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Horace was a great favorite with the archdeacon, who often applied some
of his finest sentences to illustrate his familiar chat and epistolary
disquisitions.[342] It is worth noticing that in one he quotes the Roman
history of Sallust, in six books, which is now lost, save a few
fragments; the passage relates to Pompey the Great.[343] We can scarcely
refrain from a smile at the eagerness of Archdeacon Peter in persuading
his friends to relinquish the too enticing study of frivolous plays,
which he says can be of no service to the interest of the soul;[344] and
then, forgetting this admonition, sending for tragedies and comedies
himself, that he might get them transcribed.[345] This puts one in mind
of a certain modern divine, whose conduct not agreeing with his doctrine,
told his hearers not to do as he did, but as he told them. It appears
also equally ludicrous to find him upbraiding a monk, named Peter of
Blois, for studying the pagan authors: "the foolish old fables of
Hercules and Jove," their lies and philosophy;[346] when, as we have
seen, he read them so ravenously, and so greatly borrowed from them
himself. But then we must bear in mind that the archdeacon had also well
stored his mind with Scripture, and certainly always deemed _that_ the
first and most important of all his studies, which was perhaps not the
case with the monk to whom he writes. In some of his letters we have
pleasing pictures of the old times presented to us, and it is astonishing
how homely and natural they read, after the elapse of 700 years. In more
than one he launches out in strong invectives against the lawyers, who in
all ages seems to have borne the indignation of mankind; Peter accuses
them of selling their knowledge for hire, to the direct perversion of all
justice; of favoring the rich and oppressing the poor.[347] He reproves
Reginald, Archdeacon of Salisbury, for occupying his time with falconry,
instead of attending to his clerical duties; and in another, a most
interesting letter, he gives a description of King Henry II., whose
character he extols in panegyric terms, and proves how much superior he
was in learning to William II. of Sicily. He says that "Henry, as often
as he could breathe from his care and solicitudes, he was occupied in
secret reading; or at other times joined by a body of clergy, would try
to solve some elaborate question _quæstiones laborat evolvere_."[348]
Frequently we find him writing about books, begging transcripts, eagerly
purchasing them; and in one of his letters to Alexander, Abbot of
Jenniege, _Gemiticensem_, he writes, apologizing, and begging his
forgiveness for not having fulfilled his promise in returning a book
which he had borrowed from his library, and begs that his friend will yet
allow him to retain it some days longer.[349] The last days of a
scholar's life are not always remarkable, and we know nothing of those of
Archdeacon Peter; for after the death of Henry II., his intellectual
worth found no royal mind to appreciate it. The lion-hearted Richard
thought more of the battle axe and crusading than the encouragement of
literature or science; and Peter, like many other students, grown old in
their studies, was left in his age to wander among his books, unmolested
and uncared for. With the friendship of a few clerical associates, and
the archdeaconry of London, which by the bye was totally
unproductive,[350] he died, and for many ages was forgotten. But a
student's worth can never perish; a time is certain to arrive when his
erudition will receive its due reward of human praise. We now, after a
slumber of many hundred years, begin to appreciate his value, and to
entertain a hearty friendship and esteem for the venerable Archdeacon


[310] See Speed's Chron. p. 228. Samme's Antiq. p. 578.

[311] Stowe's Annales, 4to. 1605, p. 97. See also Hearne's Hist.

[312] _Will. Malm. ap. Gale Script._ 311. - Coopertoria Librorum
Evangelii. For many other instances of binding books in gold, and
sometimes with costly gems, I refer the reader to _Du Cange_
verb-Capsæ, and to _Mr. Maitland's Dark Ages_.

[313] Warton says, that this library was at the time the "_richest
in England_." In this, however, he was mistaken.

[314] John of Glast. p. 423.

[315] John of Glastonbury Edt., Hearne, Oxon, 1726, p. 451. Steven's
Additions to Dugdale, vol. i. p. 447.

[316] Printed in _Tanner's Notitia Monastica_, 8vo. Edit. 1695, p.
75, and in _Hearne's History of Glastonbury_, p. 141; but both these
works are scarce, and I have thought it worth reprinting; the reader
will perceive that I have given some of the items in English - the
original of course is in Latin.

[317] John of Glas. p. 262.

[318] Librario dedit. bibliam preciosam. - _John of Glast._ p. 262.

[319] Among them was a "Dictionarum Latine et Saxonicum." - _Leland
Collect._ iii. p. 153.

