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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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--of storing them.

[1] James, and James 1.

[2] In the fine MS. Cott. Claud. E. iv. (Gesta Abatum) is a
series of portrait miniatures of the abbots, and in most cases
they are represented as reading or carrying books, or with books
about them.

[3] Fecit etiam scribi libros plurimos, quos lougum esset

John, worthy follower of Simon, was a man of learning,
who added many noble and useful books to St. Albans'
store. William of Trompington (1214) distinguished himself
by giving to the abbey books he had taken from his
prior. Abbot Roger was a better man, and gave many
books and pieces; but John III and IV and Hugh are
barren rocks in our fertile valley, for apparently they did
nothing for the library. Richard of Wallingford did worse
than nothing. He bribed Richard de Bury with four
volumes, and sold to him thirty-two books for fifty pounds
of silver, retaining one-half of this sum for himself, and
devoting the other moiety to Epicurus--"a deed," cries the
chronicler, "infamous to all who agreed to it, so to make
the only nourishment of the soul serve the belly, and upon
any account to apply spiritual dainties to the demands of
the flesh."[1] Abbot Michael de Mentmore, who had been
educated at Oxford, and became schoolmaster at St. Albans,
encouraged the educational work of the abbey by making
studies for the scholars. As he also ordered the morning
mass to be celebrated directly after prime, or six o'clock,
instead of at fierce, or about nine, to allow the students
more time, it is safe to assume he was more zealous than
popular. He also gave books which cost him more than
L 100. His successor, Thomas, enlarged his own study,
and bought many books for it; and, with the assistance of
Thomas of Walsingham, then preceptor and master of the
scriptorium, he built a writing-room at his own expense.

[1] Some of the books were restored, others were resold to the

But Whethamstede was St. Albans' greatest book-loving
abbot. An ardent book-lover, especially fond of
finely-illuminated volumes, he indulged his passion for
manuscripts, and for conventual buildings, vestments, and
property, until he got the abbey into debt, and was led to
resign. After the death of his successor, Whethamstede
was re-elected. In his time no fewer than eighty-seven
volumes were transcribed.[1] In 1452-53 he built a new
library at a cost of more than L 150. Another library was
erected for the College of the Black Monks at Oxford, for
L 60.[2] It was described as a "new erection of a library
joyning on the south-side of the chapel, containing on each side
five or more divisions, as it may be partly seen to this day
by the windows thereof, to which he gave good quantity of
his own study, and especially those of his own composition,
which were not a few, and to deter plagiaries and others
from abusing of them, prefixt these verses in the front
of every one of the same books, as he did also to those that
he gave to the publick library of the University:

"Fratribus Oxoniae datur in munus liber iste
Per patrem pecorum prothomartyris Angligenarum;
Quem, si quis rapiat raptim, titulumve retractet,
Vel Judae laqueum, vel furcas sentiat; Amen

[1] A lot of forty-nine, with prices attached, is given in
Annales a J. Amund., ii. 268 et seq.

[2] Gloucester House, now Worcester College.

"In other books which he gave to the said library these:

"Discior ut docti fieret nova regia plebi
Culta magisque Deae datur hic fiber ara Minervae,
His qui Diis dictis libant holocausta ministris
Et circa bibulam sitinnt prae nectare limpham
Estque librique loci, idem dator, actor et unus."[1]

[1] Dugdale, iv. 405.

This, in brief, is the story of St. Albans' tribute to
learning. In most monasteries the same kind of work
went on, in a more circumscribed fashion, and without the
same distinction of finish, which could probably only be
attained at the big places where expert scribes and illuminators
could be well trained.[2]

[2] For St. Albans see Gesta Abbatum., i. 58, 70, 94, 106, 179,
184; ii. 200, 306, 363; iii. 389, 393

Section II

Fortunately, just when the great houses had attained
the summit of their prosperity, and were beginning the
slow decline to dissolution, learning and book-culture were
freshly encouraged by the coming of the Friars.

The Black Friars settled at Canterbury and in London,
near the Old Temple in Holborn, in 1221. The Grey Friars
were at London, Oxford, and Cambridge in 1224, and by
1256 they were in forty-nine different localities.[1] lt is
strange how the latter order, founded by a man who forbade
a novice to own a Psalter, came to be as earnest in
buying books as the Benedictines were in copying them.
St. Francis' ideal, however, was impossible. The peripatetic
nature of their calling, and their duty of tending the sick,
compelled many friars to learn foreign languages, and to
acquire some medical knowledge. Books were, therefore,
useful to them, if not essential; as indeed St. Francis
ultimately recognized. However, they could not own books
themselves, but only in common with other members of the
convent. If a friar was promoted to a bishopric, he had to
renounce the use of the books he had had as a friar; and
Clement IV forbade the consecration of a bishop until he
had returned the books to his friary. When a book was
given to a friar--and this often happened--he was in duty
bound to hand it to his Superior. But if the friar was a
man of parts the gift was devoted to acquiring books for
his studies, or to giving him other necessary assistance;
the duty, it was held, which the Superior owed him.[2] But
these principles do not seem to have been strictly observed.
In little more than thirty years after St. Francis' death it
was found necessary to draw up rules forbidding the
brethren to own books except by leave from the chief officer
of the order, or to keep any books which were not regarded
as the property of the whole order, or to write books, or
have them written for sale.[3]

[1] Mon, Fr., ii., viii.

[2] Bryce, i. 440n, 29.

[3] Clark, 62.

By the end of the thirteenth century the Mendicants
of Oxford were fairly well provided with books. Michael
Scot came to Oxford, at the time of the greatest literary
activity of the brethren, and introduced to them the physical
and metaphysical works of Aristotle (1230).[1] Adam de
Marisco seems to have been responsible for the first considerable
additions to the collection. From his brother, Bishop
Richard, he had already received a library; possibly this,
with his own books, came into possession of the convent.
Then out of love for him, Grosseteste left his writings or
his library--it is not clear which--to the Grey Friars.[2]
This gift may have formed part--it is not certain--of the
two valuable hoards existing in the fifteenth century in the
same friary, one the convent library, open only to graduates,
the other the Schools library, for seculars living among the
brethren for the sake of the teaching they could get. In
these collections were many Hebrew books, which had been
bought upon the banishment of the Jews from England
(1290).[3] Such books were not often found in the abbeys,
although some got to Ramsey, where Grosseteste's influence
may be suspected.

[1] These works would be Latin translations based upon Arabic
versions Opus Majus, iii. 66; Camb. Lit., i. 199; Gasquet 3, 156.

[2] Close roll, 10 Hen. III, m. 6 (3rd Sep.); Trivet, Annales,
243; Mon. Fr., i. 185; Stevenson, 76; O. H. S., Little, 57.

[3] Wood, Hist. Ant. U. Ox. (1792), i. 329.

The White Friars also had a library at Oxford, wherein
they garnered the works of every famous writer of their
order. They are praised for taking more care of their
books than the brethren of other colours.[1] In later times,
at any rate, some cause for the complaint against the Grey
Friars existed. They appear to have sold many manuscripts
to Dr. Thomas Gascoigne (c. 1433). He ultimately gave
them to the libraries of Lincoln, Durham, Balliol, and Oriel
Colleges. As the friars' mode of life grew easier and the
love of learning less keen, they got rid of many more books.
In Leland's time the library had melted away. After
much difficulty he was allowed to see the book-room,
but he found in it nothing but dust and dirt, cobwebs
and moths, and some books not worth a threepenny

[1] There is an imperfect catalogue of their library in Leland,
iii. 57.

[2] Leland 3, 286.

Roger de Thoris, afterwards Dean of Exeter, presented
a library to the Grey Friars of his city in 1266.[1] What
became of it we do not know. About the same time, in
1253 to be exact, the will of Richard de Wyche, Bishop
of Chichester, is notable for its bequests to the friars; thus
he left books to various friaries of the Grey Brethren--at
Chichester his glossed Psalter, at Lewes the Gospels of St.
Luke and St. John, at Winchelsea the Gospels of St.
Matthew and St. Mark, at Canterbury Isaiah glossed, at
London the Epistles of St. Paul glossed, and at Winchester
the twelve Prophets glossed; as well as some volumes to
the Black Friars--at Arundel the Book of Sentences, at
Canterbury Hosea glossed, at London the Books of Job,
the Acts, the Apocalypse, with the canonical epistles, and
at Winchester the Summa of William of Auxerre.[2] Such
friendliness for the Mendicants was far from common
among the secular clergy. Besides the southern places
mentioned in this bequest, friaries in the east, at Norwich
and Ipswich, and in the west, at Hereford and Bristol, had
goodly libraries.

[1] Oliver, Mon. Dioc. Exon., 332, 333.

[2] Sussex Archaeol. Collections, i. (1848), 168-187.

The friary collections in London seem to have been
important, especially that given to the Grey Friars in
1225,[1] just when they had settled near Newgate. The
Austin Friars may have owned a library before 1364, when
two of their number left the London house, taking with
them books and other goods.[2] Early in the fifteenth
century a library was built and a large addition was made
to the books of this house by Prior Lowe, a friar
afterwards occupying the sees of St. Asaph and of
Rochester.[3] At this time the friars of London were
specially fortunate. The White Friars enjoyed a good
library, to which Thomas Walden, a learned brother of
the order, presented many foreign manuscripts of some
age and rarity.[4] The Grey Friars' library was founded or
refounded by Dick Whittington (1421).[5] The room "was
in length one hundred twentie nine foote, and in breadth
thirtie one: all seeled with Wainscot, having twentie eight
desks, and eight double setles of Wainscot. Which in the
next yeare following was altogither finished in building, and
within three yeares after, furnished with Bookes, to the
charges of" over L 556, "whereof Richard Whittington
bare foure hundred pound, the rest was borne by Doctor
Thomas Winchelsey, a Frier there."[6] On this occasion
one hundred marks were paid for transcribing the works
of Nicholas de Lyra, a Grey Friar highly esteemed for his
knowledge of Hebrew, and "the greatest exponent of the
literal sense of Scripture whom the medieval world can

[1] Mon. Fr., ii. 18.

