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celebrity. In another portion of the manuscript, we find a list of their
church books, written at the same time;[128] it affords a brilliant proof
of the plentitude of the gospels among them; for no less than twenty-five
copies are described. We may judge to what height the art of bookbinding
had arrived by the account here given of these precious volumes. Some
were in a splendid coopertoria of gold and silver, and others exquisitely
ornamented with figures of our Saviour and the four Evangelists.[129] But
this extravagant costliness rendered them attractive objects to pilfering
hands, and somewhat accounts for the lament of the industrious Somner,
who says that the library was "shamefully robbed and spoiled of them

Our remarks on the monastic library at Canterbury are drawing to a close.
Henry Chiclely, archbishop in 1413, an excellent man, and a great
promoter of learning, rebuilt the library of the church, and furnished it
with many a choice tome.[131] His esteem for literature was so great,
that he built two colleges at Oxford.[132] William Sellinge, who was a
man of erudition, and deeply imbued with the book-loving mania, was
elected prior in 1472. He is said to have studied at Bonania, in Italy;
and, during his travels, he gathered together "all the ancient authors,
both Greek and Latine, he could get," and returned laden with them to his
own country. Many of them were of great rarity, and it is said that a
Tully _de Republica_ was among them. Unfortunately, they were all burnt
by a fire in the monastery.[133]

I have said enough, I think, to show that books were eagerly sought
after, and deeply appreciated, in Canterbury cloisters during the middle
ages, and when the reader considers that these facts have been preserved
from sheer accident, and, therefore, only enable us to obtain a partial
glimpse of the actual state of their library, he will be ready to admit
that bibliomania existed then, and will feel thankful, too, that it did,
for to its influence, surely, we are indebted for the preservation of
much that is valuable and instructive in history and general

We can scarcely leave Kent without a word or two respecting the church of
the Rochester monks. It was founded by King Ethelbert, who conferred upon
it the dignities of an episcopal see, in the year 600; and, dedicating it
to St. Andrew, completed the good work by many donations and emoluments.
The revenues of the see were always limited, and it is said that its
poverty caused it to be treated with kind forbearance by the
ecclesiastical commissioners at the period of the Reformation.

