection,
that they were as well known and familiar to him as his
native language."[3]

[1] H. E., iv. 2, tr. Sellar.

[2] Ib. v. 20.

[3] Ib. v. 23.

Canterbury's most notable scholar was Aldhelm, the
first bishop of Sherborne. In him were united the
learning of the Canterbury and the Irish monks, for he
studied first under Maildulf, the Irish monk and scholar
who founded and gave his name to Malmesbury, and then
under Hadrian. When he went to be consecrated an incident
befell him which at once shows his zeal for learning, and casts
a welcome ray of light on the importation of books. While
at Canterbury he heard of the arrival of ships at Dover, and
thither he journeyed to see whether they had brought
anything in his way. He found on board plenty of books,
among them one containing the complete Testaments. He
offered to buy it, but his price was too low; although,
afterwards, when it was believed his prayers had delivered the
owner from a storm, he secured it on his own terms.[1]

[1] This copy was still at Malmesbury in the twelfth century.--W.
of Malmesbury, Ang. Sacr., ii. 21.

Aldhelm at length became abbot of Malmesbury
(c. 675), and under him it grew to much greater eminence,
and attracted a large number of students. Here, in the
solitude of the forest tract, he passed his time in singing
merry ballads to win the ear of the people for his more
serious words, playing the harp, in teaching, and in reading
the considerable library he had at hand. Bede describes
him as a man "of marvellous learning both in liberal and
ecclesiastical studies." Judging by his writings he was in
these respects in the forefront of his contemporaries, although
his learning was heavy and pretentious. From them also
it is perfectly evident he could make use not only of the
Bible, but of lives of the saints, of Isidore, of the
of Clement, of the Acts of Sylvester, of writings by Sulpicius
Severus, Athanasius, Gregory, Eusebius, and Jerome, as well
as of Terence, Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Persius, and Prosper,
and some other authors.[1]

[1] Sandys, i. 466; Camb. Eng. Lit., i. 75.

Section III

Meanwhile Northumbria had become one of the leading
centres of learning in Europe, almost entirely through the
labours and influence of Irish missionaries. St. Aidan, an
ascetic of Iona who journeyed to Northumbria at King
Oswald's request, founded Lindisfarne, which became the
monastic and episcopal capital of that kingdom. Aidan
required all his pupils, whether religious or laymen, to read
the Scriptures, or to learn the Psalms. The education of
boys was a part of his system. Wherever a monastery was
founded it became a school wherein taught the monks who
had followed him from Scotland. Cedd, the founder and
abbot of Lastingham, was Aidan's pupil, so was his brother,
the great bishop Ceadda (Chad), who succeeded him in his
abbacy. At Lindisfarne was wrought by Eadfrith (d. 721) the
beautiful manuscript of the Gospels now preserved in the
British Museum, and a little later the fine cover for it.
Lastingham, founded on the desolate moorland of North
Yorkshire, "among steep and distant mountains, which
looked more like lurking-places for robbers and dens of
wild beasts, than dwellings of men," upheld the traditions
of the Columban houses for piety, asceticism, and studious
occupations. Thither repaired one Owini, not to live idle,
but to labour, and as he was less capable of studying, he
applied himself earnestly to manual work, the while better-
instructed monks were indoors reading.

In many directions do we observe traces of Aidan's
good work. Hild, the foundress of Whitby Abbey, was for
a short time his pupil. Her monastery was famous for having
educated five bishops, among them John of Beverley, and
for giving birth, in Caedmon, to the father of English poetry.
"Religious poetry, sung to the harp as it passed from hand
to hand, must have flourished in the monastery of the abbess
Hild, and the kernel of Bede's story concerning the birth of
our earliest poet must be that the brethren and sisters on
that bleak northern shore spoke to each other in psalms
and hymns and spiritual songs.' "[1] of Melrose, an offshoot
of Aidan's foundation, the sainted Cuthbert was an inmate.
At Lindisfarne, where "he speedily learned the Psalms and
some other books," the great Wilfrid was a novice. Of his
studies, indeed, we know little: he seems to have sought
prelatical power rather than learning. But he and his
followers were responsible for the conversion of the
Northumbrian church from Columban to Roman usages, and the
introduction of Benedictinism into the monasteries; and
consequently for bringing the studies of the monks into line
with the rules of Benedict's order.