[2] Cal. of Pap. Letters, iv. 42-43.

[3] Leland, iii. 53.

[4] Camb. Mod. Hist., i., 597.

[5] For date see Stow (Kingsford's ed.), i. 108; i, 318; Mon.
Fr., i. 519,

[6] Stow, i. 318.

[7] Camb. Mod. Hist., i. 591.

Of few of the friary libraries have we definite knowledge
of their size and character. But in the case of the Austin
Friars of York, a catalogue of their library is extant. The
collection was a notable one. The inventory was made in
1372, and the items in it, forming the bulk of the whole,
with some later additions, amounted to 646. One member
of the society named John Erghome was a remarkable
man. He was a doctor of Oxford, where he had studied
logic, natural philosophy, and theology. More than 220
books were his contribution to this splendid library, and he
it was who added the Psalter and Canticles in Greek and a
Hebrew book,--rarities indeed at that date. Classical
literature is fairly well represented in the collection as a
whole, but theology, and especially logic and philosophy,
make up the bulk.[1]

[1] The catalogue is edited by Dr. M. R. James in Fasciculus
Ioanni Willis Clark dicatus, 2-96.

In Scotland, too, the Grey Friars were busy library-
making. We find the convent at Stirling buying five
dozen parchments (1502). Fifty pounds were paid for
books sent to them this year by the Cistercians of Culross,
and to the Austin Canons of Cambuskenneth in the following
year about half as much was paid; and similar records
appear in the accounts.[1]

[1] Bryce, i. 369.

Other interesting testimony to the bookcraft and collecting
habits of the friars is not wanting. Adam de Marisco
writes to the Friar Warden of Cambridge asking for vellum
for scribes.[1] Or he expresses the hope that Richard of
Cornwall may be prevailed upon to stay in England,
but if he goes he will be supplied with books and everything
necessary for his departure.[2] From this letter, it
was evidently usual for friars to seek and obtain permission
to carry away books with them when going abroad,
or going from one custody to another.[3] Then again Adam
writes asking Grosseteste to send Aristotle's Ethics to the
Grey Friars' convent in London.[4] In getting books the
friars were sometimes unscrupulous. A royal writ was
issued commanding the Warden of the Grey Friars at
Oxford and another friar, Walter de Chatton, to return
two books worth forty shillings which they were keeping
from the rightful owner (1330).[5] More striking testimony
to the book-collecting habits of the friars is the complaint
to the Pope of their buying so many books that the monks
and clergy had difficulty in obtaining them. In every
convent, it was urged, was a grand and noble library, and
every friar of eminence in the University had a fine
collection of books.[6] Archbishop Fitzralph, who made
this statement, detested the friars, and was besides prone
to exaggerate; but he was not wholly wrong in this
instance, as De Bury tells a similar tale. "Whenever it
happened," he says, "that we turned aside to the cities and
places where the mendicants . . . had their convents, we
did not disdain to visit their libraries . . .; there we found
heaped up amid the utmost poverty the utmost riches of
wisdom. These men are as ants.... They have added
more in this brief [eleventh] hour to the stock of the sacred
books than all the other vine-dressers."[7] Instead of declaiming
against the hawks, De Bury trained them to prey
for him, and was well rewarded for his pains. Nor is it
beyond the bounds of probability that he enriched his own
collection at the expense of the Grey Friars' library at

[1] Mon. Fr., i. 391.

[2] Ibid. i. 366.

[3] But see O. H. S., Little, 56; Mon. Fr., ii. 91--Libri fratrum

[4] Mon. Fr., i. 114.

[5] Bodl. MS. Twyne, xxiii. 488; O. H. S., Little, 60.

[6] R. Armachanus, Defensorium Curetorum; cf. Wyclif' English
Works, ed. Matthew, 128, 221.

[7] R. de B., Thomas' ed. 203.

[8] Stevenson, 87.

The friars were not merely collectors. The scholarship
of Bacon and other brethren does not concern us.
But their correction of the texts of Scripture, and their
bibliographical work, are germane to our subject. In mid-
thirteenth century some Black Friars of Paris laboured to
correct the text of the Latin Bible; and to enable copyists
to restore the true text when transcribing, they drew up
manuals, called Correctoria. One such manual, now known
as the Correctorium Vaticanum, was prepared by William de
la Mare, a Grey brother of Oxford, in the course of forty
years' labour; and it is "a work which before all others
laid down sound principles of true scientific criticism upon
which to base a correction of the Vulgate text."[1]

[1] Gasquet 3, 140, q.v. for full description of these

Another special work of the Grey brethren, the Registrum
Librorum Angliae,[1] was less important, although it more
clearly illustrates their high regard for books. Some time
in the fourteenth century, by seeking information from
about one hundred and sixty monasteries, some friars drew
up a list of libraries under the heads of the seven custodies
or wardenships of their order in England, and catalogued
the writings of some eighty-five authors represented in these
collections. In this way was formed a combined bibliography
and co-operative catalogue. Of this catalogue we
are able to reproduce a page on which are indexed five
authors, with numerical references to the libraries containing
each work. Early in the fifteenth century a monk of Bury
St. Edmunds, John Boston by name--possibly the librarian
of that house--expanded the register by increasing to
nearly seven hundred the number of authors, and by adding
a score of names to the list of libraries. He also provided
a short biographical sketch of each author "drawn from
the best sources at his disposal; so that the book in its
completed form might claim to be called a dictionary of

[1] MS. Bodl. Tanner, 165.

[2] Camb. MKod. Hist., i. 592; James, xlix.

Section III

We would fain fill in the outline we have given, for the
friars and their book-loving ways are interesting. But
enough has been written to show the origin and growth of
libraries among the religious both of the abbeys and the
friaries. Of the later days of monachism it is not so
pleasant to write. The story has been well told many
times, but no two writers, even in a broad and general way,
let alone in detail, have read the facts alike. On the one
hand it is urged that monachism became degenerate, both
in reverence for spiritual affairs and in love of learning.
Many monks, we are told, came to find more enjoyment in
easy living than in ascetic and religious observances.
Apart from the savage onslaughts in Piers Plowman, and
the yarns of Layton and Legh, now quite discredited, we
have the most credible evidence in Chaucer's gentle

"A monk ther was, a fair for the maistrye,
An out-rydere, that lovede venerye; [hunting]
A manly man, to been an abbot able,
Ful many a deyntee hors hadde he in stable:
. . . . . . . .
He was a lord ful fat and in good point [well-equipped]
His eyen stepe, and rollinge in his heed." [eyes bright]

The friars, too, were sometimes "merye and wantoun," and

"knew the tavernes wel in every toun,
And everich hostiler or gay tappestere."

And an indictment of some force might be based on the
fact that the general chapter of the Benedictine order at
Coventry in 1516 found it necessary to make regulations
against immoderate and illicit eating and drinking, and
against hunting and hawking.[1]

[] Hist, et Cart. Mon. Glouc., iii. lxxiv.

No doubt also many a monk would argue with himself:--

"What sholde he studie, and make him-selven wood [mad]
Upon a book in cloistre alwey to poure
Or swinken with his handes, and laboure [toil]
As Austin bit?" [As St. Augustine bids]

De Bury declaimed against the monks' neglect of books.
"Now slothful Thersites," he cries, "handles the arms of
Achilles and the choice trappings of war-horses are spread
upon lazy asses, winking owls lord it in the eagle's nest,
and the cowardly kite sits upon the perch of the hawk.

"Liber Bacchus is ever loved,
And is into their bellies shoved,
By day and by night.
Liber Codex is neglected,
And with scornful hand rejected
Far out of their sight."

"And as if the simple monastic folk of modern times
were deceived by a confusion of names, while Liber Pater
is preferred to Liber Patrum, the study of the monks
nowadays is in the emptying of cups and not the
emending of books; to which they do not hesitate to add
the wanton music of Timotheus, jealous of chastity, and
thus the song of the merrymaker and not the chant of the
mourner is become the office of the monks. Flocks and
fleeces, crops and granaries, leeks and potherbs, drink and
goblets, are nowadays the reading and study of the monks,
except a few elect ones, in whom lingers not the image
but some slight vestige of the fathers that preceded them."[1]
Specific instances of neglect and worse are recorded. We
have already mentioned the giving and selling of books
by the monks of St. Albans to Richard de Bury. From
the account books of Bolton Abbey it would appear that
three books only were bought during forty years of the
fourteenth century.[2] At St. Werburgh's, Chester, discipline
was very lax. Two monks robbed the abbot of a book
valued at L 20, and of property valued at L 100 or more,
and stole from two of their brethren books and money
(1409). About four years later one of the thieves was
elected abbot, and his respect for learning may be gauged
from the fact that in 1422 he was charged with not
having maintained a scholar at Oxford or Cambridge for
twelve years, although it was his duty to do so by the rules
of his order.[3]

[1] R. de B., c. v. 183.

[2] Whitaker, Hist. of Craven, (1805), 330; another computus,
discovered later, does not refer to books (ed. 1878).

[3] Morris, Chester during Plantagenet and Tudor Reigns, 128-129.

At Bury books were going astray in the first half of
the fifteenth century. Abbot William Curteys (1429-45)
issued an ordinance in which he declares books given out
by the preceptor to the brethren for purposes of study had
been lent, pledged, and even stolen by them. Some of them
he had recovered, and he hoped to secure more, but the
process of recovery had been expensive and troublesome,
both to himself and the people he found in possession of
the books. He therefore sternly forbade the brethren to
alienate books, and decrees certain punishments if his
order was disobeyed. Brethren studying at the University
seem to have been not immune from such faults.[1] The
prior of Michelham sold books, papers, horses, and timber
for his own personal profit (1478). A visitation of
Wigmore showed that books were not "studied in the
cloister because the seats were uncomfortable."[2] Bishop
Goldwell's visitation of his diocese of Norwich in 1492
showed that at Norwich Priory no scholars were sent to
study at Oxford, and at Wymondham Abbey the monks
"refused to apply themselves to their books." At Battle
Abbey, in 1530, the one time fine library was in a sad
state of neglect; no doubt books had been parted with.
And as the last years of the monasteries coincided with a
renewed interest among seculars in learning and with a
revival of book-collecting, the monks of all houses must
have been sorely tempted to sell books which laymen
coveted, as the monks of Mount Athos have been
bartering away their libraries ever since the seventeenth

[1] James, M. R. 1, 109-110.

