Compiled in the 1120s, Textus Roffensis (TR) contains an array of pre- and post-Conquest texts, including laws, charters, lists and narratives of various kinds. The importance of TR has long been recognised by scholars, and the range and high quality of the sixteen essays gathered here by Bruce O’Brien and Barbara Bombi aid significantly both in understanding its textual contents and in revealing its history as a book in Rochester Cathedral library. The early to mid-twelfth century was a time of great historical output across different ecclesiastical centres in England and anyone interested in the different genres of text that were being generated and brought together in manuscripts such as TR, and in the ways that such books were being used, should consult this volume. In his introduction—on the basis of the order in which various law codes were included in TR and the apparent reordering of various quires—Bruce O’Brien suggests that the manuscript as a whole was intended to be a working compilation, perhaps an up-to-date statement of law and property rights, rather than an ‘antiquarian’ product as previously thought (p. 7, quoting the work of Sir Richard Southern)—a theme that is developed by various other contributors to the volume. For O’Brien, the more complete nature of Part Two (that containing charters) may indicate that Part One, with its focus on law-codes, was designed somehow to lend authority to the collection of charters. The first section of the volume concerns TR as ‘The Book’. M. Richards offers further reflections on TR’s purpose and on the relationship between its two main parts. Her work highlights, for example, the ongoing interest in the Old English language at Rochester in the twelfth century, thus revealing the relevance of the Anglo-Saxon past in the early Anglo-Norman period; it also shows the wide range of work carried out at Rochester by the scribe of TR. Richards’s chapter also introduces us to two Rochester bishops, Gundulf (d. 1108) and Ernulf (d. 1124), men who were particularly connected to the contents and compilation of TR. N. Karn’s research on the interlineations and annotations to the ordeal rituals in TR shows in fascinating ways how the manuscripts must have been used in rituals and ceremonies connected with local politics. Karn suggests that TR was intended in part for use by Rochester priests who were attending local courts in Kent. The chapter by T. Gobbitt broadens the scope by examining another collection of Anglo-Saxon law-codes and related texts, C[ambridge], C[orpus] C[hristi] C[ollege] 383, produced (possibly at St Paul’s, London) in the first half of the twelfth century. Gobbitt demonstrates that a series of textual emendations made in CCCC 383 aligns it with the same variations found in TR, showing that the same users had access to these two twelfth-century collections of legal documents. In a contribution of great importance, S. Jurasinski continues the investigation of CCCC 383 alongside TR. In his examination of interpolations made in the twelfth century to CCCC 383, Jurasinski shows how these later changes have on some occasions become the reading preferred by modern translations. As Jurasinski demonstrates, these twelfth-century changes, obscured in modern scholarship, greatly affect our understanding of Anglo-Saxon laws about homicide and slavery. The second section of the volume concerns the ‘Laws’ in TR. N. Brooks discusses the law-code of King Æthelberht of Kent, known only from this copy in TR. Bede had also been aware of this law-code, famously describing its judgments as being enacted iuxta exempla Romanorum. Brooks discusses the validity of this claim, showing that, in fact, different injunctions in Æthelberht’s code exhibit close similarities to ‘Germanic’ law rather than to any set of Roman laws. It may be that Bede’s statement was intended to reflect a move away from customary law that was not written down, towards a ‘Roman world of written legal culture’ (p. 111). Brooks concludes with some important observations about the language, composition and style of Æthelberht’s laws, and with a provocative suggestion that the Old English laws may already have existed in written form but in runic letters, and that early missionaries to Kent may then have copied them in the Roman alphabet. Carole Hough conducts a close examination of the Old English used in the early seventh-century Kentish law-codes found uniquely in TR, with the primary aim of establishing whether this manuscript, itself compiled in the 1120s, can be claimed to contain examples of our earliest surviving Old English texts. Hough concludes that these laws, although replete with language that is highly complex and indicative of a mixture of dialects, do exhibit very early forms in terms of their grammar, phonology and lexical readings. Daniela Fruscione discusses the ‘hapax legomenon’, drihtinbeag, found in Æthelberht’s law-code, where it is used to describe the payment for an offence, specifically for the killing of a freeman. Fruscione shows how the term drihtinbeag came to be replaced in later law-codes by manbot; she further demonstrates that the drihtin element later lost its secular meaning (of ‘lord’) and instead took on a religious character, meaning ‘God’. Fruscione’s examination of the semantic range of this hapax therefore suggests that drihtinbeag comprises one indication of the ancient form of Æthelberht’s law-code and speaks of the warlike circumstances of the migration period and the earliest recorded Anglo-Saxon history. Andrew Rabin’s chapter deals with legal material from the later Anglo-Saxon period, specifically a compilation of Old English tracts concerning status in TR and associated with Archbishop Wulfstan. Rabin’s very interesting reading of these texts leads to various important conclusions. He shows, for example, how the content of the tracts, while reflecting on the Anglo-Saxon legal past, does so in order to impose an ‘ethical and juridical demand upon contemporary legislators’ (p. 189). Rabin also demonstrates that the version of the tracts in TR represents a rather late stage in the development of Wulfstan’s thinking about matters of status. Tracey-Anne Cooper’s chapter concerns a short Old English text that deals principally with theft, and which she categorises as a liturgical rite ‘performed by a bishop to bring a fugitive thief to justice’ (p. 194). For Cooper, the rite therefore allows an insight into the kind of liturgical and legal roles occupied by Anglo-Saxon bishops. Julie Mumby examines the Old English tract