I have not been able to meet with any catalogue of its monastic library,
and the only hints I can obtain relative to their books are such as may
be gathered from the recorded donations of its learned prelates and
monks. In the year 1077, Gundulph, a Norman bishop, who is justly
celebrated for his architectural talents, rebuilt the cathedral, and
considerable remains of this structure are still to be seen in the nave
and west front, and display that profuse decoration united with ponderous
stability, for which the Norman buildings are so remarkable. This
munificent prelate also enriched the church with numerous and costly
ornaments; the encouragement he gave to learning calls for some notice
here. Trained in one of the most flourishing of the Norman schools, we
are not surprised that in his early youth he was so studious and
inquisitive after knowledge as to merit the especial commendation of his
biographer.[135] William of Malmsbury, too, highly extols him "for his
abundant piety," and tells us that he was not inexperienced in literary
avocations; he was polished and courageous in the management of judicial
affairs, and a close, devoted student of the divine writings;[136] as a
scribe he was industrious and critical, and the great purpose to which he
applied his patience and erudition was a careful revisal of the Holy
Scriptures. He purged the sacred volume of the inadvertencies of the
scribes, and restored the purity of the text; for transcribing after
transcribing had caused some errors and diversity of readings to occur,
between the English and foreign codices, in spite of all the pious care
of the monastic copyists; this was perplexing, an uniformity was
essential and he undertook the task;[137] labors so valuable deserve the
highest praise, and we bestow it more liberally upon him for this good
work than we should have done had he been the compiler of crude homilies
or the marvellous legends of saints. The high veneration in which
Gundulph held the patristic writings induced him to bestow his attention
in a similar manner upon them, he compared copies, studied their various
readings and set to work to correct them. The books necessary for these
critical researches he obtained from the libraries of his former master,
Bishop Lanfranc, St. Anselm, his schoolfellow, and many others who were
studying at Bec, but besides this, he corrected many other authors, and
by comparing them with ancient manuscripts, restored them to their
primitive beauty. Fabricius[138] notices a fine volume, which bore ample
testimony to his critical erudition and dexterity as a scribe. It is
described as a large Bible on parchment, written in most beautiful
characters, it was proved to be his work by this inscription on its title
page, "_Prima pars Bibliæ per bona memoriæ Gundulphum Rossensem
Episcopum_." This interesting manuscript, formerly in the library of the
monks of Rochester, was regarded as one of their most precious volumes.
An idea of the great value of a Bible in those times may be derived from
the curious fact that the bishop made a decree directing "excommunication
to be pronounced against whosoever should take away or conceal this
volume, or who should even dare to conceal the inscription on the front,
which indicated the volume to be the property of the church of
Rochester." But we must bear in mind that this was no ordinary copy, it
was transcribed by Gundulph's own pen, and rendered pure in its text by
his critical labors. But the time came when anathemas availed nought, and
excommunication was divested of all terror. "Henry the Eighth," the
"Defender of the Faith," frowned destruction upon the monks, and in the
tumult that ensued, this treasure was carried away, anathema and all.
Somehow or other it got to Amsterdam, perhaps sent over in one of those
"shippes full," to the bookbinders, and having passed through many hands,
at last found its way into the possession of Herman Van de Wal,
Burgomaster of Amsterdam; since then it was sold by public auction, but
has now I believe been lost sight of.[139] Among the numerous treasures
which Gundulph gave to his church, he included a copy of the Gospels, two
missals and a book of Epistles.[140] Similar books were given by
succeeding prelates; Radolphus, a Norman bishop in 1108, gave the monks
several copies of the gospels beautifully adorned.[141] Earnulphus, in
the year 1115, was likewise a benefactor in this way; he bestowed upon
them, besides many gold and silver utensils for the church, a copy of the
gospels, lessons for the principal days, a benedictional, or book of
blessings, a missal, handsomely bound, and a capitular.[142] Ascelin,
formerly prior of Dover, and made bishop of Rochester, in the year 1142,
gave them a Psalter and the Epistles of St. Paul, with a gloss.[143] He
was a learned man, and excessively fond of books; a passion which he had
acquired no doubt in his monastery of Dover which possessed a library of
no mean extent.[144] He wrote a commentary on Isaiah, and gave it to the
monastery; Walter, archdeacon of Canterbury, who succeeded Ascelin, gave
a copy of the gospels bound in gold, to the church;[145] and Waleran,
elected bishop in the year 1182, presented them with a glossed Psalter,
the Epistles of Paul, and the Sermons of Peter.[146]

Glanvill, bishop in the year 1184, endeavored to deprive the monks of the
land which Gundulph had bestowed upon them; this gave to rise to many
quarrels[147] which the monks never forgave; it is said that he died
without regret, and was buried without ceremony; yet the curious may
still inspect his tomb on the north side of the altar, with his effigies
and mitre lying at length upon it.[148] Glanvill probably repented of his
conduct, and he strove to banish all animosity by many donations; and
among other treasures, he gave the monks the five books of Moses and
other volumes.[149]

Osbern of Shepey, who was prior in the year 1189, was a great scribe and
wrote many volumes for the library; he finished the Commentary of
Ascelin, transcribed a history of Peter, a Breviary for the chapel, a
book called _De Claustra animæ_, and wrote the great Psalter which is
chained to the choir and window of St. Peter's altar.[150] Ralph de Ross,
and Heymer de Tunebregge,[151] also bestowed gifts of a similar nature
upon the monks; but the book anecdotes connected with this monastic
fraternity are remarkably few, barren of interest, and present no very
exalted idea of their learning.[152]


[88] Bede, iv. cap. ii.