[2] Bateson, Med. Eng., 339.

But among so many houses some were bound to be ill-
conducted. And it is important to remember that irregularities
would be recorded oftener than more favourable
facts. What had been usual would go unnoted; what was
strange, and a departure from the highest standard of
monachism, would be observed with regret by friends
and dwelt on with spite by enemies. Although human
memory is apt to register evil acts with more assiduity and
fidelity than good, yet a contrary view of the last state of
monachism may be argued with as much reason and with
the support of equally reliable evidence. The great
majority of the houses were not under lax control. The
general organisation was not defective; nor was every
monk a "lorel, a loller, and a spille-tyme.' " Setting aside
the question of general conduct, with which we have little
to do, plenty of evidence may be collected to show that the
work of the earlier periods was not only continued in the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but that some of the
monks enjoyed special distinction among their contemporaries.
Writing was encouraged by directions of chapters
in 1343, 1388, and 1444.[1] The early part of the fifteenth
century was an age of library building, in the monasteries,
as at the Universities. Special rooms for books were put
up at Gloucester, Christ Church (Canterbury), Durham,
Bury St. Edmunds, and other houses. Large and growing
monastic libraries were in existence--at St. Albans and
Peterborough, two at Canterbury of nearly two thousand
volumes each, two thousand volumes at Bury, a thousand
and more at Durham, six hundred at Ramsey, three hundred
and fifty at Meaux. When John Leland crossed the threshold
of the library at Glastonbury he stood stock still for a
moment, awestruck and bewildered at the sight of books of
the greatest antiquity. In 1482, the abbess of Syon
monastery, Isleworth, entered into a regular contract for
writing and binding books.[2] Some forty years later this
abbey had at least fourteen hundred and twenty-one
printed and manuscript volumes in its library.[3] More
facts of similar character will be noted in the next
chapter. Here we will content ourselves with noting a
few of the most conspicuous instances of monkish
scholarship in these later days. At Glastonbury, Abbot
John Selwood was familiar with John Free's work;
indeed, presents a monk with one of that scholar's translations
from the Greek.[4] His successor, Bere, was a pilgrim
to Italy, and was in correspondence with Erasmus, who
desired him to examine his translation of the New Testament
from the Greek. A monk of Westminster, who
became abbot of his house in 1465, was a diligent student,
noted for his knowledge of Greek.[5] At Christ Church,
Canterbury, Prior Selling was particularly zealous on
behalf of the library, and was one of the first to import
Greek books into England in any considerable quantity.[6]
Two manuscripts now in the library of Corpus Christi
College, Oxford, and one in New College, were transcribed
by a Greek living at Reading Abbey (1497-1500).[7]
These few references to the study of Greek are especially
significant, as the revival of Greek studies had only just

[1] Gasquet 4, 49.

[2] E. H. R., xxv. 122.

[3] Bateson, vii.

[4] Synesius de laude Calvitii, MS. Bodl. 80.

[5] Gasquet 2, 36-37.

[6] Sandys., ii. 225; and see post, p. 195.

[7] Gasquet 2, 37; Rashdall and Rait, New Coll. (1901), 251.

Section IV

The whole truth about the later days of the monasteries
will never be known. Many of the original sources of our
knowledge are tainted with partisanship and religious
rancour and flagrant dishonesty. What does seem to be
true is that in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries monastic
influence grew slowly weaker, although the system may not
have been degenerate in itself. The cause is to be found
in the very prosperity of monachism, which brought to the
religious houses wealth and all its responsibilities. Wealth
always imposes fetters, as every rich man, from Seneca
downwards, has declared with unctuous lamentation. But
what first strikes the student who compares early English
monachism with the later is, that whereas the monks of the
first period were most concerned with their monastic duties,
their religious observances, and their scribing and illuminating,
the monks of the later period, and especially during
the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, were immersed in
business, in the management of their wealth, the control
of large estates. The possession of wealth led in one
direction to excessive display, and to purchasing land and
building beyond their means; a course which monks might
easily persuade themselves was progressive and exemplary
of true religious fervour, but which attracted to them
envious eyes. Heavy subsidies to the Crown and the Pope
oppressed them. Then again, many houses indulged in
unwise and excessive almsgiving, which the monks might
well believe to be right, but which brought them only the
interested friendship of the needy. And in the management
of their estates much litigation obstinately pursued
caused internal dissension, was costly, and gained them
only bitter enemies. Had the monasteries been allowed to
exist, probably these evils would have cured themselves.
But, owing to these evils,--to the decline of monastic
influence of which they were the cause,--the Dissolution,
once decided upon, could be carried out with terrible swiftness
and completeness; no influence nor power which the
religious could wield was able to delay or avert the blow
struck by the king. Within a few years over one thousand
houses were closed and their lands and property confiscated.

In the hastiness of the overthrow some conventual
books were destroyed, or stolen, or sold off at low prices.
In a few places damage was done even before the actual
dissolution. At Christ Church, Canterbury, for example,
the drunken servants of a royal commission carelessly
brought about a fire, almost entirely destroying the
library of Prior Selling,[1] which he probably designed to
add to the collection of his monastery. But when the
houses were suppressed, we are told, "whole libraries were
destroyed, or made waste paper of, or consumed for the
vilest uses. The splendid and magnificent Abbey of
Malmesbury, which possessed some of the finest manuscripts
in the kingdom, was ransacked, and its treasures either
sold or burnt to serve the commonest purposes of life. An
antiquary who travelled through that town, many years
after the Dissolution, relates that he saw broken windows
patched up with remnants of the most valuable manuscripts
on vellum, and that the bakers had not even then consumed
the stores they had accumulated, in heating their ovens."[2]
John Bale tells us the loss of the libraries had not mattered
so much, "beynge so many in nombre, and in so desolate
places for the more parse, yf the chiefe monumentes and
most notable workes of our excellent wryters had been
reserved. If there had been in every shyre of Englande
but one solempne Iybrary to the preservacyon of those
noble workes, and preferrement of good lernynges in oure
posteryte, it had bene yet sumwhat. But to destroye all
without consyderacyon, is and wyll be unto Englande for
ever, a most horryble infamy amonge the grave senyours
of other nacyons. A great nombre of them whych purchased
these superstycyouse mansyons reserved of those lybrary
bokes, some to serve theyr jakes, some to scoure theyr
candlestycks, and some to rubbe theyr bootes. Some they
sold to the grossers and sopesellers, and some they sent
over see to the bokebynders, not in small nombre, but at
tymes whole shyppes full, to the wonderynge of the foren
nacyons. Yea, the unyversytees of this realme are not all
clere in this detestable fact.... I know a merchant man
which shall at thys tyme be namelesse, that boughte the
contentes of two noble lybraryes for xl shyllynges pryce, a
shame it is to be spoken. Thys stuffe hath he occupyed
in the stede of graye paper by the space of more than these
x years, and yet he hath store ynough for many yeares
to come."[3] To some extent Bale's account of the contemptuous
treatment of books is confirmed by records of
sales: as, for example, the following:--

Item, sold to Robert Doryngton, old boke, and a cofer in
the library . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ijs.
Item, old bokes in the vestry, sold to the same Robert. . viiid.
Item, sold to Robert Whytgreve, a missale . .. . . . . . viijd.
Fyrst, sold to Mr. Whytgreve, a masse boke. . . . . . . . xijd.
Item, old bokes in the quyer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vjd.
Item, a fryers masse boke, solde to Marke Wyrley. . . iiijd.[4]

[1] A few volumes escaped: a copy of Basil's Commentary on
Isaiah, presumably in Greek, and some others. "Among them must in
all probability be reckoned the first copy of Homer whose
presence can be definitely traced in England since the days of
Theodore of Tarsus."--Camb. Mod. Hist,, i. 598. Cp. James, li.

[2] Aubrey, Lett. of Em. Per. from the Bod., i. 278.

[3] Laboryouse Journey and Serche of Johann Leylande for
Englandes Antiquitees, by Bale, 1549. Cf. Strype, Parker (1711),

[4] Accounts of John Scudamore (king's receiver), detailing
proceeds of sale of goods from Bordesley Abbey, and other
monasteries.--Cam. Soc., xxvi. 269, 271, 275.

Bale's statement is sadly borne out by the fate of the
library of the Austin Friars of York. At one time this
friary owned between six and seven hundred books. Now
but five are known to remain.[1] "It is hardly open to
doubt," writes Dr. James, "that nine-tenths of the books
have ceased to exist. To be sure, it is no news to us that
thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of manuscripts
were destroyed in the first half of the sixteenth century;
but the truth comes heavily home when we are confronted
with the actual figures of the loss sustained in one small
corner of the field. We may fairly reckon that what
happened in the case of the Austin Friars at York happened
to many another house situated like it, in a populous centre,
and thus enjoying good opportunities for acquiring books."[2]

[1] Fasciculus I. W. Clark dicatus, 16, and cf. 96.

[2] Fasciculus I. W. CIark dicatus, 16, 17.

But the loss may be--and has been--exaggerated.
In some instances a good part of a library was preserved.
The Prior of Lanthony, a house in the outskirts of
Gloucester, saved the books of his little community. From
him they passed into the hands of one Theyer; later,
possibly through Archbishop Bancroft, they found an
ultimate resting-place in Lambeth Palace. During this
interval many of them were perhaps lost or sold, but to-day
some one hundred and thirty are known certainly to have
come from Lanthony, or may be credited to that place
on reasonably safe evidence.[1]

[1] C. A. S. 8vo. Publ., No. 33 (1900), Dr. James on MSS. in the
Library of Lambeth Palace, pp. 1, 2, 6.