[1] Camb, Eng., Lit., i. 45.

Such progress would have been impossible had not the
rulers of Northumbria from Oswald to Aldfrith been friendly
to Christianity. Aldfrith had been educated at Iona, and
was a man of studious disposition. His predecessor had
advanced Northumbria's reputation enormously by giving
Benedict Biscop (629-90) sites for his monasteries of Wearmouth
and Jarrow.[1] We know enough of this Benedict to
wish we knew very much more. He suggests to us enthusiasm
for his cause, and energy and foresight in labouring for it.
Naturally, Aldhelm's writings have gained him far more
attention in literary histories than the Northumbrian has
received. But the influence of Benedict, a man of much
learning, wide-travelled, was at least as great and as far-
reaching Lerins, the great centre of monachism in Gaul,
and Canterbury under Theodore, had been his schools. On
six occasions he flitted back and forth to Rome, and to go
to Rome, in those days, was a liberal education, both in
worldly and spiritual affairs. Not a little of his influence
was the direct outcome of his book-collecting. From all
his journeys to Rome he is said to have returned laden
with books. He certainly came back from his fourth
journey with a great number of books of all kinds.[2] He
also obtained books at Vienne. His sixth and last journey
to Rome was wholly devoted to collecting books, classical
as well as theological. When he died he left instructions
for the preservation of the most noble and rich library he had
gathered together.[3] "If we consider how difficult, fatiguing,
. . . even dangerous a journey between the British Islands
and Italy must have been in those days of anarchy and
barbarism, we can appreciate the intensity of Benedict's
passion for beautiful and costly volumes."[4] The library he
formed was worthy of the labour, we cannot doubt: possibly
was the best then in Britain. It served as the model for
the still more famous collection at York. The scholarship
of Bede, who used it in writing his works, proclaims its
value for literary purposes.[5] Bede tells us he always
applied himself to Scriptural study, and in the intervals of
observing monastic discipline and singing daily in the
church, he took pleasure in learning, or teaching, or writing.[6]
The picture of Bede in his solitary monastery, leading a
placid life among Benedict's books, poring over the beautifully-
wrought pages with the scholar's tense calm to find
the material in the Fathers and the historians, and to seek
the apt quotation from the classics, must always flash to the
mind at the mere mention of his name.[7] Every fact in
connexion with his work testifies to the excellent equipment
of his monastery for writing ecclesiastical history, and to
the cordial way in which the religious co-operated for the
advancement of learning and research.

[1] These foundations were regarded as one house, the inmates
being bound together by "a common and perpetual affection and

[2] "Innumerabilem librorum omnis generis copiam
apportavit."--Vitae Abbatum, Section 4.

[3] "Copiosissima et nobilissima bibliotheca."--Ib. Section 11.

[4] Lanciani, Anc. Rome, 201.

[5] Ceoffrid, Benedict Biscop's successor, added a number of
books to the library, among them three copies of the Vulgate, and
one of the older version. One copy of the Vulgate Ceolfrid took
with him to Rome (716) to give to the Pope. He died on the way.
The codex did not go to Rome; now, it is in the Laurentian
Library, Florence, where it is known as the Codex Amiatinus. The
writing is Italian, or at any rate foreign, so it must have been
imported, or written at Jarrow by foreign scribes. This volume is
the chief authority for the text of Jerome's translation of the

[6] H. E., v. 24

[7] Bede frequently quotes Cicero, Virgil, and Horace; usually
selecting some telling phrase, e.g. "caeco carpitur igni" (H. E.
ii. 12). In his De Natura rerum he owes a good deal to Pliny and
Isidore. In his commentaries on the Scriptures he displays an
extent of reading which we have no space to give any
idea of. His chronologies were based on Jerome's edition of
Eusebius, on Augustine and Isidore. In his H. E. he uses "Pliny,
Solinus, Orosius, Eutropius Marcellinus Comes, Gildas, probably
the Historia Brittonum, a Passion of St. Alban, and the Life of
Germanus of Auxerre by Constantius"; while he refers to
lives of St. Fursa, St. Ethelburg, and to Adamnan's work on the
Holy Places. Cf. Sandys, i. 468; Camb. Lit., i. 80-81. Bede also
got first-hand knowledge: the Lindisfarne records provided him
with material on Cuthbert; information came to him from
Canterbury about Southern affairs and from Lastingham about
Mercian affairs. Nothelm got material from the archives at Rome
for him.

