Somerset Historical Essays/Appendix A

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The Liber Terrarum of Glastonbury

The manuscript at Trinity College, Cambridge (no. 724), from which Hearne printed the De Antiquitate and the History of Adam of Domerham, contains various pieces which bear on the story and life of the monastery. Some of these Hearne printed in his Adam of Domerham, others in his John of Glastonbury.

On f. 101 of this MS there is a Catalogue of Books which were in the Library in the year 1247. This is given by Hearne (J. of G., p. 423), who notes that a later hand has changed the date to 1248, and has cancelled certain entries and inserted fresh ones: the former class Hearne indicates by a dotted line, the latter by square brackets. Thus on p. 435 we have the following interesting entries in succession.

Liber terrarum Glaston. vetust. set leaibilis.


Lib. de consuetudinibus. no. unus editus sub Edgaro, de racionali observancia. legibilis. [alius de Cadomo.]

Taking the second entry first, we note that there were in the Library two Books of Customs. One is described as legible, though put forth in K. Edgar's time. This would be an early copy of the famous Regularis Concordia, drawn up probably by St Ethelwold under St Dunstan's guidance, and beginning with the words ' Gloriosus etenim Edgarus'. The other is described by the later hand as 'of (or 'from') Caen'. It is possible that these were actually Caen Customs, brought over by the Norman abbot Turstin, who came, as did his successor Herlewin, from Lanfranc's old abbey of St Stephen at Caen:[1] or else they were the 'Constitutiones Lanfranci', which the archbishop drew up for his own church at Canterbury, and which found their way into most of the great monasteries, sometimes as the 'Bee Customs' and sometimes as the 'Canterbury Customs'.[2]

The Liber Terrarum, described as 'ancient but legible', is struck out of the catalogue in 1248: perhaps it had left the library for its more appropriate place among the muniments. This book is now lost, but fortunately we learn its contents from an earlier section of our MS (ff. 77 ff.). For here we find, written by the first hand of the codex (the hand that wrote the library catalogue in 1247), a list of charters actually preserved in the abbey.[3] Just before the list of the extant charters comes a separate list, or calendar, of charters contained in the ancient Liber Terrarum.[4] These are 136 in number, and are given under the heading: ' Carte contente in libro terrarum Glaston.' The latest of them are two granted by K. Ethelred: the former is a grant of Stoke to a certain Godric; the latter a grant to Glastonbury of an estate at Wilton, made according to William of Malmesbury (De Antiq., p. 87) in 984. It is tempting therefore to suppose that this Liber Terrarum was drawn up at the end of the tenth century, perhaps even before St Dunstan's death in 988.[5] But we must be careful not to identify it with the 'Liber Sancti Dunstani' mentioned by the compiler of the Glastonbury Feodary in the fourteenth century as the oldest authority on which he relied. For this book got its name from its handsome binding of silver-gilt, with an ivory crucifix of St Dunstan's handiwork: its alternative title was, 'Liber Domusday', and it included notices of the enfeoffment of Norman knights.[6]

There are however two references to the Liber Terrarum in another fourteenth-century book, the Secretum of Abbot Monyngton (1341-74).[7] The first occurs in the calendar or table of contents prefixed to the volume.[8] Here we find among Privilegia region a heading which tells us that K. Cnut's charter was written in the beginning of the Land Book: ' Carta Knoutonis sicut scribitur in principio de Landeboc' This spurious charter of privileges, granted (it was said) by K. Cnut on his visit to the tomb of Edmund Ironside, 30 Nov. 1033, formed no part of the original book—it is not mentioned in the calendar of 1247—but was written in on a fly-leaf at the beginning.

The second reference occurs at the end of a charter of K. Edred (B. C. S. 867), granting Idmiston in Wilts to the thegn Wulfric. Here we find a note appended to say that, as there are three charters for this property, so there are three records of the bounds which may be read 'in libro qui dicitur land bok'. This ancient book, then, was still extant and in occasional use in the fourteenth century.[9]

Two other references to the Liber Terrarum are worth noting. They are found in the endorsements of Glastonbury charters preserved at Longleat. One is on Baldred's charter granting Pennard in a. d. 681 (B. C. S. 61), and runs thus: 'Carta Baldredi de Pennard et est septima in landbok.' This charter is a document written at the end of the tenth or the beginning of the eleventh century—probably an expansion of an earlier charter. The second is on a genuine charter of K. Edred (A.D. 955: B. C. S. 903): 'Carta Edredi regis de Pennard minster et est lxviii in landeboke.'