Then again Henry's myrmidons--to use the classic
word--would be unlikely to carry their vandalism too far.
To do so, in view of the great value of books, would bring
them no profit. Knowing their character, may we not
reasonably assume that they sold as many books as they
could to make illicit gains?[1] Sometimes they fell in love
with their finds, as was natural. "Please it you to understand,"
writes Thomas Bedyll, one of Henry VIII's commissioners,
"that in the reding of the muniments and
chartors of the house of Ramesey, I found a chartor of King
Edgar, writen in a very antiq Romane hand, hard to be red
at the first sight, and light inowghe after that a man found
out vj or vij words and after compar letter to letter. I am
suer ye wold delight to see the same for the straingnes and
antiquite thereof.... I have seen also there a chartor of
King Edward writen affor the Conquest."[2]

[1] See Dr. James' view of the dispersion of Bury Abbey
Library.--James 1, 9-10.

[2] Monasticon, Dugdale, ii. 586-587.

John Leland was one of those who saved books.
Already he had been commissioned to examine the libraries
of cathedrals, abbeys, priories, colleges, and other places
wherein the records of antiquity were kept, when, observing
with dismay the threatened loss of monastic treasures, he
asked Cromwell to extend the commission to collecting
books for the king's library. The Germans, he says, perceiving
our "desidiousness" and negligence, were daily
sending young scholars hither, who spoiled the books, and
cut them out of libraries, and returned home and put them
abroad as monuments of their own country.[1]

[1] Ath. Ox. (1721), i. 82, 83.

His request was granted in part, and he tells us he sent
to London for the royal library the choicest volumes in
St. Augustine's Abbey; but very few of these books now
remain.[1] He had, he said, "conservid many good autors,
the which otherwise had beene like to have perischid to no
smaul incommodite of good letters, of the whiche parse
remayne yn the moste magnificent libraries of yowr royal
Palacis. Parte also remayne yn my custodye. Wherby I
truste right shortely so to describe your most noble reaulme,
and to publische the Majeste and the excellent actes of
yowr progenitors."[2]

[1] James (M. R.), lxxxi.

[2] Leland, Itinerary (1907), i. xxxviii.

Robert Talbot, rector of Haversham, Berkshire
(d. 1558), collected monastic manuscripts: the choicest of
them he left to New College. A portreeve of Ipswich,
named William Smart, came into possession of some hundred
volumes from Bury Abbey library. In 1599 he gave them
to Pembroke College, where they are now.[1] John Twyne,
(d. 1581), schoolmaster and mayor of Canterbury, certainly
once owned the fifteenth-century catalogue of the
St. Augustine's Abbey library, and seems to have possessed
many manuscripts. Both catalogue and manuscripts were
transferred to Dr. John Dee, the famous alchemist. The
catalogue, with some other books belonging to the doctor,
got to the library of Trinity College, Dublin. But the
manuscripts passed into the hands of Brian Twyne, John's
grandson, who bequeathed them to Corpus Christi College,
Oxford; they are still there.[2] John Stow, whose gatherings
form part of the Harleian collection, saved some books
which once reposed in claustral aumbries, mainly owing to
the protection and help of Archbishop Parker.

[1] James (M. R.) 1, II.

[2] Notes and Q., 2. i. 485; James (M. R.), lvii, lxxxli.

Archbishop Parker himself was assiduous in garnering
books. "I have within my house, in wages," he writes
to Lord Burleigh, in 1573, "drawers and cutters, painters,
limners, writers and bookbinders." Again, "I toy out my
time, partly with copying of books." He made a strenuous
endeavour to recover as many of the monks' books as
possible, using money and influence to this end; and
accumulated an unusually large library, quite priceless in
character.[1] Most of his choice books were presented to
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and twenty-five of them
to Cambridge University Library (1574). Dr. Montagu
James, the leading authority on the provenance of Western
manuscripts, has discovered or made suggestions as to the
origin of nearly two hundred out of about three hundred and
eighty.[2] Forty-seven are traced to Christ Church, Canterbury;
twenty-six to St. Augustine's Abbey. Later Dr.
James extended his work to identifying the manuscripts
which were once in the Canterbury abbeys and in the
priory of St. Martin at Dover. From the fragmentary
Christ Church catalogue of 1170, Dr. James has identified
two, and possibly six, manuscripts; from Henry Eastry's
catalogue (14 cent.) of Christ Church books, he has identified
either certainly or with much probability about one hundred
and eighty; from the catalogue of St. Augustine's Abbey
library (c. 1497) over one hundred and seventy-five; as well
as twenty from the Dover catalogue (1389). In addition,
Dr. James has identified about one hundred and fifty manuscripts
still extant which are certainly or probably attributable
to Christ Church monastic library, but which are not
in the catalogues handed down to us; and over sixty which
are likewise attributable to St. Augustine's monastery.[3]
There are therefore about five hundred and seventy Canterbury
manuscripts now remaining to us.

[1] Strype, Parker (1711), 528.

[2] James (M. R.), Sources of Archbishop Parker's MSS. (Camb.
Antiq. Soc.).

[3] James (M. R.), 505-534.

By making a similarly thorough investigation Dr. James
has traced about three hundred and twenty-two manuscripts
from Bury St. Edmunds.[1] Of the Westminster Abbey
manuscripts it is difficult to say how many are extant, as
the common medieval press marks are absent from the
books of this house. But the presence of eleven manuscripts
in the British Museum; two in Lambeth Palace; one at
Sion College; three at the Bodleian, and five more in
Oxford colleges; two at the Cambridge University Library,
and two more in the colleges there; one at the Chetham
Library, Manchester; and two at Trinity College, Dublin,
well illustrate how the monastic books have been scattered
since the Dissolution.[2] To these special examinations
Dr. James has gradually added vastly to our knowledge of
the provenance of manuscripts by his masterly series of
catalogues of the ancient treasures of the Cambridge
colleges, and he has proved to us that a considerable
number of monastic books still survive.[3] Much more work
of the same kind remains to be done; other labourers are
needed; but the men of parts who are able and content
to labour at a task without remuneration and with small
thanks are few and far between; while fewer still are the
publishers who can be persuaded to produce the results of
these researches.

[1] James (M. R.) 1, 42; ibid. xciv. But later Dr. James was less
certain of some of his identifications. See James (M. R.) 10,

[2] Robinson.

[3] See also Macray's Annals of the Bodleian.


"For if hevene be on this erthe . and ese to any soule,
It is in cloistere or in score . be many skilles I fynde;
For in cloistre cometh no man . to chide ne to fighte,
But alle is buxolllllesse there and bokes . to rede and to
Piers Plowman, B. x. 300

Section 1

Before leaving the subject of monastic libraries,
it is desirable to say something about their

They were built up partly by importing books, partly
by bequests from wealthy ecclesiastics, but largely--and
in some cases wholly--by the labours of scribes. The
scene of the scribe's craft was the scriptorium or writing-
room, which was usually a screened-off portion of the
cloister, or a room beside the church and below the library,
as at St. Gall, or a chamber over the chapter-house, as at St.
Albans under Abbot Paul, at Cockersand Abbey and Birkenhead
Priory. As a rule the monk was not allowed to write
outside the scriptorium, although in some houses he could
read elsewhere--as at Durham, where a desk to support
books was fitted in the window of each dormitory cubicle.
But brothers whose work was highly valued were allowed
a small writing-room or scriptoriolum. Nicholas, Bernard's
secretary, had a room on the right of the cloister with its
door opening into the novices' room--a cell, he says, "not
to be despised; for it is . . . pleasant to look upon, and
comfortable for retirement. It is filled with most choice
and divine books . . . is assigned to me for reading, and
writing, and composing, and meditating, and praying, and
adoring the Lord of Majesty."[1] Perhaps Nicholas's room
was like that shown in one manuscript, where we see a
monk seated on a stool before a reading-stand of odd shape.
The table, which is the top of a hexagonal receptacle for
parchment and writing materials, or books, can be moved
up and down on the screw. Above the screw is a bookrest;
at the foot a pedestal, with the ink-bottle upon it.
Apparently the room also contains cupboards for storing
books. Nicholas, however, was favoured, for in the same
passage he refers to the older monks reading the "books
of divine eloquence in the cloister." In Cistercian monasteries
certain monks were so favoured, although they were
not allowed to use their studies during the time the monks
were supposed to be in the cloister.[2] At Oxford, after
mid-fourteenth century, every student friar had set apart
for him a place fitted with a combined desk and bookcase,
or studium, of the kind commonly depicted in medieval
illuminations. Grants of timber for making these studia
are recorded: to the Black Friars of Oxford, for example,
of seven oaks to repair their studies.[3]

[1] Maitland, 404-405.

[2] Stat. selecta Cap. Gen. O. Cisterc., A.D. 1278, Martene, iv.
1462; Maitland, 406.

[3] O. H. S., Little, 55.

The arrangements in the cloister are carefully described
in the Durham Rites. At Durham "in the north syde of
the cloister, from the corner over against the church dour
to the corner over againste the Dortor dour, was all
fynely glased, from the highs to the sole within a litle
of the grownd into the cloister garth. And in every
wyndowe iij pewes or carrells, where every one of the old
Monks had his carrell, severall by himselfe, that, when
they had dyned, they dyd resorte to that place of Cloister
and there studyed upon there books, every one in his
carrell, all the after nonne, unto evensong time. This was
there exercise every daie. All there pewes or carrells was
all fynely wainscotted and verie close, all but the forepart,
which had carved wourke that gave light in at ther carrell
doures of wainscott. And in every carrell was a deske to
lye there books on. And the carrells was no greater
then from one stanchell of the wyndowe to another."[1]
There were carrells at Evesham in the fourteenth century.[2]
In 1485 Prior Selling constructed in the south walk at
Christ Church, Canterbury, "the new framed contrivances
called carrells" for the comfort of the monks at
study.[3] Such recesses are to be found at Worcester and
Gloucester; remains of some exist at the south end of the
west walk of the cloisters at Chester, and others were in
the destroyed south walk.[4] At Gloucester Cathedral,
which was formerly the Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter,
are twenty beautiful carrells in the south cloister. They
project below the ten main windows, two in each, and are
arched, with battlemented tops or cornices. Except for
the small double window which lights them, they look like
recesses for statuary.