Section IV

Canterbury, Malmesbury, Lindisfarne, Wearmouth and
Jarrow, and York were like mountain-peaks tipped with gold
by the first rays of the rising sun, while all below remains
dark. Yet while not indicative of widespread means of
instruction, the existence of these centres, and the character
of the work done in them, suggests that at other places the
same sort of work, on a smaller and less influential scale,
soon began. At Lichfield, on the moorland at Ripon, in
"the dwelling-place in the meadows" at Peterborough, in
the desolate fenland at Crowland and at Ely, on the banks
of the Thames at Abingdon, and of the Avon at Evesham,
in the nunneries of Barking and Wimborne, at Chertsey,
Glastonbury, Gloucester, in the far north at Melrose, and
even perhaps at Coldingham, Christianity was speeding its
message, and learning--such as it was, primitive and
pretentious--caught pale reflections from more famous places.
Now and again definite facts are met with hinting at a spreading
enlightenment. Acca, abbot and bishop of Hexham,
for example "gave all diligence, as he does to this day,"
wrote Bede, "to procure relics of the blessed Apostles and
martyrs of Christ.... Besides which, he industriously gathered
the histories of their martyrdom, together with other
writings, and erected there a large and noble library."
Of this library, unfortunately, there is not a wrack left
behind. A tiny school was carried on at a monastery near
Exeter, where Boniface was first instructed. At the
monastery of Nursling he was taught grammar, history,
poetry, rhetoric, and the Scriptures; there also manuscripts
were copied. Books were produced under Abbess Eadburh
of Minster, a learned woman who corresponded with
Boniface and taught the metric art. Boniface's letters
throw interesting light on our subject. Eadburh sent him
books, money, and other gifts. He also wrote home asking
his old friend Bishop Daniel of Winchester for a fine
manuscript of the six major prophets, which had been written
in a large and clear hand by Winbert: no such book, he
explains, can be had abroad, and his eyes are no longer
strong enough to read with ease the small character of
ordinary manuscripts. In another letter written to
Ecgberht of York is recorded an exchange of books, and
a request for a copy of the commentaries of Bede.

A decree of the Council held at Cloveshoe in 747,
pointing out the want of instruction among the religious,
and ordering all bishops, abbots, and abbesses to promote
and encourage learning, whether it means that monkish
education was on the wane or that it was not making such
quick progress as was desired, at any rate does not mean
that England was in a bad way in this respect, or that she
lagged behind the Continent. On the contrary, England
and Ireland were renowned homes of learning in
Western Europe. Perhaps a few centres on the mainland
could show libraries as good as those here; but certainly
no country had such scholars. England's pre-eminence was
recognized by Charles the Great when he invited Alcuin
to his court (781).

Alcuin was brought up at York from childhood. In
company with Albert, who taught the arts and grammar
at this northern school, Alcuin visited Gaul and Rome to
scrape together a few more books. On returning later he
was entrusted with the care of the library: a task for which
he was well fitted, if enthusiasm, breaking into rime, be a

"Small is the space which contains the gifts of heavenly Wisdom
Which you, reader, rejoice piously here to receive;
Better than richest gifts of the Kings, this treasure of Wisdom,
Light, for the seeker of this, shines on the road to the

[1] Tr. in Morley, Eng. Writers, ii. 160.

York could not retain Alcuin long. Fortunately, just when
dissensions among the English kings, and the Danish raids
began to harass England, and to threaten the coming
decline of her learning, he was invited to take charge of a
school established by Charles the Great. Charles had
undertaken the task of reviving literary study, well-nigh
extinguished through the neglect of his ancestors; and he
bade all his subjects to cultivate the arts. As far as he
could he accomplished the task, principally owing to the
aid of the English scholar and of willing helpers from