[89] He died in 690, and was succeeded by Bertwold, Abbot of
Reculver, _Saxon Chronicle, Ingram_, p. 57. Bede speaks of Bertwold
as "well learned in Scripture and Ecclesiastical
Literature." - _Eccl. Hist._ b. v. c. viii.

[90] Preambulation of Kent, 4to. 1576, p. 233. Parker's Ant. Brit.
p. 80.

[91] He was consecrated on the 10th of June, 731, Bede, v. c. xxiii.

[92] M.S. Reg. 12, c. xxiii. I know of no other copy. Leland says
that he saw a copy at Glastonbury.

[93] Bede's Eccl. Hist. Prologue.

[94] Pitseus Angliæ Scrip. 1619, p. 141. Dart's Hist. Canterbury, p.

[95] Cottonian MS. Cleopatra, B. xiii. fo. 70.

[96] W. Malm, de Vita, Dunst. ap. Leland, Script. tom. 1. p. 162.
Cotton. MS. Fanstin, B. 13.

[97] Strutt's Saxon. Antiq. vol. 1, p. 105, plate xviii. See also
Hicke's Saxon Grammar, p. 104.

[98] MS. Cotton., Cleop. b. xiii. fo. 69. Mabd. Acta Sancto. vii.

[99] Saxon Chron. by Ingram, 171.

[100] Landsdowne MS. in Brit. Mus. 373, vol. iv.

[101] Landsdowne MS. in Brit. Mus. 373, vol. iv.

[102] Can. 21, p. 577, vol. i.

[103] Lisle's Divers Ancient Monuments in the Saxon Tongue, 4to.
Lond. 1638, p. 43.

[104] MS. Cottonian Claudius, b. vi. p. 103; Dart's Hist. of Cant.
p. 112.; Dugdale's Monast., vol. i. p. 517.

[105] There was an old saying, and a true one, prevalent in those
days, that a monastery without a library was like a castle without
an armory, _Clastrum sine armario, quasi castrum sine armamentario_.
See letter of Gaufredi of St. Barbary to Peter Mangot, _Martene
Thes. Nov. Anecd._, tom. i. col. 511.

[106] Mabillon, Act. S., tom. ix. p. 659.

[107] Ep. i. ad Papæ Alex.

[108] Vita Lanfr., c. vi. "_Effulsit eo majistro, obedientia coactu,
philosophicarum ac divinarum litterarum bibliotheca, etc._" Opera p.
8. Edit. folio, 1648.

[109] "Et quia scripturæ scriptorum vitio erant ninium corruptæ,
omnes tam Veteris, quam Novi Testamenti libros; necnon etiam scriptæ
sanctorum patrum secundum orthodoxam fidem studuit corrigere." Vita
Lanfr. cap. 15, ap. Opera, p. 15.

[110] Hist. Litt. de la France, vol. vii. p. 117.

[111] _Ibid._ "Il rendit de même service à trois écrits de S.
Ambrose l'Hexameron, l'apologie de David et le traité des
Sacrements, tels qu'on les voit à la bibliothèque de St. Vincent du

[112] _Ibid._

[113] Malmsb. de Gest. Pontif. b. i. p. 216.

[114] See Epist. 16. Lib. i.

[115] Edmer. Vit. Anselm, apud Anselm Opera. - _Edit. Benedict_,
1721, b. i. p. 4.

[116] Epp. 10-20, lib. i. and 24 b. ii.

[117] Codic. fol. first class, a dextr. Sc. Med. 5.

[118] Warton's Hist. Eng. Poetry. Dissert, ii.

[119] Dart's Canterb. p. 132. Dugdale's Monast. vol. i. p. 85.

[120] There is, or was, in St. Peter's college, Cambridge, a MS.
volume of 21 books, which formerly belonged to this worthy
Bibliophile. - _Dart_, p. 137.