[1] Surtees Soc., xv., Durham Rites, 70-71.

[2] Chron. abb. de Evesham, 301.

[3] James (M. R.), li.; Cox, Canterbury, 199.

[4] Windle, Chester, 171-172; Library, ii. 285

The Carthusian Rule records that few monks of the
order could not write.[1] But this was by no means invariably
the case. In early monastic times writing was usually
the occupation of the weaker brethren: for example,
Ferreolus, in his rules (c. 550), deems reading and copying
fit occupations for monks too weak for severer work.[2]
Later, in some monasteries, less labour in the field and
more writing was done. At Tours, Alcuin took the monks
away from field labour, telling them study and writing
were far nobler pursuits.[3] But it was not commonly the
case to find in monasteries "ech man a scriveyn able."

[1] Geraud, Essai sur les livres, 181.

[2] Sandys, i. 266.

[3] Cp. Du Cange, Gloss. art. Scriptores; citation from Const. of

When books were not otherwise obtainable, or not
obtainable quickly enough, it was the practice to hire
scribes from outside the house. Abbot Gerbert, in a letter
to the abbot of Tours, mentions that he had been paying
scribes in Rome and various parts of Italy, in Belgium,
and Germany, to make copies of books for his library
"at great expense."[1] At Abingdon hired scribes were
sometimes employed, and the rule was for the abbot to
find the food, and the armarius, or librarian, to pay for
the labour.[2] This was commonly done when libraries
were first formed. When Abbot Paul began to collect a
library at St. Albans none of his brethren could write well
enough to suit him, and he was obliged to fill his writing-
room with hired scribes. He supplied them with daily
rations out of the brethren's and cellarer's alms-food; such
provision was always handy, and the scribes were not
retarded by leaving their work.[3] Sometimes scribes were
employed merely to save the monks trouble. At Corbie,
in the fourteenth century, the religious neglected to work
in the writing-room themselves, but allowed benefactors to
engage professional scribes in Paris to swell the number
of books. The Gilbertine order forbade hired scribes
altogether, perhaps wisely.

[1] Maitland, 56.

[2] Chron. mon. de Abingd, ii. 371.

[3] Gesta abb. m. S. Albani, i. 57-58.

The scribe's method of work was simple. First he
took a metal stylus or a pencil and drew perpendicular
lines in the side margins of his parchment, and horizontal
lines at equal distances from top to bottom of the page.
Then the task of copying was straightforward. If the
book was to be embellished he left spaces for the illuminator
to fill in. When the illuminator took the book
over, he carefully sketched in his designs for the capitals
and miniatures, and then worked over them in colour,
applying one colour to a number of sketches at a time.
Anybody who is curious as to medieval methods of illuminating
should read a little fifteenth-century treatise which
describes "the crafte of lymnynge of bokys." "Who so
kane wyesly considere the nature of his colours, and
kyndely make his commixtions with naturalle proporcions,
and mentalle indagacions connectynge fro dyvers recepcions
by resone of theyre naturys, he schalle make curius
colourys." Thereafter follow recipes to "temper vermelone
to wryte therewith"; "to temper asure, roses, ceruse, rede
lede," and other pigments; "to make asure to schyne
bry3t{sic}," "to make letterys of gold," "blewe lethyre," and
"whyte lethyre"; with other curious information.[1]

[1] From the Porkington MS.; this treatise has been printed in
Early Engish Miscellanies, ed. J. O. Halliwell, for the Warton
Club (1855), p. 72. Other treatises are in Mrs. Merrifield's Arts
of Painting (1849).

In monasteries where the rule was strict the scribe
wrought at his task for six hours daily.[1] All work was
done by daylight, artificial light not being allowed. Lewis,
a monk of Wessobrunn in Bavaria, in a copy of Jerome's
Commentary on Daniel, speaks of writing when he was
stiff with cold, and of finishing by the light of night what
he could not copy by day.[2] Such diligence was not usual.

[1] Madan, 37.

[2] Pez, Thesaurus, i. xx.

In summer-time work in the cloister may well have
been pleasant; in winter quite the contrary, even when the
cloister and carrells were screened, as at Durham and
Christ Church, Canterbury. Imagine the poor scribe
rubbing his hands to restore the sluggish circulation, and
being at last compelled to forgo his labour because they
were too numbed to write. Cuthbert, the eighth-century
abbot of Wearmouth and Jarrow, writes to a correspondent
telling him he had not been able to send all Bede's works
which were required, because the cold weather of the preceding
winter had paralysed the scribes' hands.[1] Again,
Ordericus Vitalis winds up the fourth book of his ecclesiastical
history by saying--nunc hyemali frigore rigens--he
must break his narrative here, and take up other occupations
for the winter.[2] Jacob, abbot of Brabant (1276),
built scriptoria, or possibly carrells, round the calefactory, or
warming-room, where the common fire was kept burning,
and the lot of the scribe was made somewhat easier to bear.

[1] Bede, Works, ed. Plummer, xx.

[2] O. V., pars II. lib. iv.

A scribe could only write what the abbot or preceptor
set him. When his portion had been given out he could
not change it for another.[1] If he were set to copy
Virgil or Ovid or some lives of the saints the task would
conceivably be pleasant. But such was seldom the scribe's
fortune. The continual transcription of Psalters and
Missals and other service books must have been infinitely
wearisome, at any rate, to the less devout members of the
community. In some large and enterprising houses a
scribe copied only a fragment of a book. Several brethren
worked upon the same book at once, each beginning upon
a skin at the point where another scribe was to leave off.[2]
Or the book to be transcribed was dictated to the scribes,
as at Tours under Alcuin. Both methods had the advantage
of "publishing" a book quickly, but the work was as
mechanical as is that of the compositor to-day. Under
Abbot Trithemius of Sponheim, subdivision of labour was
carried to its extreme limit. One monk cut the parchment,
another polished it, the third ruled the lines to guide the
scribe. After the scribe had finished his copying, another
monk corrected, still another punctuated. In decorating,
one artist rubricated, another painted the miniatures. Then
the bookbinder collated the leaves and bound them in
wooden covers. Even in the case of waxed tablets, one
monk prepared the boards, another spread the wax. The
whole process was designed to expedite production.

[1] Hardy, iii. xiii.

[2] Surtees Soc., vii. xxv.

When a manuscript was fully written the scribe wrote
his colophon or "explicit," a short form of the phrase
"explicitus est fiber." Sometimes the scribe plays upon words,
thus: "Explicit iste liber; sit scriptor crimine liber";
or he exultantly praises: "Deo gratias. Ego, in Dei
nomine, Warembertus scripsi. "Deo gratias"; or he is
modest: "Nomen scriptoris non pono, quia ipsum laudare
nolo";[1] or he feels querulous: "Be careful with your
fingers; don't put them on my writing. You do not know
what it is to write. It is excessive drudgery: it crooks
your back, dims your sight, twists your stomach and sides.
Pray then, my brother, you who read this book, pray for
poor Raoul, God's servant, who has copied it entirely with
his own hand in the cloister of St. Aignan." Another
inscription, in a manuscript at Worcester Cathedral,
suggests that books were not read: why, argues this monk,
write them?--nobody is profited; books are for the edification
of readers, not of scribes. Note also the following:--

Finito libro sit laus et gloria Christo
Vinum scriptori debetur de meliori
Hic liber est scriptus qui scripsit sit benedictus. Amen.[2]

[1] Lecoq de la Marche, 103.

[2] In a MS. of Joh. Andreas, Super Decretales, Peterhouse,
Camb.--James 3, 29.

And this:--

Here endth the firste boke of all maner sores the
whyche fallen moste commune and withe the grace of gode I
will writte the ij Boke the whyche ys cleped the Antitodarie
Explicit quod scripcit Thomas Rosse.[1]

[1] MS. on surgery, Peterhouse, Camb.--James 3, 137.

To a poor Raoul of mechanical ability the rule of
silence must have been very irksome; the student would
be grateful for it. Alcuin forbade gossip to prevent mistakes
in copying. Among the Cluniacs the rule was strictly
enforced in the church, refectory, cloister, and dormitory.
A chapter of the Cistercian order (1134) enjoined silence
in all rooms where the brethren were in the habit of
writing.[1] The better to maintain silence nobody was permitted
to enter the scriptorium save the abbot, the prior
and sub-prior, and the preceptor. When necessary it was
permissible to speak in a low voice in the ear; But
among the Cluniacs whispering was avoided as far as
possible. Watch the monks communicating with the
librarian. One wants a Missal, and he pretends, as the
children say, to turn over leaves, thereby making the
general sign for a book; then he makes the sign of the
Cross to indicate that he wants a Missal book. Another
wants the Gospels, and he makes the sign of the Cross
on the forehead. This brother wants a pagan book,
and, after making the general sign, he scratches his ear
with his finger as an itching dog would with his feet;
infidel writers were not unfairly compared with such
creatures.[2] If such sign-language were really maintained,
it must have been extensively supplemented as the library
grew in size, for although striking the thumb and little
finger together would describe am Antiphonary, or making
the sign of the Cross and kissing the finger would indicate
a Gradual, yet some additions to the signs for a pagan
book and a tract were necessary to signify what particular
tract or book was wanted. But probably if this rule was
observed at all--and we do not think it likely--the signs
were used only for church books, and most often in church.
In nearly every monastery the rule of silence was made.
In the Brigittine house of Syon "silence after some convenience
is to be kepte in the lybrary, whyls any suster is
there alone in recordyng of her redynge."[3] But it was at
all times difficult to enforce, as the monks, in experience
and habits, were but children.

[1] Du Cange, Gloss., art., Scriptorium.

[2] Martene, De Ant. Mon. Ritibus, v. c. 18, Section 4.

[3] E. H. R., xxv. 121.