Alcuin was soon at the head of St. Martin's of Tours
where he was responsible for the great activity of the
scribes in his day. He persuaded Charles to send a
number of copyists to York. "I, your Flavius," he writes,
"according to your exhortation and wise desire, have been
busy under the roof of St. Martin, in dispensing to some
the honey of the Holy Scriptures. Others I strive to
inebriate with the old wine of ancient studies; these I
nourish with the fruit of grammatical knowledge; in the
eyes of these again I seek to make bright the courses of
the stars.... But I have need of the most excellent books
of scholastic learning, which I had procured in my own
country, either by the devoted care of my master, or by
my own labours. I therefore beseech your majesty . . .
to permit me to send certain of our household to bring
over into France the flowers of Britain, that the garden of
Paradise may not be confined to York, but may send some
of its scions to Tours." What the "flowers of Britain"
were at this time Alcuin has told us in Latin verse. At
York, "where he sowed the seeds of knowledge in the
morning of his life," thou shalt find, he rimes:--

"The volumes that contain
All the ancient fathers who remain;
There all the Latin writers make their home
With those that glorious Greece transferred to Rome,--
The Hebrews draw from their celestial stream,
And Africa is bright with learning's beam."

Then, after including in his metrical catalogue the names
of forty writers, he proceeds:--

"There shalt thou find, O reader, many more
Famed for their style, the masters of old lore,
Whose many volumes singly to rehearse
Were far too tedious for our present verse."[1]

[1] Tr. in West, Alcuin, 34-35.

A goodly store indeed in such an age.

Section V

Sunlight and shadow follow one another rapidly across
England's early history. The migration of York's renowned
scholar took place six years before the Viking
irruptions began, and about twelve years before a heavy
blow was struck at Northumbrian learning by the ravaging
and destruction of the monasteries of Lindisfarne, and
Wearmouth and Jarrow. After this there was but little
peace for England. Kent was often attacked. In 838
the marauders fell upon East Anglia. Between 837 and
845 they made various fierce attacks upon Wessex. In
851 the pillage of Canterbury and London was a severe
blow to the English. About fifteen years later, at the
hands of the Danes, Melrose, Tynemouth, Whitby, and
Lastingham shared Wearmouth's fate. Of York and its
library we hear no more. Peterborough and its large
collection of sacred books perished at the hands of the
same raiders as those who burnt Crowland (870). So bad
grew affairs that Alfred the Great, writing to Bishop
Werfrith, bewailed the small number of people south of the
Humber who understood the English of their service, or
could translate from Latin into English. Even beyond
the Humber there were not many; not one could he
remember south of the Thames when he began to reign.
And he bethought himself of the wise men, both church
and lay folk, formerly living in England, and how zealous
they were in teaching and learning, and how men came
from abroad in search of wisdom and instruction. Apparently
some decline from this standard had been noticeable
before ruin completely overtook the monasteries. He
remembered how, before the land had been ravaged and
burnt, "its churches stood filled with treasures and books,
and with a multitude of His servants, but they had very
little knowledge of the books, and could not understand
them, for they were not written in their own language....
When I remembered all this, I much marvelled that the
good and wise men who were formerly all over England,
and had perfectly learnt all these books, did not wish to
translate them into their own tongues." By way of
remedying this omission, he translated Cura Pastoralis into
English. "I will send a copy to every bishopric in my
kingdom; and on each there is a clasp worth 50 mancus.
And I command in God's name that no man take the clasp
from the book or the book from the minster; it is uncertain
how long there may be such learned bishops as now are,
thanks be to God, nearly everywhere."[1]

[1] Tr. in King's Letters, ed. Steele (1903), I. Cf. Bodl. MS
Hatton, 20;
Cott. MS. Otho B 2; Corpus C. C., Camb. MS. 12.

This letter, written in 890, marks the revival of interest
in letters under Alfred. In adding to his own knowledge,
and in promoting education among his people, he was
assiduous and determined. During the leisure of one
period of eight months, Asser seems to have read to him
all the congenial books at hand, Alfred's custom being to
read aloud or to listen to others reading. Asser was a
Welsh bishop, brought to Wessex to help the king in his
work. For the same purpose Archbishop Plegmund[1] and
Bishop Werfrith were brought from Mercia. Other scholars
came from abroad. One named Grimbald, a monk from
St. Bertin, came to take charge of the abbey of Hyde,
Winchester, which Alfred had planned. John, of Old-Saxony,
a learned monk of the flourishing Westphalian Abbey of
Corvey--where a library existed in this century,[2]--was made
by Alfred abbot of Athelney monastery and school. Perhaps
John, called the Scot or Erigena, also came, but we do
not know certainly. Alfred also introduced teachers, both
English and foreign, into his monasteries, his aim being to
provide the means of educating every freeborn and well-to-
do youth. During the whole of the latter part of his reign
the copying of manuscripts went on, though with only
moderate activity.