[121] Petition Apol. 4to. 1604, p. 17.

[122] Brit. Mus. Vesp. A. i.

[123] Wanley Librorum Vett Septentrionalium fol. Oxon, 1705, p. 172.

[124] Dugdale's Monast. Angl. vol. i. p. 112.

[125] MS. Cot. Galba. E. iv.

[126] See what has been said on this subject in the previous

[127] MS. Galla, E. iv. fol. 133.

[128] MS. fol. 122.

[129] _Textus Magnus auro coopertus et gemmis ornatus, cum majistate
in media, et 4 Evangelistis in 4 Angulis. Ibid._

[130] Somner Antiq. Cant. 4to. 1640, p. 174, he is speaking of books
in general.

[131] Duck Vita Chich. p. 104.

[132] Dugdale, vol. i. p. 86. Dart, p. 158, and Somner Ant. Cant.

[133] Somner, 294 and 295; see also Leland Scriptor. He was well
versed in the Greek language, and his monument bears the following

"Doctor theologus Selling Græca atque Latina,
Linqua perdoctus." - See Warton's Hist. Poet., ii. p. 425.

[134] There is a catalogue written in the sixteenth century,
preserved among the Cotton MS., containing the titles of seventy
books belonging to Canterbury Library. It is printed in Leland
Collect. vol. iv. p. 120, and in Dart's Hist. Cant. Cath.; but they
differ slightly from the Cott. MS. Julius, c. vi. 4, fol. 99.

[135] Monachus Roffensis de Vita Gundulphi, 274.

[136] Will. Malms. de Gest. Pont. Ang. ap Rerum. Ang. Script, 133.

[137] Histoire Littéraire de Fr., tom. vii. p. 118.

[138] Biblioth. Latine, b. vii. p. 519.

[139] Hist. Litt. de Fr., tom. ix. p. 373.

[140] Thorpe Regist. Roffens, fol. 1769, p. 118.

[141] Wharton Angl. Sacr., tom. 1, p. 342.

[142] Thorpe Regist. Rof., p. 120. Dugdale's Monast., vol. 1, p.

[143] Thorpe Reg. Rof., p. 121.

[144] A catalogue of this library is preserved among the Bodleian
MSS. No. 920, containing many fine old volumes. I am not aware that
it has been ever printed.

[145] "Textum Evangeliorum aureum." Reg. Rof., p. 121.

[146] _Ibid._, p. 121.

[147] Dugdale's Monasticon, vol. 1, p. 156.

[148] Wharton's Ang. Sac, tom. 1, p. 346.

[149] Thorpe Reg. Rof., p. 121.

[150] Thorpe Reg. Rof., 121. Dugdale's Monast., vol. i. p. 158.

[151] Reg. Rof., pp. 122, 123.

[152] In a long list of gifts by Robert de Hecham, I find "librum
Ysidore ethimologiarum possuit in armarium claustri et alia plura
fecit." - _Thorpe Reg. Rof._, p. 123.


_Lindesfarne. - St. Cuthbert's Gospels. - Destruction of the
Monastery. - Alcuin's Letter on the occasion. - Removal to
Durham. - Carelepho. - Catalogue of Durham Library. - Hugh de
Pusar. - Anthony Bek. - Richard de Bury and his Philobiblon, etc._