[320] Leland, in his MSS. preserved in the Bodleian Library, calls
Whiting "_Homo sane candidissimus et amicus meus singularis_," but
he afterwards scored the line with his pen. See _Arch Bodl._ A.
Dugdale Monast. vol. i. p. 6.

[321] See Hume's Hist. Engl.; Moffat's Hist. of Malmsbury, p. 223,
and Will. Malms. Novellæ Hist. lib. ii.; Sharpe's translation, p.

[322] William of Malmsbury, translated by the Rev. J. Sharpe, 4to.
_Lond._ 1815, p. 107.

[323] MS. _Cottonian Domit._ A. viii. fol. 128 b.

[324] Saxon Chron. by Ingram, p. 343.

[325] Dugdale's _Monastica_, vol. i. p. 534. Leland gives a list of
the books he found there, but they only number about 20 volumes. See
_Collect._ vol. iv. p. 159.

[326] MS. Harleian, No. 627, fol. 8 a. "Liber Geneseos versificatus"
probably Cædmon's Paraphrase was among them, and Boethius's
Consolation of Philosophy.

[327] Godwin Cat. of Bishops, p. 317.

[328] Will. of Malms. de Gestis Pont. Savile Script. fol. 1601, p.
256, _apud Lotharingos altus et doctus_.

[329] I use a transcript of the Exeter MS. collated by Sir F.
Madden. _Additional MSS._ No. 9067. It is printed in Latin and Saxon
from a old MS. In the Bodl. Auct. D. 2. 16. fol. 1 a; in Dugdale's
Monasticon, vol. ii. p. 257, which varies a little from the Exeter

[330] Bec is the plural of boc, a book.

[331] See _Dr. Lingard's Hist. Anglo Sax. Church_, vol. i. p. 307,
who cannot deny this entirely; see also _Lappenberg Hist. Eng._ vol.
i. p. 202, who says that the mass was read partially in the Saxon
tongue. _Hallam_ in his _Supplemental Notes_, p. 408, has a good
note on the subject.

[332] Hist. Litt. de la France, ix. p. 142.

[333] Pet. Blesensis Opera, 4to. Mogunt. 1600. Ep. lxxxix.

[334] Ep. xxvi.

[335] Ep. lxvi.

[336] Ep. cxxvii.

[337] Ep. lvi. Yet we find that Charlemagne, in the year 795,
granted the monks of the monastery of St. Bertin, in the time of
Abbot Odlando, the privilege of hunting in his forests for the
purpose of procuring leather to bind their books. "Odlando Abbate
hujus loci abbas nonus, in omni bonitate suo prædecessori Hardrado
coæqualis anno primo sui regiminis impetravit à rege Carolo
privilegium venandi in silvis nostris et aliis ubicumque
constitutis, ad volumina librorum tegænda, et manicas et zonas
habendas. Salvis forestis regiis, quod sic incipit. Carolus Dei
gratia Rex Francorum et Longobardorum ac patricius Romanorum, etc.,
data Septimo Kal. Aprilis, anno xxvi. regni nostri." Martene
Thasaurus Nov. Anecdotorum iii. 498. _Warton_ mentions a similar
instance of a grant to the monks of St. Sithin, _Dissert._ ii.
_prefixed to Hist. of Eng. Poetry_, but he quotes it with some sad
misrepresentations, and refers to _Mabillon De re Diplomatica_, 611.
Mr. Maitland, in his _Dark Ages_, has shown the absurdity of
Warton's inferences from the fact, and proved that it was to the
servants, or _eorum homines_, that Charlemagne granted this
uncanonical privilege, p. 216. But I find no such restriction in the
case I have quoted above. Probably, however, it was thought needless
to express what might be inferred, or to caution against a practice
so uncongenial with the christian duties of a monk.

[338] Ep. ci. p. 184. He afterwards quotes Livy, Tacitus, and many

[339] Ep. xiv. He was fond of Quintus Curtius, and often read his
history with much pleasure. Ep. ci. p. 184.

[340] Ep. lxxvii. p. 81.

[341] Ep. xciv.

[342] Ep. xcii. and also lxxii. which is redundant with quotations
from the poets.

[343] Ep. xciv. p. 170.

[344] Ep. lvii.

[345] Ep. xii.

[346] Ep. lxxvi. p. 132.

[347] Ep. cxl. p. 253.

[348] Ep. lxvi. p. 115.

[349] Ep. xxxvii. p. 68.

[350] Ep. cli.