[1] MS. Cott. Tib. B xi.--a copy of Alfred's version of the Cura,
or what is left of it--has been connected with Archbishop
Plegmund, the evidence being a Saxon inscription on the
manuscript Wanley, however, doubted the conclusiveness of
this evidence, which, together with most of the text, was lost in
the fire of 1731. --James, xxiii-iv.

[2] Sandys, i. 484.

That Alfred, amid the cares of a troublesome kingship,
could find time to devote to this work, and realised
the importance of vernacular literature, is one of the chief
signs of his greatness. What he did had a lasting influence
upon our literature. He tapped the wellspring of English
prose. Mainly owing to his initiative, from his day till the
Conquest all the literature of importance was in the
vernacular, and the impulse so given to the language as a
literary vehicle was strong enough to preserve it from
extinction during the Norman domination, when it was
superseded as the court and official language. But, so far
as the making and circulation of books is concerned, the
"revival" under Alfred did not prosper. The necessary
machinery was almost entirely wanting. The monastic
schools, the great--the only--means of disseminating the
learning of the time, were few in number and not very
influential. For Athelney, a small monastery, Alfred had
difficulty in finding monks at all: he had to get them from
abroad; while the rule in this house does not seem to have
been wholly satisfactory. At the time of his death (c. 901)
monachism was in a bad way. Fifty years later its plight
would seem to have been worse. Only two houses,
Abingdon and Glastonbury, could be really called monastic.
"In the middle of the tenth century the Rule of St.
Benedict, the standard of monasticism in Western
Christendom, was, according to virtually contemporary
authority, completely unknown in England. This will not
appear strange if we consider that it was never very
generally or strictly carried out here, that the Danish
invasions had broken the continuity of monastic life, and
that not many years earlier the very existence of the Rule
had been forgotten in not a few continental monasteries."[1]
Although England always responded to the slightest effort
to affect her culture, as the long deer grass waves an
answer to every breath of the wind, yet the surprising
eminence of some of the churchmen in the latter half of the
century and the excellence of their work cannot be
accounted for if the influence of Alfred's reign had utterly
died out. But it had not. Only the machinery was
defective. The driving power remained, latent but ready
for action. One indication of a surviving interest in these
matters at this time is the gift of some nine books to
St. Augustine's Abbey by King Athelstan--an interesting
little collection including Isidore de Natura Rerum, Persius,
Donatus, Alcuin, Sedulius, and possibly a work by Bede.
The machinery, however, was soon to be improved.
Dunstan, Oswald, Edgar, and Ethelwold set matters right
by reforming and extending the monastic system, and
by making it the means of encouraging education and

[1] Hunt, Hist. of Eng. Church, i. 326.

The leaders were Dunstan and Ethelwold. In youth
the former was renowned for his eagerness in studying, and
for the wealth and knowledge he acquired. He was a
"lover of ballads and music," "a hard student, an indefatigable
worker, busy at books"; spending his leisure in reading
sacred authors, and in correcting manuscripts, sometimes
at daybreak. He was also very skilful at working in metal
and at drawing and illuminating. Maybe the picture of
him kneeling before the Saviour which is preserved in the
Bodleian Library is by his own hand; this, however, is not
certain.[1] But some relics of his literary work were
preserved at Glastonbury until the Reformation--passages
transcribed from Frank and Roman law books, a pamphlet
on grammar, a mass of Biblical quotations, a collection of
canons drawn from Dunstan's Irish teachers, a book on
the Apocalypse, and other works.[2] He entirely reformed
Glastonbury and made it a flourishing school, where the
Scriptures, ecclesiastical writings, and grammar were taught.
Ethelwold was a Glastonbury scholar and assistant to
Dunstan. Glastonbury, and Abingdon, where he became
Abbot, and Winchester, to which see he was consecrated,
were the centres whence, during the sixty years succeeding
Edgar's accession, some forty monasteries were founded
or restored. Winchester became pre-eminent. Ethelwold
himself was a teacher of grammar. It was his delight to
teach boys and young men, and to help them in their
translations; hence it came to pass that many of his pupils
became abbots and bishops.[3] A curious story is told in
illustration of his studious disposition. One night, when
reading after prolonged watching, sleep overcame him, and
as he slept the candle fell on the page and remained burning
there until a brother came along and snatched it up,
when the book by a miracle was found to be uninjured.[4]
A vignette of pure and true tnedievalism: the long and
solitary watching, the saintly pursuit of divine wisdom, the
wide-open book, with the bold and beautiful text, and the
quaint decoration, wrought by loving hands, and the inevitable
miracle,--the suggestion of a Divine Providence
watching over and protecting all that is sacred.