For notes, exercises, brief letters, bills, first drafts, daily,
services of the church, the names of officiating brethren,--
for all temporary purposes waxed tablets were used. They
were in common use from classic times: some Greek and
many Latin tablets are still preserved;[1] they were much
used in ancient Ireland, as we have seen; and they continued
to be of service until the late Middle Ages. Anselm
habitually wrote his first drafts upon them. At St.
Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury, the monks were supplied
with tablets, for a novice's outfit included, after profession,
a stylus, tablets, and a knife.[2] The writing was scratched
on the wax with a stylus, a sharp instrument of bone or
metal. The other end of it was usually flattened for
pressing out an incorrect letter; among the Romans the
term "vetere stylum" became common in the sense of
correcting a work.

[1] Thompson, pp. 19 ff., 322.

[2] Customary of St. A. (H. Brads. Soc.), i. 401. These tablets
were called ceratae tabellae, tabellae cerae, or simpty cerae.
The name of a book, caudex, codex, was first given to these
tabellae when they were strung together to form a square
"book."--V. Antiquary, xii. 277.

For all permanent purposes "boc-fel," or book-skin,
was used; either vellum or "parchemyn smothe, whyte
and scribable." Vellum and parchment were interchangeable
terms in medieval times; but parchment was commonly
used. In early monastic days it was prepared by the
monks themselves, being rubbed smooth with pumice-stone;
later it was bought from manufacturers ready-made. It
was not so expensive as vellum: the average price being
two shillings per dozen skins as compared with eight
shillings per dozen skins of vellum. For a Bible presented
to Bury St. Edmunds Abbey, finest Irish (or Scottish) vellum
was procured (c. 1121-48). This special material was
used for the paintings, which seem to have been pasted
down on the leaves of inferior vellum. This manuscript is
now in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.[1]

[1] James 1, 7; ibid. 17, 3

The pens used for writing were either made of reeds
(calami) or of quills (pennae). The quill was introduced
after the reed, and largely, though not entirely, superseded
it. Other implements of the expert scribe were a pencil,
compasses, scissors, an awl, a knife for erasures, a ruler, and
a weight to keep down the vellum.

Numerous passages might be dug out of old records
warning scribes against errors in transcribing. Aelfric, in
the preface to his homilies, adjures the copyist, by our Lord
Jesus Christ and by His glorious coming, to transcribe
correctly. Chaucer, in a well-known verse, expresses his wish
that Adam the scrivener shall copy Boethius and Troilus
"trewe" and not write it "newe."[1] In copying, however,
especially when it is mechanically done, it is almost as
difficult to write "trewe" as it is to write "newe": the imp
of the perverse makes his home at the elbow of the scribe,
ever ready to profit by drowsiness or trifling inattention.
But, as a rule, monkish scribes were exceedingly careful,
and their work was invariably corrected by another hand.
More than this: they endeavoured to get accurate texts to
copy. Lanfranc's care in this respect, and the Grey Friars'
work in compiling correctoria, have already been noted.
Reculfus expected his clergy to have books corrected
and pointed by those in the "holy mother church"; Adam
de Marisco sent a manuscript to be corrected in Paris,
begging to have it back as soon as done;[2] and Servatus
Lupus, the great abbot of Ferrieres, frequently borrowed
from his friends books which he might collate with his own
copies, and rectify errors and insert omissions.[3]

[1] Works, ed. Skeat, i. 379.

[2] Mon. Fr., i. 359.

[3] Epp., 8. 69; Sandys, i. 487-488.

Before work could be started in the writing-room, books
for copying had to be obtained. Usually a few books
were bought or borrowed; then several copies were made
of each, the superfluous volumes being sold or exchanged
for fresh manuscripts to transcribe. Benedict Biscop, as
we have seen, obtained his books from Rome and Vienne.
Cuthwin, bishop of the East Angles (c. 750) was of those
who went to Rome, and brought back with him a life of
St. Paul, "full of pictures." Herbert "Losinga," abbot of
Ramsey and afterwards bishop of Norwich, was a zealous
book-collector;--asks for a Josephus on loan from a brother
abbot, a request not granted because the binding needed
repair; and sends abroad for a copy of Suetonius. Robert
Grosseteste got a rare book, Basil's Hexaemeron, from Bury
St. Edmunds in exchange for a MS. of Postillae.[1] At Ely,
in the fourteenth century, when the scribes there were very
active, the preceptor was always on the look-out for "copy."
On one occasion he was paid 6s. 7d. for going to Balsham
to inquire for books (1329).[2] Abbot Henry of Hyde
Abbey exchanged a volume containing Terence, Boethius,
Suetonius, and Claudian for four Missals, the Legend of
St. Christopher, and Gregory's Pastoral Care.[3] On one
occasion Adam de Marisco tries to get from a brother of
Nottingham the Moralia of St. Gregory, and Rabanus
Maurus. He sends from Oxford to an abbot at Vercelli
an exposition of the Angelic Salutation, and begs for the
abbot's writings in exchange.[4] Adam had studied at
Vercelli,[5]--a new Italian centre with a close English
connexion. About 1217 Cardinal Guala Bicchieri, afterwards
bishop of Vercelli, was granted the church of
Chesterton, near Cambridge, and when he died ten years
later he left all his estate, including the church, and a
number of books which had been collected at Chesterton
or in England, to Vercelli Abbey. Among the gifts were
two service books in English, and the famous Codex
Vercellensis, which is only less valuable than the Exeter
Book as a first source of Anglo-Saxon poetry. The
Vercelli Book is in Italy to this day.[6]

[1] James (M. R.) 10.

[2] Stevenson, Suppl. to Bentham's Ch. of Ely.

[3] Warton, i. 213

[4] Mon. Fr., i. 206.

[5] O, H, S., Little, 135; best account of Adam in this book.

[6] C. A. S. (N.S.), 8vo ser. vii. 187 (1909). The story of the
connexion between Chesterton and Vercelli is n1ost interesting. A
list of the books is in Lampugnani, Sulla Vita di Guala
Bicchieri, Vercelli (1842), 125 et seq.; but I have not been able
to see the book. See further Bekynton's Correspondence, ii. 344
(Rolls Ser.); and Kennedy, Poems of Cynewulf (1910), 6.

In some abbeys the purchase of books, and the copying
of them for sale, became just as much a business as the
manufacture of Chartreuse. In 1446 Exeter College,
Oxford, paid ten shillings and a penny for twelve quires
and two skins of parchment bought at Abingdon to send to
the monastery of Plympton in Devonshire, where a book
was being written for the College.[1] A part--and by no
means a negligible part--of the income of Carthusian
houses came from copying books. Two continental abbots,
Abbot Gerbert of Bobio and Servatus Lupus of Ferrieres,
were book-makers and sellers on a commercial scale. Lupus,
in particular, betrays the commercial spirit by refusing to
give more than he was obliged in return for what he
received. He will not send a book to a monk at Sens
because his messenger must go afoot and the way was
perilous: let us hope he thought more of the messenger
than of the manuscript. On another occasion he refuses to
lend a book because it is too large to be hidden in the vest
or wallet, and, besides, its beauty might tempt robbers to
steal it. These were good excuses to cover his general
unwillingness to lend. For the loan of one manuscript he
was so bothered that he thought of putting it away in a
secure place, lest he should lose it altogether.[2]

[1] O. H. S., 27 Boase, xxxvii n.

[2] Sandys, i. 486-489, q.v. for other interesting facts about
this abbot.

As a rule the expenses of the writing-room formed a
part of the general expenses of the house, but sometimes
particular portions of the monastic income and endowments
were available to meet them. To St. Albans certain tithes
were assigned by a Norman leader for making books
(c. 1080).[1] The preceptor of Abingdon obtained tithes
worth thirty shillings for buying parchment.[2] St. Augustine's
Abbey, Canterbury, got three marks from the rentals of
Milton Church for making books (1144).[3] The monks of
Ely (1160), of Westminster (c. 1159), of the cathedral
convent of St. Swithin's, Winchester (1171), of Bury St.
Edmunds, and of Whitby, received tithes and rents for a
like purpose.[4] The prior of Evesham received the tithes of
Bengworth to pay for parchment and for the maintenance
of scribes; while the preceptor was to receive five shillings
annually from the manor of Hampton, and ten shillings
and eightpence from the tithes of Stoke and Alcester for
buying ink, colours for illuminating, and what was
necessary for binding books and the necessaries for the

[1] Gesta Abbatum, i. 57.

[2] Chron. mon. de Abingd., ii. 153. A list of the preceptor's
rents, applied to expenses of the writing-room and the organ,
will be found in ii. 328.

[3] H. Mon. S. A., 392.

[4] Stewart, Ely Cath, 280; Surtees Soc., lxix. 15-20; Robinson,

[5] Chron. abb. de Eivesham, 208-210.

In some houses a rate was levied for the support of the
scriptorium, but we have not met with any instance of this
practice in English monasteries. At the great Benedictine
Abbey of Fleury a rate was levied in 1103 on the officers
and dependent priories for the support of the library; forty-
three years later it was extended, and it remained in force
until 1562.[1] Besides this impost every student in the
abbey was bound to give two books to the library. At
Corbie, in Picardy, a rate was levied to pay the salary of
the librarian, and to cover part of the cost of bookbinding.
Here also each novice, on the day of his profession, had to
present a book to the library; at Corvey, in Northern
Germany, the same rule was observed at the end of the
eleventh century. As all the monasteries of an order were
conducted much on the same lines, it is difficult to believe
that similar rates were not levied by some of the larger
houses in England.

[1] Full document in Edwards, i. 283.