_Winchester famous for its Scribes. - Ethelwold and
Godemann. - Anecdotes. - Library of the Monastery of Reading. - The
Bible. - Library of Depying Priory. - Effects of Gospel
Reading. - Catalogue of Ramsey Library. - Hebrew MSS. - Fine
Classics, etc. - St. Edmund's Bury. - Church of Ely. - Canute, etc._

In the olden time the monks of Winchester[351] were renowned for their
calligraphic and pictorial art. The choice book collectors of the day
sought anxiously for volumes produced by these ingenious scribes, and
paid extravagant prices for them. A superb specimen of their skill was
executed for Bishop Ethelwold; that enlightened and benevolent prelate
was a great patron of art and literature, and himself a grammaticus and
poet of no mean pretensions. He did more than any other of his time to
restore the architectural beauties which were damaged or destroyed by the
fire and sword of the Danish invaders. His love of these undertakings,
his industry in carrying them out, and the great talent he displayed in
their restoration, is truly wonderful to observe. He is called by
Wolstan, his biographer, "a great builder of churches, and divers other
works."[352] He was fond of learning, and very liberal in diffusing the
knowledge which he acquired; and used to instruct the young by reading to
them the Latin authors, translated into the Saxon tongue. "He wrote a
Saxion version of the Rule of Saint Benedict, which was so much admired,
and so pleased King Edgar, that he granted to him the manor of
Sudborn,[353] as a token of his approbation."

Among a number of donations which he bequeathed to this monastery, twenty
volumes are enumerated, embracing some writings of Bede and Isidore.[354]
As a proof of his bibliomanical propensities, I refer the reader to the
celebrated Benedictional of the Duke of Devonshire; that rich gem, with
its resplendent illuminations, place it beyond the shadow of a doubt, and
prove Ethelwold to have been an _amator librorum_ of consummate taste.
This fine specimen of Saxon ingenuity is the production of a cloistered
monk of Winchester, named Godemann, who transcribed it at the bishop's
special desire, as we learn, from the following lines: -

"_Presentem Biblum iusset prescribere Presul.
Wintoniæ Dus que fecerat esse Patronum
Magnus Æthelwoldus._"[355]

Godemann, the scribe, entreats the prayers of his readers, and wishes
"all who gaze on this book to ever pray that after the end of the flesh I
may inherit health in heaven: this is the fervent prayer of the scribe,
the humble Godemann." This talented illuminator was chaplain to
Ethelwold, and afterwards abbot of Thorney.[356] The choice Benedictional
in the public library of Rouen is also ascribed to his elegant pen, and
adds additional lustre of his artistic fame.[357]

Most readers have heard of Walter, (who was prior of St. Swithin in
1174,) giving twelve measures of barley and a pall, on which was
embroidered in silver the history of St. Berinus converting a Saxon king,
for a fine copy of Bede's Homilies and St. Austin's Psalter;[358] and of
Henry, a monk of the Benedictine Abbey of Hyde, near there, who
transcribed, in the year 1178, Terence, Boethius, Seutonius and Claudian;
and richly illuminated and bound them, which he exchanged with a
neighboring bibliophile for a life of St. Christopher, St. Gregory's
Pastoral Care, and four Missals.[359] Nicholas, Bishop of Winchester,
left one hundred marks and a Bible, with a fine gloss, in two large
volumes, to the convent of St. Swithin. John de Pontissara, who succeeded
that bishop in the year 1282, borrowed this valuable manuscript to
benefit and improve his biblical knowledge by a perusal of its numerous
notes. So great was their regard for this precious gift, that the monks
demanded a bond for its return; a circumstance which has caused some
doubt as to the plenitude of the Holy Scriptures in the English Church
during that period; at least among those who have only casually glanced
at the subject. I may as well notice that the ancient Psalter in the
Cottonian Library[360] was written about the year 1035, by the "most
humble brother and monk Ælsinus," of Hyde Abbey. The table prefixed to
the volume records the deaths of other eminent scribes and illuminators,
whose names are mingled with the great men of the day;[361] showing how
esteemed they were, and how honorable was their avocation. Thus under the
15th of May we find "_Obitus Ætherici mº picto_;" and again, under the
5th of July, "_Obit Wulfrici mº pictoris_." Many were the choice
transcripts made and adorned by the Winchester monks.