The Benedictine monastery of Lindesfarne, or the Holy Island, as it was
called, was founded through the instrumentality of Oswald, the son of
Ethelfrith, king of Northumberland, who was anxious for the promulgation
of the Christian faith within his dominions. Aidan, the first bishop of
whom we have any distinct account, was appointed about the year 635. Bede
tells us that he used frequently to retire to the Isle of Farne, that he
might pray in private and be undisturbed.[153] This small island, distant
about nine miles from the church of Lindesfarne, obtained great
celebrity from St. Cuthbert, who sought that quiet spot and led there a
lonely existence in great continence of mind and body.[154] In 685 he was
appointed to the see of Lindesfarne, where, by his pious example and
regular life, he instructed many in their religious duties. The name of
this illustrious saint is intimately connected with a most magnificent
specimen of calligraphical art of the eighth century, preserved in the
British Museum,[155] and well known by the name of the Durham Book, or
Saint Cuthbert's Gospels; it was written some years after the death of
that Saint, in honor of his memory, by Egfrith, a monk of Lindesfarne,
who was made bishop of that see in the year 698. At Egfrith's death in
721, his successor, Æthilwald, most beautifully bound it in gold and
precious stones, and Bilfrid, a hermit, richly illuminated it by
prefixing to each gospel a beautiful painting representing one of the
Evangelists, and a tesselated cross, executed in a most elaborate manner.
He also displayed great skill by illuminating the large capital letters
at the commencement of each gospel.[156] Doubtless, the hermit Bilfrid
was an eminent artist in his day. Aldred, the Glossator, a priest of
Durham, about the year 950, still more enriched this precious volume by
interlining it with a Saxon Gloss, or version of the Latin text of St.
Jerome, of which the original manuscript is a copy.[157] It is
therefore, one of the most venerable of those early attempts to render
the holy scriptures into the vernacular tongue, and is on that account an
interesting relic to the Christian reader, and, no doubt, formed the
choicest volume in the library of Lindesfarne.[158]

But imperfectly, indeed, have I described the splendid manuscript which
is now lying, in all its charms, before me. And as I mark its fine old
illuminations, so bright in color, and so chaste in execution, the
accuracy of its transcription, and the uniform beauty of its calligraphy,
my imagination carries me back to the quiet cloister of the old Saxon
scribe who wrote it, and I can see in Egfrith, a bibliomaniac, of no mean
pretensions, and in Bilfrid, a monkish illuminator, well initiated in the
mysteries of his art. The manuscript contains 258 double columned folio
pages, and the paintings of the Evangelists each occupy an entire page.
We learn the history of its production from a very long note at the end
of the manuscript, written by the hand of the glossator.[159]

But sad misfortunes were in store for the holy monks, for about 793, or a
little earlier, when Highbald was abbot, the Danes burnt down the
monastery and murdered the ecclesiastics; "most dreadful lightnings and
other prodigies," says Simeon of Durham, "are said to have portended the
impending ruin of this place; on the 7th of June they came to the church
of Lindesfarne, miserably plundered all places, overthrew the altars, and
carried away all the treasures of the church, some of the monks they
slew, some they carried away captives, some they drowned in the sea, and
others much afflicted and abused they turned away naked."[160]
Fortunately some of the poor monks escaped, and after a short time
returned to their old spot, and with religious zeal set about repairing
the damage which the sacred edifice had sustained; after its restoration
they continued comparatively quiet till the time of Eardulfus, when the
Danes in the year 875, again invaded England and burned down the
monastery of Lindesfarne. The monks obtained some knowledge of their
coming and managed to effect their escape, taking with them the body of
St. Cuthbert, which they highly venerated, with many other honored
relics; they then set out with the bishop Eardulfus and the abbot Eadrid
at their head on a sort of pilgrimage to discover some suitable resting
place for the remains of their saint; but finding no safe locality, and
becoming fatigued by the irksomeness of the journey, they as a last
resource resolved to pass over to Ireland. For this purpose they
proceeded to the sea, but no sooner were they on board the ship than a
terrific storm arose, and had it not been for the fond care of their
patron saint, a watery grave would have been forever their resting
place; but, as it was, their lives were spared, and the holy bones
preserved to bless mankind, and work wondrous miracles in the old church
of the Saxon monks. Nevertheless, considerable damage was sustained, and
the fury of the angry waves forced them back again to the shore. The
monks deeming this an indication of God's will that they should remain,
decided upon doing so, and leaving the ship, they agreed to proceed on
their way rejoicing, and place still greater trust in the mercy of God
and the miraculous influence of St. Cuthbert's holy bones; but some whose
reliance on Divine providence appears not so conspicuous, became
dissatisfied, and separated from the rest till at last only seven monks
were left besides their bishop and abbot. Their relics were too numerous
and too cumbersome to be conveyed by so small a number, and they knew not
how to proceed; but one of the seven whose name was Hanred had a vision,
wherein he was told that they should repair to the sea, where they would
find a book of Gospels adorned with gold and precious stones, which had
been lost out of the ship when they were in the storm; and that after
that he should see a bridle hanging on a tree, which he should take down
and put upon a horse that would come to him, which horse he should put to
a cart he would also find, to carry the holy body, which would be an ease
to them. All these things happening accordingly, they travelled with more
comfort, following the horse, which way soever he should lead. The book
above mentioned was no ways damaged by the water, and is still preserved
in the library at Durham,[161] where it remained till the Reformation,
when it was stript of its jewelled covering, and after passing through
many hands, ultimately came into the possession of Sir Robert Cotton, in
whose collection, as we have said before, it is now preserved in the
British Museum.

