Front Page Titles (by Subject) TWO CHARTULARIES OF THE PRIORY OF ST PETER AT BATH 1 - The Collected Papers of Frederic William Maitland, vol. 3
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TWO CHARTULARIES OF THE PRIORY OF ST PETER AT BATH 1 - Frederic William Maitland, The Collected Papers of Frederic William Maitland, vol. 3 
The Collected Papers of Frederic William Maitland, ed. H.A.L. Fisher (Cambridge University Press, 1911). 3 Vols. Vol. 3.
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TWO CHARTULARIES OF THE PRIORY OF ST PETER AT BATH1
The Somersetshire Record Society will soon obtain a foremost place among our antiquarian societies if it can often command the services of Mr Hunt. His learning, patience, and industry make him an almost ideally good editor for a cartulary, and the first of the two cartularies with which he here deals—and this he publishes nearly in full—is one which is of very great and general importance. It is the beautiful twelfth-century cartulary of Bath Priory, which lies at Cambridge in the library of Corpus Christi College. Many of its contents have long been well known, for from it Kemble and others have derived some precious Anglo-Saxon land-books, profitable documents even if they are not all that they pretend to be. These Mr Hunt has treated judiciously. For one thing, his copy of such portions of the text as are written in the Old English tongue is guaranteed by Professor Skeat, who has been able to point out a few mistakes in the previous editions. For another thing, we have from Mr Hunt himself not only a long introduction, which, in truth, is an elaborate history of the monastery, but also excellent notes on the names of the persons who are supposed to witness the land-books. A dogmatic judgment as to the genuineness of these ancient documents Mr Hunt does not give, and his reticence is wise, for it is doubtful whether the man is yet born who combines all the many kinds of knowledge and skill which will be possessed by him who finally assigns to would-be Anglo-Saxon diplomata their proper places in the gently graduated scale of carelessness, improvement, and falsification which lies between unadulterated genuineness and wicked forgery. In the meanwhile the work must be done bit by bit, and the laborious discussio testium (if I may adopt an old phrase) which Mr Hunt has energetically pursued is work of just the right kind.
Again, it is highly expedient that the most ancient cartularies should be printed just as they stand. Of course there is also ample room for chronologically arranged collections of all the land-books, such as Kemble made and Mr Birch is making. Still each separate cartulary should be printed as it stands. A good instance of the necessity of this procedure appears in Mr Hunt’s volume. To many readers the most attractive of the documents that he prints will be that which describes the services of the men of Tidenham; for has not Mr Seebohm made it classical? Now this document is undated; but the cartulary also contains a grant of Tidenham by King Edwy to the monastery, which tries to date itself in 956, and a lease of Tidenham to Stigand. A good deal in our conception of some early stages in manorial history may depend on the question whether this statement of the Tidenham services represents matters as they stood in the middle of the tenth century, or on the very eve of the Norman Conquest. In the cartulary it is placed far away from Edwy’s grant and immediately precedes the lease to Stigand. This is not conclusive, but I do not think that for the future we can confidently speak of it as describing “a manor of Edwy’s day.”
Some of the charters of the Norman age that are here printed are even more interesting, because more unique, than their predecessors. We have here (p. 49), for example, Modbert’s famous lawsuit, which has been made known to us by Madox and Mr Bigelow. It is perhaps the best of all the “Placita Anglo-Normannica” that have come down to us. Then there is (p. 52) a deed from 1123 in which a man agrees to do suit to the courts of the hundred and the county for a whole vill. There is (p. 62) a feoffment from 1153 under which the sixth part of the service of one knight is to be done. These are early specimens. But we must not descend to particulars, else we shall be noticing a grant in pheodo (p. 51), of which, despite a threat of modernised spelling, Mr Hunt has not had the heart to deprive us. On purpose I will say nothing of the matters which fill the largest space in his introduction, in particular the relations between the churches of Bath, Wells, and Glastonbury. A first-rate cartulary has many sides, and Mr Hunt’s work successfully stands the test of being examined from a point of view that is not his own.
The second part of his volume consists of a calendar, elaborately annotated, of a later cartulary preserved at Lincoln’s Inn. This, no doubt, will be of great service to the antiquarians of Somersetshire, and there are in it a few documents printed at length which deserve to be set before a larger circle of readers. No doubt Mr Hunt has here given as much as the finances of the society would permit him to give. Still it may be permissible to remind similar societies that there is a small but growing class of men who take an interest in the form of mediaeval documents, and who will buy books in which such documents are either given in full or translated word by word. Deeds of manumission, for instance, are not so common that they should be passed by with three or four words. One would like at least to know whether any reason was given for the enfranchisement of the villain, and whether any money passed. Early letters of credit also are curiosities which illustrate the growth of the law of agency. However, Mr Hunt has behaved so nobly by the earlier that we shall raise no complaint if his calendar of the later cartulary rather whets than satisfies our appetite.
To catch Mr Hunt in what one hopes to be a mistake is a rare pleasure. Whatever the cartulary may say, the fine on p. 27 can hardly come from 15 Henry III. The judges’ names point to a date some ten years earlier. Gerard de Athée (p. 194) was not “one of John’s Flemish mercenaries,” but came from Touraine. At least there is much evidence that points in this direction.
English Historical Review, July, 1895.