Each of these endorsements is in a hand of the thirteenth century. When we turn to the calendar of the Liber Terrarum, we find these two charters as the sixth and sixty-seventh entries respectively. The apparent discrepancy is explained by the fifth entry: 'Hedda episcopus de Lantokay, i. Leghe, dat. Glast. II.' The numeral at the end indicates that there were two charters in the book which referred to Bishop Haeddi's gift: these would be numbered v and vi, and so Baldred's charter would be no. vii and Edred' s no. lxviii, as stated in the endorsements.

At the end of the titles of the 136 charters contained in the Liber Terrarum stands another title: 'Nomina diversorum maneriorum pertinencium Glaston.' Possibly this pointed to an index locorum at the end of the volume. After this there follow in the Trinity MS Lists of Ancient Charters still existing at that date, and stated to be (as all the Saxon charters were) 'without seals':

1. Of lands granted direct to Glastonbury and still retained by the

abbey (20).

2. Of lands granted to subjects in the first instance, and still retained by the abbey (12).

3. Of lands granted direct, but no longer retained (15).

4. Of lands granted to subjects and believed to have been given to the abbey, but no longer retained (22).

In these lists the latest charters are eight of K. Ethelred, six of which refer to properties no longer held. A later heading, Antiqua Privilegia, introduces the titles of three spurious documents: the Great Privilege of K. Ina, the Privilege of K. Edgar, and the Charter of St Patrick. The lists which follow are of charters of the Norman period and later.

It is of some importance to observe that, with two exceptions, all the charters up to the end of the tenth century, which are found in Monyngton's Secretum, are discoverable either in the calendar of the Liber Terrarum or in the Lists of Ancient Charters above described. The exceptions are: (1) a brief Privilege of K. Ina (B. C. S. 109), which might have been copied for Monyngton from the De Antiquitate (p. 51); and (2) a charter of K. Edgar granting Buckland to Ælfthryth his queen, which may have escaped the eye of the compiler or of some copyist of these lists.

Part of the value of the titles thus preserved to us in the Trinity MS lies in the fact that, though they present many instances of misspelling, they not infrequently enable us to correct mistakes in charters which have been printed from Monyngton's Secretum. One example, which is of some interest in itself, will sufficiently illustrate this. There has been much discussion as to the name of the father of Duke Athelstan, the 'Half-King' as he was called, who ultimately became a monk at Glastonbury. The sole evidence hitherto has been a note appended to the Wrington charter of K. Edward the Elder (B. C. S. 606), where we find the words: ' Athelstan dux Alius Etheredi.' They are thus printed by Birch from MS Bodl., Wood A. 1, f. 206 6 (i. e. the Secretum) and the Glastonbury MS at Longleat, f. 341. ' Etheredi ' has been supposed to be a scribe's error for ' Ethelredi ', and the historians have sought without success to identify this Ethelred. The editors of the Crawford Charters (1895) conjectured (p. 83) that the 'Ethelfrith dux ' to whom the charter was granted was himself Duke Athelstan's father: in other words that 'Etheredi ' is a corruption of 'Ethelfredi'. The conjecture becomes a certainty when we read the title of the charter as recorded in the calendar of the Liber Terrarum:

Edwardus de Wring. [Uurinton. supra lin.] dat. Æthelfritho, quam ejus Alius Ethelstanus dux ded. G.

  1. For Customs introduced by Turstin and Herlewin see De Antiq., pp. 118-20 (ending 'de minutis quaere in texto').
  2. See 'Lanfranc's Monastic Constitutions ', Journ. of Theol. Studies, x. 375 (April 1909).
  3. Hearne attributes this section to the time of Abbot John of Taunton (1274-90). Dr. M. R. James however attributes the writing to the first half of the thirteenth century. Both this and the library catalogue doubtless belong to the vigorous period of Abbot Michael of Amesbury (1235-52).
  4. Hearne, J. of G., pp. 370 ff.
  5. This may however be too early for the inclusion of B. C. S. 61, to which reference will be made below.
  6. Cf. Somerset Record Soc., vol. 26, p. 2.
  7. Wood empt. I, in the Bodleian Library.
  8. This useful calendar has been printed in the Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries, vols, xii, xiii.
  9. The three Idmiston charters appear in the calendar of the Liber Terrarum together thus:

    de Yfemestone dat. ^Elfswid.
    Eddred de eodem dat. Wlfrico.
    Idem de eodem dat. eidem.

    The spelling of the place-name suggests that the scribe did not find the book very 'legible' after all.