The monastery of Reading, in Berkshire, possessed during the reign of
Henry the Third a choice library of a hundred and fifty volumes. It is
printed in the Supplement to the History of Reading, from the original
prefixed to the Woollascot manuscripts. But it is copied very
inaccurately, and with many grievous omissions; nevertheless it will
suffice to enable us to gain a knowledge of the class of books most
admired by the monks of Reading; and the Christian reader will be glad to
learn that the catalogue opens, as usual, with the Holy Scriptures.
Indeed no less than four fine large and complete copies of the Bible are
enumerated. The first in two volumes; the second in three volumes; the
third in two, and the fourth in the same number which was transcribed by
the _Cantor_, and kept in the cloisters for the use of the monks. But in
addition to these, which are in themselves quite sufficient to exculpate
the monks from any charge of negligence of Bible reading, we find a long
list of separate portions of the Old and New Testament; besides many of
the most important works of the Fathers, and productions of mediæval
learning, as the following names will testify: -

Rabanus Maurus.

They possessed also the works of Geoffry of Monmouth; the _Vita Karoli et
Alexandri et gesta Normannorum_; a "Ystoria Rading," and many others
equally interesting; and among the books given by Radbert of Witchir, we
find a Juvenal, the Bucolics and Georgics of Virgil, and the "Ode et
Poetria et Sermone et Epistole Oratii." But certainly the most striking
characteristic is the fine biblical collection contained in their
library, which is well worthy our attention, if not our admiration: not
but that we find them in other libraries much less extensive. In those
monasteries whose poverty would not allow the purchase of books in any
quantity, and whose libraries could boast but of some twenty or thirty
volumes, it is scarcely to be expected that they should be found rich in
profane literature; but it is deeply gratifying to find, as we generally
do, the Bible first on their little list; conveying a proof by this
prominence, in a quiet but expressive way, how highly they esteemed that
holy volume, and how essential they deemed its possession. Would that
they had profited more by its holy precepts!

We find an instance of this, and a proof of their fondness for the Bible,
in the catalogue of the books in Depying Priory,[362] in Lincolnshire;
which, containing a collection of twenty-three volumes, enumerates a copy
of the Bible first on the humble list. The catalogue is as follows: -

These are the books in the library of the monks of Depying.[363]

The Bible.
The first part of the Morals of Pope St. Gregory.
The second part of the Morals by the same.
Book of Divine Offices.
Gesta Britonorum.
Tracts of Robert, Bishop of Lincoln, on Confession,
with other compilations.
Martyrologium, with the Rules of St. Benedict; Passion of
St. James, with other books.
Constitutions of Pope Benedict.
History of the Island of Ely.
Hugucio de dono fratris Johannis Tiryngham.
Homilies of the blessed Gregory.
Constitutions of Pope Clement XII.
Book of the Virtues and Vices.
Majester Historiarum.
Sacramentary given by Master John Swarby, Rector of the
Church of St. Guthlac.
One great Portoforium for the use of the Brothers.
Two ditto.
Two Psalters for the use of the Brothers.
Three Missals for the use of the Brothers.

There is not much in this scanty collection, the loss of which we need
lament; nor does it inspire us with a very high notion of the learning of
the monks of Depying Priory. Yet how cheering it is to find that the
Bible was studied in this little cell; and I trust the monk often drew
from it many words of comfort and consolation. Where is the reader who
will not regard these instances of Bible reading with pleasure? Where is
the Christian who will not rejoice that the Gospel of Christ was read and
loved in the turbulent days of the Norman monarchs? Where is the
philosopher who will affirm that we owe nothing to this silent but
effectual and fervent study? Where is he who will maintain that the
influence of the blessed and abundant charity - the cheering promises, and
the sweet admonitions of love and mercy with which the Gospels
overflow - aided nothing in the progress of civilization? Where is the
Bible student who will believe that all this reading of the Scriptures
was unprofitable because, forsooth, a monk preached and taught it to the