[1] Strutt, Saxon Antiq., i. 105, pl. xviii. The picture is in a
large volume containing part of a grammar and certain other
pieces used at Glastonbury.--MS. Auct. F. iv. 32. Over the
picture is the inscription: Pictura et scriptura
hujus paginae subtus visa est de propria muanu Sci. Dunstani.

[2] Stubbs, Mem. of Dunstan, cx.-cxii.

[3] Chron. Mon. de Abingdon, ii. 263.

[4] Ibid., ii. 265.

Some beautiful examples of work of this period have been
preserved. "Winchester" work is a familiar and expressive
term in illumination, and nobody will ask why this is so if
they have seen a manuscript executed there towards the
end of the tenth century. The Benedictional and Missal
of Archbishop Robert, which is certainly English, and most
likely an example of New Minster work, is illuminated with
miniatures, foliated and architectural borders, and capitals
and letters of gold, in virile workmanship. A still finer
example--the finest example of Old Minster craft--is the
Benedictional of Ethelwold, now in the Duke of Devonshire's
library. The versified dedication, inscribed in letters
of gold, tells us, in substance--"The Great Aethelwold . . .
illustrious, venerable and mild . . . commanded a certain
monk subject to him to write the present book: he ordered
also to be made in it many arches elegantly decorated and
filled up with various ornamented pictures expressed in
divers beautiful colours, and gold."[1] Godeman, abbot of
Thorney, was the scribe, but the illuminator is unknown.
Each full page has nineteen lines of writing, with letters
nearly a quarter of an inch long. Alternate lines in gold,
red, and black occur once or twice in the same page. There
are thirty miniatures and thirteen fully illuminated pages,
some of these having framed borders, foliated, others columns
and arches. The figures are remarkably well drawn, the
drapery being especially good. The whole is in a fine
state of preservation, especially the gold ornaments; the
gold used was leaf upon size, afterwards well burnished.
Of the rival craftsmanship at New Minster we have a
splendid example in the Golden Book of Edgar, so called
on account of its raised gold text.[2] Work of this grand
character is the best testimony to the noble spirit of
monachism in the days of Ethelwold.

[1] Archaeologia, xxiv. I9.

[2] B. M. Cott. Vesp., A. viii., written 966.

One of Ethelwold's pupils was Aelfric, who became
Archbishop of Canterbury in 995. He was responsible for
the canon requiring every priest, before ordination, to have
the Psalter, the Epistles, the Gospels, a Missal, the Book
of Hymns, the Manual, the Calendar, the Passional, the
Penitential, and the Lectionary. On his death he bequeathed
all his books to St. Albans.[1]

[1] Hook, Archbishops, i. 453 (1st ed.).

Another pupil of the same name is still more famous.
This scholar's grammar, with its translated passages, his
glossary--the oldest Latin-English dictionary--and his
conversation-manual of questions and answers, with interlinear
translations, suggest that he must have done much
to make the study of Latin easier and more congenial;
while his homilies display his art in making knowledge
popular, and prove him to be the greatest master of
English prose before the Conquest.

Several other interesting and suggestive facts belonging
to this period have been preserved for us. Abbot Aefward,
for example, gave to his abbey of Evesham many sacred
books and books on grammar (c. 1035): here, at any rate,
progress was real.[1] At a manor of the abbey of Bury St.
Edmunds were thirty volumes, exclusive of church books
(1044-65).[2] Bishop Leofric also obtained over sixty books
for Exeter Cathedral about sixteen years before the Conquest,
a collection to which we must refer later.

[1] Chron. Abb. de E., 83.

[2] James 1, 5-6.