The libraries were also augmented by gifts and bequests,
as well as by purchase and by transcription in the scriptorium.
In most abbeys it was customary for the brethren to give
or bequeath their books to their house. A long list of such
benefactors to Ramsey Abbey is extant, and one of the
brothers, Walter de Lilleford, prior of St. Ives, gave what
was in those days a considerable library in itself.[1] Much
longer still are the lists of presents given to Christ Church
and St. Augustine's, Canterbury. Dr. James has indexed
nearly two hundred donors to Christ Church alone. In
most cases the gifts are of one or a few books, but
occasionally collections of respectable size were received, as
when T. Sturey, senior, enriched the library with nearly sixty
books, when Thomas a Becket left over seventy, and when
Prior Henry Eastry left eighty volumes at his death. As
many or more donors to St. Augustine's are indexed. Here
also some of the donations were fairly large: for example,
Henry Belham and Henry Cokeryng gave nineteen books
each, a prior twenty-seven, a certain John of London eighty-
two, J. Mankael thirty-nine, Abbot Nicholaus sixteen,
Michael de Northgate twenty-four, Abbot Poucyn sixteen,
J. Preston twenty-three, a certain Abbot Thomas over a
hundred, and T. Wyvelesberghe thirty-one. Some sixty
persons are also indexed as donors to St. Martin's Priory,

[1] Chron. abb. Rameseiensis, 356.

[2] James, 535-544.

William de Carilef, bishop of Durham, endowed his
church with books and bequeathed some more at his death
(1095). John, bishop of Bath, bequeathed to the abbey
church his whole library and his decorated copies of the
Gospels (1160). Another bishop of Durham, Hugh Pudsey,
bequeathed many books to his church (1195). Thomas de
Marleberge (d. 1236), when he became prior of Evesham,
gave a large collection of books in law, medicine, philosophy,
poetry, theology, and grammar.[2] Simon Langham bequeathed
seven chests of books to Westminster Abbey
(1376).[1] William Slade (d. 1384) left to the Abbey of
Buckfast, of which he was abbot, thirteen books of his own
writing.[2] Cardinal Adam Easton (d. 1397) sent from Rome
"six barrells of books" to his convent of Norwich, where
he had been a monk.[3] One of these books, a fourteenth-
century manuscript in an Italian hand, is now preserved in
the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge: the inscription
attesting this reads--"Liber ecclesie norwycen per
magistrum Adam de Eston monachum dicti loci." Nor did
the poor priest forget to add his mite to the general hoard:
"I beqweth to the monastery of Seynt Edmund forseid,"
willed a priest named Place, "my book of the dowses of
Holy Scryptur, to ly and remayn in the cloister of the seid
monastery as long as yt wyll ther indure."[4] Such gifts
were always highly valued, and in Lent the librarian was
expected to remind the brethren of those who had given
books, and to request that a mass should be said for them.[5]

[1] Chron. abb. de Evesham, 267.

[2] Robinson, 4.

[3] O. H. S., 27, Boase, 19.

[4] Rymer, Foedera, viii. 501; cf. James 17, 153.

[5] Cam. Soc., Bury Wills (1850), 105. Many of the gifts to Syon
monastery came from priests.--Bateson, xxiii-xxvii. Cf. also
lists of donors in James (M. R.), 535 et seq.

[6] Cf James (M R.), lxxii n.

Section II

Some miniatures in early manuscripts give us a good
idea of the way books were stored in the Middle Ages.
They are shown lying flat on sloping shelves which extend
part-way round the room. Curtains are occasionally shown
hanging in front of the shelves to protect the books from
dust. Or a sloping shelf was fitted to serve as a reading-
desk, and a second flat shelf ran beneath it to take books
lying on their sides one above the other. In several
miniatures lecterns of very curious design are often depicted;
some of them stood on a cupboard or cupboards
wherein books were stowed away.

In the monasteries books were stored in various places,
--in chests, cupboards, or recesses in the wall. When the
collection was small, a chest served; a receptacle of this
kind is illustrated at p. 50. Cassiodorus had the books
of his monastery stored in presses, or armaria. The
manuscripts of Abbot Simon of St. Albans were preserved
in "the painted aumbry in the church." An aumbry was
a recess in the wall well lined inside with wood so that the
damp of the masonry should not spoil the books. It was
divided vertically and horizontally by shelves in such a
way that it was possible to arrange the books separately
one from al other, and so to avoid injury from close
packing, and delay in consulting them.[1] The same term
was applied to a detached closet or cupboard. At Durham
the monks distributed their books--keeping some in the
spendimentum or cancellary, some near the refectory, and
the bulk in the cloister. Two classes of books were in
the cancellary: one stored in a large closet with folding
doors, called an armariolum, and used by all the monks;
the other kept in an inner room, and apparently reserved
for special uses. The books assigned to the reader in
the refectory were stored by the doorway leading to the
infirmary, and not in the refectory itself, as we should
expect: maybe this arrangement was exceptional, and was
adopted for special reasons of convenience. Probably
two places were reserved for books in the cloister. One
case or chest contained the books of the novices, whose
place of study was in that part of the cloister facing the
treasury. The main store was on the north side of the
cloister. "And over against the carrells against the church
wall did stande sertaine great almeries of waynscott all full
of bookes, wherein dyd lye as well the old auncyent written
Doctors of the church as other prophane authors, with
dyverse other holie mens wourks, so that every one dyd
studye what Doctor pleased them best, havinge the librarie
at all tymes to goe studie in besydes there carrells."[2]
Dr. J. W. Clark, the leading authority on early library
fittings, has tried to show, from evidences of a similar
arrangement at Westminster, that this part of the cloister
formed a long room, with glazed windows and carrells on
the one hand, bookcases on the other, and screens at each
end shutting off the library and writing-place from the rest
of the cloister.[3]

[1] Customary of Barnwell (Harl. MS, 3061).

[2] Surtees Soc. xv., Durham Rites, 70-71. The library would be
that built by Wessington in 1446.

[3] But see Robinson, 3.

Along the south wall of the cloister at Chester is a
series of recesses which are believed to have been used for
bookcases. Two recesses for aumbries are still to be seen
in the cloister at Worcester: it is recorded that one book,
the Speculum Spiritualium, was to be delivered "to ye
cloyster awmery." At Beaulieu the arched recesses in the
south wall of the church may have been put to a similar
use. These recesses are shown on the plan here reproduced;
so also is the common aumbry in the wall of the south

In large continental houses a bookroom was sometimes
needed very early. One of the monasteries of Cassiodorus
included a special room for the library, with at least nine
presses in it.[1] At St. Gall, a special bookroom was
planned, if not actually built, as early as the ninth century.
According to the old drawing still preserved at St. Gall,
this room was to be on the north side of the presbytery,
symmetrically with the sacristy on the south side. It was
in two stories. The ground floor was to be arranged as a
writing-room,--infra sedes scribentium,--the furniture being
a large table in the centre, and seven writing-desks against
the walls. The upper story was the library.[2] In England
we hear of bookrooms oftenest in the fifteenth century,
They were a usual feature in later Cistercian houses. The
plan just given shows the position of this room between
the church and the chapter-house, and not far from the
common claustral aumbry. At Whalley Abbey, also a
Cistercian house, there was evidently a separate library
room, because an inventory of the house's goods taken
in 1537 refers to the "litle Revestry next unto the
lebrary."[3] Kirkstall and Furness also had bookrooms.
On each side of the massive arch of the Chapter House
at Furness Abbey is a similar arch leading to a small
square room, most likely used for books. The illustrations
facing this show the position of these rooms on either
side of the Chapter House doorway. An extant
catalogue of another Cistercian house, that of Meaux
in Yorkshire, clearly indicates the whereabouts of the
conventual books. Some church books were before
the great altar, others were in the choir, a few in the
infirmary chapel, and in the common press and other
presses of the church. The bulk of them was in the
common aumbry, not apparently in the open cloister, but
in a room off the cloister. Over the door, on a shelf or in
a cupboard, were four Psalters; thirty-six books were on
the top shelf on the other side of the room; the remainder,
to the number of about 270, were on other shelves marked
by letters of the alphabet.[4]

[1] Sandys, i. 266.

[2] Archaeol. Jour. (1848), v. 85.

[3] Lancs. and Ches. Hist. Soc., xix. 106.

[4] Chron. mon. de Melsa, iii. lxxxiii,

At the Premonstratensian Abbey of Titchfield the
books were stored in a small room, in four cases, each
having eight shelves. We do not positively know that
a separate room existed at the Benedictine house of
Christ Church, Canterbury, before the fifteenth century,
"yet," as Dr. James says, "the form of Prior Eastry's
catalogue, with its division into Demonstrations and
Distinctions, irresistibly suggests that the collection must
in his time [1284-1331] have occupied a special room,
of which the two Demonstrations represent the two sides.
The Distinctions would be narrow vertical divisions of
these, and each of them would have its numerous subdivisions
into Gradus. As the best English equivalent
of Demonstratio I would suggest the word Display,'
which fairly gives the idea of a wall-surface covered with
books; and I figure the building to myself as an enlarged
example of those Cistercian bookrooms with which
Dr. J. W. Clark's researches have familiarized us. It
would thus be no place for study, such as the later
libraries were, but merely a storeroom whence books were
fetched to be read at leisure in the cloister."[1] Between
1414 and 1443 a library was built over the Prior's Chapel
by Archbishop Chichele: it was about sixty-two feet long
on the north side, fifty-four on the south side, and twenty-
two feet broad. This was the room which Prior Selling
fitted up with wainscot, and put books in for the benefit
of the studious.[2] At St. Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury,
there was a bookroom in 1340, for the manuscript of the
Ayenbite of Inwyt contains a note that it belongs to the
"bochouse."[3] The form of the catalogue of c. 1497 also
suggests that a bookroom was then in use.

[1] James (M. R.), xliv.

[2] Anglia Sacra, i, 245-6; James (M. R), l-li.

[3] MS. Arundel 57, Brit. Mus. See James (M. R.), lxxvii. "This
boc is dan Michelis of Northgate, y-write an englis of his ozene
hand. thet hatte: Ayenbyte of Inwyt. And is of the bochouse of
Saynt Austines of Canterberi. mid the lettres CC." "Ymende, thet
this boc is volveld ine the eve of the holy apostles Symon an
Judas, of ane brother of the cloystre of Sanynt Austin of
Canterberi, ine the yeare of oure Ihordes beringe (birth) 1340."