I cannot refrain, even at the risk of incurring some blame for my
digression, presenting the reader with a part of a letter full of
fraternal love, which Alcuin addressed to the monks of Lindesfarne on
this sad occasion.

"Your dearest fraternity," says he, "was wont to afford me much joy. But
now how different! though absent, I deeply lament the more your
tribulations and calamities; the manner in which the Pagans contaminate
the sanctuaries of God, and shed the blood of saints around the altar,
devastating the joy of our house, and trampling on the bodies of holy men
in the temple of God, as though they were treading on a dunghill in the
street. But of what effect is our wailing unless we come before the
altars of Christ and cry, 'Spare me, O Lord! spare thy people, and take
not thine inheritance from them;' nor let the Pagans say, 'Where is the
God of the Christians?' Besides who is to pacify the churches of Britain,
if St. Cuthbert cannot defend them with so great a number of saints?
Nevertheless do not trouble the mind about these things, for God
chasteneth all the sons whom he receiveth, and therefore perhaps afflicts
you the more, because he the more loveth you. Jerusalem, the delightful
city of God, was lost by the Chaldean scourge; and Rome, the city of the
holy Apostles and innumerable martyrs, was surrounded by the Pagans and
devastated. Well nigh the whole of Europe is evacuated by the scourging
sword of the Goths or the Huns. But in the same manner in which God
preserved the stars to illuminate the heavens, so will He preserve the
churches to ornament, and in their office to strengthen and increase the
Christian religion."[162]

Thus it came to pass that Eardulphus was the last bishop of Lindesfarne
and the first of Cunecacestre, or Chester-upon-the-Street, to which place
his see was removed previous to its final settlement at Durham.

After a succession of many bishops, some recorded as learned and bookish
by monkish annalists, and nearly all benefactors in some way to their
church, we arrive at the period when Aldwine was consecrated bishop of
that see in the year 990. The commotions of his time made his presidency
a troubled and harassing one. Sweyn, king of Denmark, and Olauis, king of
Norway, invaded England, and spreading themselves in bodies over the
kingdom, committed many and cruel depredations; a strong body of these
infested the northern coast, and approached the vicinity of
Chester-on-the-Street. This so alarmed Aldwine, that he resolved to quit
his church - for the great riches and numerous relics of that holy place
were attractive objects to the plundering propensities of the invaders.
Carrying, therefore, the bones of St. Cuthbert with them - for that box of
mortal dust was ever precious in the sight of those old monks - and the
costly treasures of the church, not forgetting their books, the monks
fled to Ripon, and the see, which after similar adversities their
predecessors one hundred and thirteen years ago had settled at Chester,
was forever removed. It is true three or four months after, as Symeon of

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