Section I

The Conquest wrought both good and evil to literature
--evil because the Normans thought books written
in the vernacular unworthy of preservation;[1] good
because the change brought to the country settled government,
and to the church an opportunity for reformation.
Lanfranc was the moving spirit of reform, both in church
administration and in the learning of its members. While
still in Normandy he had built up a reputation for the
monastic school at Bec, and probably had a share in
collecting the excellent library that we know the monastery
possessed in the twelfth century.[2] When he was appointed
to the see of Canterbury he continued to work for the same
ends, although his primacy can have left him little leisure.
A fresh beginning had to be made in Canterbury. In
1067 a fire destroyed the city, including the cathedral and
almost the whole of the monastic buildings; and in this
disaster many "sacred and profane books" were burned.
It was Lanfranc's task to repair this loss. He brought
books with him,[3] and introduced some changes and more
method in the making and use of them. In the customary
of the Benedictine order which he drew up to correspond
with the best monastic practice, he included minute
instructions about lending and reading books. He was also
responsible in the main for the substitution of the continental
Roman handwriting for the beautiful Hiberno-Saxon hand.
In another respect his influence was more beneficial. Both
at Bec and in England he aimed to turn out accurate texts
of patristic books, and the better to achieve this end he
himself corrected manuscripts. In the abbey of St. Martin
de Secz at one time there was a copy of the first ten
Conferences of Cassian with his corrections; and in the
library of Mans is a St. Ambrose which was overlooked by
him.[4] Happily he was in a position to lend texts to monks
for transcribing, and his help in this direction was sought
by Abbot Paul of St. Albans. Recent research by Dr.
Montagu James suggests that Lanfranc's work for the
Canterbury library was a good deal more practical and
influential than has been usually believed. Among the
survivors of the Canterbury collections at Trinity College,
Cambridge, and elsewhere, "are some scores of volumes
undoubtedly from Christ Church, all of one epoch," the
eleventh and twelfth centuries, and all written in hands
modelled on an Italian style. "Another distinguishing
mark," writes Dr. James, "in these volumes is the employment
of a peculiar purple in the decorative initials and
headings.... The nearest approaches I find to it in
England are in certain manuscripts which were once at
St. Augustine's Abbey, and in others which belonged to
Rochester. It can be shown that books did occasionally
pass from Christ Church to St. Augustine's, and it can also
be shown that certain of the Rochester books were written
at Christ Church." All these books, therefore, Dr. James
believes, were given by Lanfranc or produced under his

[1] Most old English poems are preserved in unique manuscripts,
sometimes not complete, but in fragments; two fragments, for
example, were found in the bindings of other books.--Warton, ii.
7. In 1248, only four books in English were at Glastonbury, and
they are described as old and useless.--John of G., 435;
Ritson, i. 43. About fifty years later only seventeen such books
were in the big library at Canterbury.--James (M. R.), 51. A
striking illustration of the disuse of the vernacular among the
religious is found in an Anglo-Saxon Gregory's Pastoral Care,
which is copiously glossed in Latin, in two or three hands.
This manuscript, now in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, No.
12, came from Worcester Priory.--James 17, 33.

[3] Becker, 199, 257

[4] In an eleventh century manuscript in Trinity College Library,
Cambridge (MS. B. 16, 44), is an inscription, perhaps by Lanfranc
himself, recording that he brought it from Bec and gave it to
Christ Church.

[5] At the end of the manuscript of Cassian is written: "Hucusque
ego Lanfrancus correxi."--Hist. Litt. de la France, vii. 117. At
the end of the Ambrose (Hexaemeron) the note reads, "Lanfrancus
ego correxi."

[6] James (M. R.), xxx.

Lanfranc also encouraged original composition, for
Osbern, monk of Canterbury, compiled his lives of St.
Dunstan, St. Alphege, and St. Odo under his eye.

In this work of bookmaking and collecting Lanfranc
was supported or his example was followed by other monks
from Normandy: by Abbot Walter of Evesham, who made
many books;[1] by Ernulf of Rochester, who compiled the
Textus Roffensis; and by many others. At this time grew
up the practice of using English houses to supply books
for Norman abbeys; this partly explains the number of
manuscripts of English workmanship now abroad. A
manuscript preserved in Paris contains a note by a canon
of Ste-Barbe-en-Auge referring to Beckford in Gloucestershire,
an English cell of his house, whence books were sent
to Normandy.[2]

[1] Chron. Abb. de Evesham, 97.