known as Wergeld. In doing so, she shows the similarities of this tract to the law-code II Edmund, particularly its seventh provision. She also assesses a clause in Wergeld which stipulates that compensation (defined as healsfang) be paid by the killer to the kinsmen of someone murdered. By close textual analysis of the phrase bearnum broðrum ond fæderan, Mumby argues that the payment of compensation (healsfang) was not to be made to anyone outside the immediate family of the murdered person. Lisi Oliver, in her chapter about the laws of King Alfred, asks important questions about their content, sources and authorship. In various ways, Oliver demonstrates that Alfred’s counsellors must have consulted the laws of Æthelberht on particular tariffs for injuries, and likewise she reveals parallels between Alfred’s laws and the Lex Frisionum. Sources of this kind allow Oliver to reflect on the cosmopolitan make-up of the Alfredian court, where natives and those from the Continent combined to help produce his laws alongside ecclesiastics who had knowledge of penitential texts. Section Three of the volume—with a focus on ‘Charters’—begins with a chapter by Ben Snook on a longstanding issue of Anglo-Saxon diplomatic: the point of introduction of the diploma form into Anglo-Saxon England. Having identified a corpus of pre-700 documents, Snook analyses their diplomatic formulation and notes that they contain more similarities in terms of their composition than differences. For Snook, this suggests that the diploma form was probably introduced at one moment (rather than taking shape over a period of time). Snook also draws attention to the religious dimensions of Anglo-Saxon diplomas and suggests that this sets them apart from contemporary models from Rome and Europe more broadly (even if there are some similarities with late Roman private deeds). Given Archbishop Theodore’s influential role in church reform in early Anglo-Saxon England, and given that the canons of early church synods associated with Theodore contain allusions to diplomatic formulae, Snook suggests that the case for Theodore, or at least for the 670s as being the time when diplomas were first introduced, is the strongest one. David Pelteret’s chapter concentrates on just two diplomas that have survived in TR, in an attempt both to understand the legal act to which these documents bear witness and to discern the performative functions of diplomas. By analysis of these diplomas, Pelteret elucidates the essentially religious character of this form of document and makes interesting suggestions about the ceremony involved in land transactions, that diplomas themselves preserve the ‘record of a liturgy of donation’ (p. 298) and that there could have been some kind of public ceremonial act in a sacred space such as a church, whereby the diploma was given authority as it was transferred to the beneficiary. The performative aspects of the diplomas copied into TR (suggested by Pelteret) take on additional interest since we know that TR was itself used in the proceedings of court cases and also that it was thought of as a liturgical volume by those at Rochester. The last section of the volume widens the focus to give the historical ‘Context’ from various perspectives. Simon Keynes’s chapter investigates a series of vernacular and Latin documents, preserved in TR, from the reigns of King Edgar, King Edward the Martyr and King Æthelred, for what they can tell us about the history of the Rochester church and two of its bishops in particular, Ælfstan and Godwine. Keynes begins by putting the Rochester archive in a wider perspective, showing, for example, how its contents are much poorer when compared to that of its neighbour, the Canterbury church. But Keynes also demonstrates the rich variety of the Rochester archive and the types of document that could find their way into ecclesiastical holdings. He then concentrates on a group of documents from the later part of the tenth century which all somehow relate to, and inform, each other. For example, three vernacular documents from the period 950–75 provide important evidence for western Kent and for how secular administration functioned at that stage and the kind of individuals who were important in the enforcement of that administration. Some of these Rochester documents have a great deal to say about a crucial and much-discussed period in Anglo-Saxon history immediately following the death of King Edgar in 975. Richard Sharpe’s chapter provides a fascinating investigation of the ways in which royal business was conducted during the reigns of William Rufus and Henry I. Sharpe focuses on the details of a gift of the Haddenham estate to the monks of Rochester, as set out in one charter in the name of Archbishop Lanfranc and one charter in the name of William Rufus. He also refers to a narrative account of this estate’s history as preserved in the TR (which is copied in the same hand as that responsible for copying the charters in TR) and, in doing so, demonstrates the kinds of business deals that are often obscured by the bare records of charters. Although doubt has previously been cast on the status of this narrative, Sharpe fully explains its role in connecting charters and narrative elements found in TR and explores when it may have been composed in relation to the charters themselves and the copying of TR. Sally Vaughn, in the final chapter of the volume, demonstrates the importance of the Bec community for providing many of those who would become abbots and bishops of the Anglo-Norman church. In this particular connection, Vaughn draws attention to Gundulf and Ernulf, who were both bishops of Rochester and had also been monks of Bec, and who were famous for having been students of Lanfranc when he was prior there. Vaughn demonstrates how Bec monks were trained to write and compile a variety of texts, from letters and biographies to histories and cartularies. And she argues that it was exactly this sort of training which must have led to the compilation of TR at Rochester in the 1120s. In sum, this is a very important volume for anyone interested in numerous aspects of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman society, and it is exemplary in demonstrating the manifold ways in which history was constructed in the early to mid-twelfth century. © Oxford University Press 2018. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
The English Historical Review – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 15, 2018
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