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

Scanned by Charles Keller with OmniPage Professional OCR software OLD ENGLISH LIBRARIES THE MAKING, COLLECTION, AND USE OF BOOKS DURING THE MIDDLE AGES by ERNEST A. SAVAGE PREFACE 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
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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 Ireland.[4]

[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. 483.

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 here.

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 order.

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 Augustinian.
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, Hadrian.[1]

[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 Recognitions
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 intimacy.”

[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 Scriptures.

[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 ecclesiastical
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 qualification:–

“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 Day.”[1]

[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 Ireland.

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 learning.

[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 direction.[6]

[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 books.[1]
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