Let the historian open his volumes with a new interest, and ponder over
their pages with a fresh spirit of inquiry; let him read of days of
darkness and barbarity; and as he peruses on, trace the origin of the
light whose brightness drove the darkness and barbarity away. How much
will he trace to the Bible's influence; how often will he be compelled to
enter a convent wall to find in the gospel student the one who shone as a
redeeming light in those old days of iniquity and sin; and will he deny
to the Christian priest his gratitude and love, because he wore the cowl
and mantle of a monk, or because he loved to read of saints whose lives
were mingled with lying legends, or because he chose a life which to us
looks dreary, cold, and heartless. Will he deny him a grateful
recollection when he reads of how much good he was permitted to achieve
in the Church of Christ; of how many a doubting heart he reassured; of
how many a soul he fired with a true spark of Christian love; when he
reads of how the monk preached the faith of Christ, and how often he led
some wandering pilgrim into the path of vital truth by the sweet words of
the dear religion which he taught; when he reads that the hearts of many
a Norman chief was softened by the sweetness of the gospel's voice, and
his evil passions were lulled by the hymn of praise which the monk
devoutly sang to his Master in heaven above. But speaking of the
existence of the Bible among the monks puts me in mind of the Abbey of
Ramsey and its fine old library of books, which was particularly rich in
biblical treasures. Even superior to Reading, as regards its biblical
collection, was the library of Ramsey. A portion of an old catalogue of
the library of this monastery has been preserved, apparently transcribed
about the beginning of the fourteenth century, during the warlike reign
of Richard the Second. It is one of the richest and most interesting
relics of its kind extant, at least of those to be found in our own
public libraries; and a perusal of it will not fail to leave an
impression on the mind that the monks were far wealthier in their
literary stores than we previously imagined. Originally on two or three
skins, it is now torn into five separate pieces,[364] and in other
respects much dilapidated. The writing also in some parts is nearly
obliterated, so as to render the document scarcely readable. It is much
to be regretted that this interesting catalogue is but a portion of the
original; in its complete form it would probably have described twice as
many volumes; but a fragment as it is, it nevertheless contains the
titles of more than _eleven hundred books_, with the names of many of
their donors attached. A creditable and right worthy testimonial this, of
the learning and love of books prevalent among the monks of Ramsey
Monastery. More than seven hundred of this goodly number were of a
miscellaneous nature, and the rest were principally books used in the
performance of divine service. Among these there were no less than
seventy Breviaries; thirty-two Grails; twenty-nine Processionals; and one
hundred Psalters! The reader will regard most of these as superstitious
and useless; nor should I remark upon them did they not show that books
were not so scarce in those times as we suppose; as this prodigality
satisfactorily proves, and moreover testifies to the unceasing industry
of the monkish scribes. We who are used to the speed of the printing
press and its fertile abundance can form an opinion of the labor
necessary to transcribe this formidable array of papistical literature.
Four hundred volumes transcribed with the plodding pen! each word
collated and each page diligently revised, lest a blunder or a misspelt
syllable should blemish those books so deeply venerated. What long years
of dry tedious labor and monotonous industry was here!

But the other portion of the catalogue fully compensates for this vast
proportion of ecclesiastical volumes. Besides several _Biblia optima in
duobus voluminibus_, or complete copies of the Bible, many separate books
of the inspired writers are noted down; indeed the catalogue lays before
us a superb array of fine biblical treasures, rendered doubly valuable by
copious and useful glossaries; and embracing many a rare Hebrew MS.
Bible, _bibliotheca hebraice_, and precious commentary. I count no less
than twenty volumes in this ancient language. But we often find Hebrew
manuscripts in the monastic catalogues after the eleventh century. The
Jews, who came over in great numbers about that time, were possessed of
many valuable books, and spread a knowledge of their language and
literature among the students of the monasteries. And when the cruel
persecution commenced against them in the thirteenth century, they
disposed of their books, which were generally bought up by the monks, who
were ever hungry after such acquisitions. Gregory, prior of Ramsey,
collected a great quantity of Hebrew MSS. in this way, and highly
esteemed the language, in which he became deeply learned. At his death,
in the year 1250, he left them to the library of his monastery.[365] Nor
was my lord prior a solitary instance; many others of the same abbey,
inspired by his example and aided by his books, studied the Hebrew with
equal success. Brother Dodford, the Armarian, and Holbeach, a monk,
displayed their erudition in writing a Hebrew lexicon.[366]

The library of Ramsey was also remarkably rich in patristic lore. They
gloried in the possession of the works of Ambrose, Augustine, Anselm,
Basil, Boniface, Bernard, Gregory, and many others equally voluminous.
But it was not exclusively to the study of such matters that these monks
applied their minds, they possessed a taste for other branches of
literature besides. They read histories of the church, histories of
England, of Normandy, of the Jews; and histories of scholastic
philosophy, and many old chronicles which reposed on their shelves. In
science they appear to have been equally studious, for the catalogue
enumerates works on medicine, natural history, philosophy, mathematics,
logic, dialects, arithmetic and music! Who will say after this that the
monks were ignorant of the sciences and careless of the arts? The

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