[2] Library of Ste. Genevieve, Paris, MS. E. 1. 17, in 40, fol.
61. The note reads: Quia autem apud Bequefort victualium copia
erat, scriptores etiam ibi habebantur quorum opera ad nos in
Normaniam mittebantur.--Library, v. 2 (1893).

From Lanfranc to the close of the thirteenth century,
was the summer-time of the English religious houses. The
Cluniac or reformed Benedictines settled here about 1077.
In 1105 the Austin Canons first planted a house in this
country. The White Monks, another reformed Benedictine
order, entered England in 1128, and in the course of four
and twenty years founded fifty houses. Soon after, in 1139,
the English Gilbertines were established, then came the
White Canons, and in 1180 the Carthusian monks. The land
was peppered with houses. In less than a century and a half,
from the Conquest to about 1200, it is estimated that no
fewer than 430 houses were founded, making, with 130
founded before the Conquest, 560 in all.[1] Many were
wealthy: some were powerful, because they owned much
property, and popular because, like Malmesbury, they were
"distinguished for their delightful hospitality' to guests
who, arriving every hour, consume more than the inmates
themselves."[2] The Cluniacs could almost be called a
fashionable order.

[1] Stevenson, Grosseteste, 149.

[2] Gesta R. Angl., lib. v.; Camb. Lit., i. 159-60.

During this prosperous age some of the great houses
did their best work in writing and study. Thus to pick
out one or two facts from a string of them. In 1104
Abbot Peter of Gloucester gave many books to the abbey
library. In 1180 the refounded abbey of Whitby owned
a fair library of theological, historical, and classical
About the same time Abbot Benedict ordered the transcription
of sixty volumes, containing one hundred titles,
for his library at Peterborough.[2] By 1244, in spite of
losses in the fire of 1184, Glastonbury had a library of
some four hundred volumes, historical books consorting
with romances, Bibles and patristical works almost crowding
out some forlorn classics.[3] Nearly half a century later
Abbot John of Taunton added to Glastonbury forty volumes,
a notable gift in those days of costly books, while Adam
of Domerham tells us he also made a fine, handsome, and
spacious library.[4] In 1277 a general chapter of the
Benedictines ordered the monks, according to their capabilities,
to study, write, correct, illuminate, and bind books,
rather than to labour in the field.[5]

[1] Surtees S., Ixix. 341.

[2] Merryweather, 96-7.

[3] Joh. Glaston, Chronica, ed. Hearne (1726), ii. 423-44;
Merryweather, 140.

[4] Librariam fecit optimum pulcherrimum et copiosum.--Holmes,
Wells and Glastonbury, 229.

[5] MS. Twyne, Bodl. L., 8, 272.

To such facts as these should be added the record of
the Canterbury, Dover, and Bury libraries, the histories of
which have been so admirably written by Dr. M. R. James.[1]
Of the library of St. Albans Abbey we have not such a
fine series of catalogues. Yet no abbey could have a
nobler record. From Paul (1077) to Whethamstede
(d. 1465) nearly all its abbots were book-lovers.[2] Paul
built a writing-room, and put in the aumbries twenty-
eight fine books (volumina notabilia), and eight Psalters,
a Collectarium, books of the Epistles and Gospels for
the year, two copies of the Gospels adorned with gold
and silver and precious stones, without speaking of
ordinals, customaries, missals, troparies, collectaria, and
other books. Here, as everywhere, the library began with
church books: later, easier circumstances made the stream
of knowledge broader, if shallower. The next abbot also
added some books. Geoffrey, the sixteenth abbot, was
the author of a miracle play, an industrious scribe, and
the donor of some books finely illuminated and bound.
His successor, at one time the conventual archivist, loved
books equally well, and got together a fair collection.
Great Abbot Robert had many books written--"too many
to be mentioned."[3] Simon, the next abbot (1167), a
learned and good-living man who encouraged others to learn,
was especially fond of books, and had many fine manuscripts
written for the painted aumbry in the church. He
repaired and improved the scriptorium. He also made a
provision whereby each succeeding abbot should have at
work one special scribe, called the historiographer, an
innovation to which we owe the matchless series of
chronicles of Roger of Wendover, Matthew Paris, William
Rishanger, and John of Trokelowe. In a Cottonian
manuscript is a portrait of Abbot Simon at his book-trunk,
a picture interesting because it illustrates his predominant
taste for books, as well as one method--then the usual method

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