At Gloucester a special room was built, probably in
the fourteenth century. Durham apparently did without
a room until early in the fifteenth century. "There ys a
lybrarie in the south angle of the lantren, whiche is nowe
above the clocke, standinge betwixt the Chapter-House
and the Te Deum wyndowe, being well replenished with
ould written Docters and other histories and ecclesiasticall
writers."[1] To this room the books were transferred gradually
from the cloister and chancellery: the words "in libraria,"
or "Ponitur in libraria," being written in the margin of the
catalogue opposite to the book upon its removal.

[1] Surtees Soc., xv., Durham Rites, 26.

The Benedictine houses of Winchester, Worcester, Bury
St. Edmunds,[1] and St. Albans also had special bookrooms.

[1] C. 1429-45. Most likely over the cloister. The books seem to
have been arranged flat on sloping desks, to which they were
chained.--James (M. R.) 1, 41.

For the safe keeping of the conventual books the
preceptor was responsible.[1] As he had charge of the
armarium or press for storing books, he was also sometimes
styled "armarius." He was required to keep clean all the
boys' and novices' presses and other receptacles for books;
when necessary he was to have these fittings repaired. To
provide coverings for the books; to see that they were
marked with their proper titles; to arrange them on the
shelves in suitable order, so that they might be quickly
found, were all duties within his province.[2] He had to keep
them in repair: in some houses he was expected to
examine all of them carefully several times a year, and to
check, if possible, the ravages of bookworms and damp.
If necessary, he could call in skilled labour to keep his
library and books in order; but usually several brethren
were trained in the necessary arts, as at Sponheim. The
Abingdon regulations, which are in the usual form, forbade
him to sell, give away, or pledge books. All the materials
for the use of the scribes and the manuscripts for copying
were to be provided by him.[3] He made the ink, and could
dole it out not only to the brethren but to lay folk if they
asked for it civilly.[4] He also controlled the work in the
scriptorium: setting the scribes their tasks, preventing
them from idling or talking; walking round the cloister
when the bell sounded to collect the books which had been
forgotten by careless monks.

[1] Chron. mon. de Abingd., ii. 373.

[2] Hardy, iii. xiii.

[3] Chron. mon. de Abingd., ii. 371; Customary of St. August.,
Cant. (H. Brads. Soc.), introd.

[4] Customary of St. August., i. 96; ii. 36.

As a rule the monks so highly prized their books--
saving them first, for example, in time of danger, as when
the Lombards attacked Monte Cassino and the Huns
St. Gall--that rules for the care of them would seem almost
superfluous. Still, such rules were made. When reading,
the monks of some houses were required to wrap handkerchiefs
round the books, or to hold them with the sleeve of
their robe. Coverings, perhaps washable, were put upon
books much in use.[1] The Carthusian brethren were exhorted
in their statutes to take all possible care to keep
the books they were reading clean and free from dust.[2]
Elsewhere we have referred to an "explicit" urging readers
to have a care for the scribe's writing: in another manuscript
once belonging to Corbie, the kind reader is bidden
to keep his fingers off the pages lest he should mar the
writing on them--a man who knows nothing of the scribe's
business cannot realize how heavy it is, for though only
three fingers hold the pen, the whole body toils.[3]

[1] Panni, camisiae librorium.

[2] Stat. ant. ord Carthus., c. xvi. Section 9.

[3] MS. Lat. 12296, Bibl. Nat., Paris.

Section III

One of the preceptor's chief duties was to regulate
lending books. At Abingdon he could only lend to outsiders
upon a pledge of equal or greater value than the
book required, and even so could only lend to churches
near by and to persons of good standing. It was deemed
preferable to confiscate the pledge than to proceed against
a defaulting borrower. In some houses more than a pledge
was demanded if the book were lent for transcription, the
borrower being required to send a copy when he returned
the manuscript. "Make haste to copy these quickly,"
wrote St. Bernard's secretary, "and send them to me; and,
according to my bargain, cause a copy to be made for me.
And both these which I have sent you, and the copies, as
I have said, return them to me, and take care that I do
not lose a single tittle."[1] The extra copy was demanded,
not so much for purposes of gain as to put a check upon
borrowing, a practice which many abbots did not encourage,
on account of the danger of loss. Books, like gloves, are
soon lost. We can well understand how uncommonly easy
it was to forget to return a coveted manuscript. To help
borrowers to overcome the insidious temptation, the scribe
sometimes wrote upon the manuscript the name of the
monastery it belonged to, and threatened a defaulter with
anathema. In some of the St. Albans' books is the
following note in Latin: "This book is St. Alban's book:
he who takes it from him or destroys the title be anathema."[2]

[1] Bibl. Cluniacensis, lib. i.; Maitland, 440.

[2] James (M. R.) 10, 171.

The prior and convent of Rochester threatened to pronounce
sentence of damnation on anyone who stole or
hid the Latin translation of Aristotle's Physics, or even
obliterated the title.[1] Apparently no fate was too bad for
the thief who took the Vulgate Bible: let him die the
death; let him be frizzled in a pan; the falling sickness
and fever should rage in him; he should be broken on the
wheel and hanged; Amen.[2] Two curious notes are to be
found in a manuscript of the works of Augustine and
Ambrose in the Bodleian Library. "This book belongs to
St. Mary of Robert's Bridge: whoever steals it, or sells it,
or takes it away from this house in any way, or injures it,
let him be anathema-maranatha." Underneath, another
hand has written: "I, John, bishop of Exeter, do not know
where the said house is: I did not steal this book, but got
it lawfully."[3] In a beautiful manuscript of Chaucer's
Troilus, not perhaps a conventual book, occurs the

"he that thys Boke rents or stelle
God send hym sekenysse swart (?) of helle."[4]

[1] B. M. MS. Reg. 12 G. ii.; Warton, i. 182.

[2] Harl. MS. 2798.

[3] See anathema in Trim Coll. Camb. MS. B. S. 17.

[4] James 17, 126.

All the same, losses were common. About 1290 William
of Pershore, once a Benedictine monk, and at the time
a Grey Friar, returned to his old order at Westminster,
and took with him some books. A big dispute arose over
this apostate, and one of the items of the subsequent settlement
was that the Westminster monks should return the

[1] Mon. Fr., ii. 41.

A similar thing took place in Scotland (1331). A
friar of Roxburgh forsook his grey habit for the Cistercian
white by entering Kelso Abbey. He made his new associates
envious with an account of the goods of the friaries at
Roxburgh and Berwick. They persuaded him and two other
apostate friars to rob these convents of the "Bibles, chalices,
and other sacred books," and, with the aid of night, the
enterprise met with more success than they deserved.[1]

[1] Bryce, i. 27.

The prior and convent of Ely traced some of their
books to Paris. They wrote to Edward III (1332):
"Because a robber has taken out of our church four books
of great value, viz.--The Decretum, Decretals, the Bible
and Concordance, of which the first three are now at Paris,
arrested and detained under sequestration by the officer of
the Bishop of Paris, whom our proctor has often prayed in
form of law to deliver them, but he behaves so strangely
that we shall find in him neither right, grace, nor favour:--
We ask you to write to the Bishop of Paris to intermeddle
favourably and tell his official to do right, so that we may
get our things back."[1] In 1396-7 William, prior of Newstead,
and a brother canon, proceeded against John
Ravensfield for the return of a book by Richard of
Hampole, entitled Pricke of Conscience, "and now the
parties aforesaid are agreed by the licence of the court,
and the said John is in misericordia'; he paid the
amercement in the hall."[2] Another record tells us of two
monks of Christ Church, Canterbury, being sent into
Cambridgeshire to recover a book.

[1] Hist. MSS., 6th Rept. 296b.

[2] Records of the Borough of Nottingham, i. 335.

The risk of loss owing to the practice of lending books
was great--how great may be judged from the fact that
of the equal portions of the Peterhouse College library of
1418, 199 volumes of the chained portion remain, but
only ten of all those assigned to the Fellows are left.[1]
In spite of the risk, lending was extensively carried on.

[1] C. A. S. (N.S.), iii. 397.

In one year (1343), for example, the unimportant priory
of Hinton lent no fewer than twenty books to another
monastery.[1] Then again, it was thought to be only
common charity to lend books to poor students, and in
1212 a council at Paris actually forbade monks to refuse
to lend books to the poor, and requested them to divide
their libraries into two divisions--one for the use of the
brothers, the other for lending.[2] Whether this ever
became a practice in England is more than doubtful.
But seculars of position or influence appear to have been
able to borrow monastic books. For example, in 1320,
the prior and convent of Ely acknowledge receiving ten
books from the executors of a rector of Balsham, who had
borrowed them.[3] Some years later, at an audit of books
of Christ Church, Canterbury, seventeen manuscripts--
thirteen of them on law--were noted as in the hands of
seculars, among whom was Edward II.[4]

[1] See particularly James (M. R.), xlv-xlvi, 146-149.

[2] Delisle, Bibl. de Ecole des chartes, iii ser. i. 225.

[3] Hist. MSS. 6th Rept. 296a.

[4] Literae Cantuarienses, ii. 146.

Lending books to brethren in the monastery was conducted
according to strict rules, of which those of Lanfranc,
based on the Cluniac observances, afford a good example.
Before the brethren went into chapter on the Monday
after the first Sunday in Lent, the librarian laid out on a
carpet in the chapter-house all the books which were not
on loan. After the assembly of the brethren, the librarian
read his register of the books lent to the monks. Each
brother, on hearing his name, returned the book which
had been entrusted to him. If he had not made good use
of the book, he was expected to prostrate himself, confess
his neglect, and beg forgiveness. When all books were
returned, others were issued, and a new record made. In
some monasteries the abbot would question the monks on
the books they had read, to test their knowledge of them,
and whenever the answers were unsatisfactory would lend
the same books again instead of fresh ones. As a rule
only one book was issued at a time, so that the monk had
plenty of time to digest its contents. In Carthusian houses
two books were lent at a time. Sick brethren were freely
permitted to borrow books for their solace, but such books
were returned to the library nightly, at lighting-up time.

Among the Cluniacs it was the custom to take stock of
the books given out to the monks once a year; while the
Franciscans kept a register of their books, and every year
it was read and corrected before the convent in assembly.[1]

[1] Mon. Fr., ii. 91.

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